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Me, Social Media, and My Mental Health


*This post is inspired by a book I read not too long ago, Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig. I had never read any of Matt Haig’s books before (sorry, Matt!), but I was curious to read a book of his and chose this one. And I’m so glad I did. So thank you, Mr. Haig, for making me think and being the inspiration for this blog post.*

I love the internet. I’ve been obsessed with it ever since my family got a home computer back in the 90’s and those free AOL trial CDs for the internet. I used to play on Neopets, build Geocities websites, and just search this great big ocean of information. And then came Myspace.

Myspace was my first (and a lot of people’s) introduction to social media. To being connected to not only your friends, but other people and celebrities, too. You posted information about yourself, posted mirror selfies, added friends (the more the better!), got to choose who was in your top eight (or twelve or twenty four), and got to like and comment on pictures, and just generally get sucked into this virtual world. Thankfully, this was a time when you could only access it on your computer, so it felt like you spent hours asking your friends to like your new picture and commenting “like4like” on other people’s emo pictures before a family member kicked you off the computer.

But now, with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and more (I mean, there’s probably some other hot new social media app that I just have no idea exists because I’m old and used to be on Myspace), we’re always checking our social media accounts, but not on our computers. On our phones. That we take everywhere. That we have at all times. That sends us notifications whenever something happens. Every day. At all times.

Notes on a Nervous Planet is Matt Haig’s brilliant and relatable account of the internet, social media, our own planet and population, and all the anxiety (including his own) that comes with this constant flow of information, clogging up our world, putting us on edge. With every ding of our phone notifying us of the news (usually always bad), or a new photo like on Instagram, we jump, eager (or dreading) to see what’s happened, connecting us to this digital world, and disconnecting us from the world around us.

It seemed to be kismet that I read Notes on a Nervous Planet when I did. I had been feeling bogged down by social media, by the constant need to update Twitter statuses, Instagram stories, promoting blogs, Youtube channels, and everything else we’re always on. Because if we’re not on social media, where are we, really? Who are we? What are we missing out on? Oh, didn’t you see I sent you that pin on Pinterest? I tagged you on Facebook group event. Didn’t you see that event trending on Twitter? Um, no. I missed all of that? Then where have I really been? What have I been doing? Nothing, obviously.

The anxiety, loneliness, and feeling of inadequacy I felt every time I checked my phone was almost painful. I wasn’t living life, if I wasn’t posting something I had experienced or done. I was already depressed but I felt even more depressed, seeing what I was missing out on. Other people were living, and I was not. My therapist had encouraged me to stop checking my social media as much, because comparison is never helpful when you’re depressed and suffering. Everyone moves at a different pace and not everyone is in the same place. But I didn’t even consider her advice until I read Mr. Haig’s book. It was as if a switch was flipped, and my therapist’s advice made total and complete sense after Notes on a Nervous Planet. I needed to make a change for me, to create a balance of my real life and social media that was healthy, and for social media to hopefully go back to being fun, instead of almost a burden.

So I set some new rules for myself, inspired by Matt’s book, to break this toxic connection until I felt like I could handle it:

-Take a time out. Take a time out from your phone and take a time out for your life. Do something for you, in this real world, not online. Read, write, go for a walk, a run, play with your cat/dog/hamster/small reptile, anything real and for you. And then when you’re ready...

-Check it when you want to (not when you’re bored or have something else to do).

-Post when you want to (not to impress anyone, but for yourself).

-Limit your time on social media. Don’t get sucked in and forget about the real world around you.

That’s it.

And guess what? It worked.

I’ve learned to put my phone down and ignore it. Social media can be such a toxic place, especially if you’re not in a good place, which I was. You feel ashamed of your lack of accomplishments, of that heavy depression cloud that hangs over you, when you see a Facebook friend has gotten married, bought a house, had a baby, or got a promotion. You feel embarrassed that you’re not rich or just don't have will or energy to travel to fun and exotic places to take Instagram photos (and know how to pose in them) with a professional camera taken by a friend who actually knows how to take a good picture.

