Why I don't censor myself on social media.
I have had a particularly anxious couple of weeks. I've been physically and emotionally drained, which has caused a variety of physical symptoms, including a fair amount of fatigue.
When I'm feeling anxious, it makes a number of things particularly difficult for me. Social interactions are all harder, because I find myself switching quickly between intense neediness and total numbness. My head hurts, which means I'm more likely to snap at someone, and my memory is all over the place, which means if you interrupt me mid sentence I become frustrated at forgetting what I was going to say. I'm tired, I ache, I'm grumpy.
All of these things of course, add to my anxieties - because I worry about there being something else wrong. Some horrible diagnosis waiting around the corner...
I know there has been a lot in the news this last week or so about social media and how it can negatively impact mental