But social media is also filled with such support, too. The Twitter mental health community is such a positive and supportive place to be, and so can other social media communities, if you look for your niche. And when you’re in a good place, you can celebrate the accomplishments of your Facebook acquaintances and the places Instagrammers get to explore (in really cute, put together outfits. How do they do it?? Maybe I could do that!).

If I miss out on a post from a few days ago, oh well. It doesn’t mean I don’t care, it means I have a life in the real world, too. And being in the real world is more important than live tweeting the Game of Thrones finale or thinking about or yearning for likes. In the real world, I’ve been reading more, texting my friends instead of tagging them through social media, setting up times to actually see them in real life, not just photos of them on Facebook and Instagram. I’m taking the time to focus on me, my life, my health, the world around me, not through a smartphone’s screen or lens, but with my own two eyes. Just for me, not for anyone else.

So, thank you, Matt Haig, for encouraging me to start this new healthy relationship with myself and social media. My mental health is better for it and my relationship with social media isn’t as important, but when on I'm in, it’s started to be fun again.

And I guess I should thank my therapist too, since it was kind of-sort of her idea for me in the first place.

Has anyone else read Notes on a Nervous Planet or read any other of Matt Haig's books? If so, let me know what you thought of the book or of Matt Haig's other books! I'm ready to read more from him! And how do you deal with the balance between social media and your mental health? Let me know!

Stay Weird,
Emily
11 comments on "Me, Social Media, and My Mental Health"
  1. This is such a great post, so open and honest. Social media can have such a huge effect on mental health, but I never really thought about it until I started blogging and I guess saw the social media from a different aspect. Thank you for sharing your thoughts x

    Lauren | www.bournemouthgirl.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for reading, Lauren! I love social media, but I guess I just didn't realize the negative effect it had on me for so long. So I've kind of come to like my little social media breaks! :)

      Thank you again! Your comment made my day!

      Delete
  2. Social media can either make us or break us. I find that if I cut out all the negatives on social media, and focus on those people and things that bring me joy, then I feel inspired. I recently connected with the twitter MH community and have never felt more supported.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us pet.
    x

    - Nyxie

    www.nyxiesnook.com

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    Replies
    1. Hi Nyxie! Thank you so much for reading and commenting!! I think I need to cut out some negative social media myself, that's a great idea. To be fair, I do follow a lot of cute animal social media accounts, so that always inspires me ;) I love love love the Twitter MH community! I'm so glad you're liking it and feeling supported! That makes me happy to hear :a

      Thank YOU again! I'm really honored you read my post, because I just discovered your blog and I love it!

      Delete
  3. I really need to follow suit and cut down on social media a bit more. I do feel I get to engrossed in it and I feel inadequate a lot. Instagram was the worst for me, and I have had to take a step back. If my numbers were dropping I would take it personally, which is silly when I think about it.

    Thank you so much for sharing. :) x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! Thank you so much for reading and commenting!! Social media is so addicting, isn't it? I used to get so obsessed with my numbers too, but I'm trying to not focus on that as much. It's so hard though!!

      Well, thank you again for reading! I loved your comment and observations! :D

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  5. I haven't read any of Matt Haig's books but this idea makes a lot of sense. One of my friends suggested I took a break from Facebook when my depression was at its worse last year. It worked. Like you I was no longer focussed on "likes", I posted what I wanted when I wanted. It's made my relationship with social media much healthier.

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    1. I really liked Notes on a Nervous Planet, so I'd totally recommend that one, but other than that, I haven't read any of his other books! I'm so happy that it worked for you! I still have my Facebook account, but I rarely check it now, and honestly, it's made me so much happier. I'm glad you're in a much better place with social media now! <3

      Thank you for reading my blog and commenting! It means the world to me!

      Delete
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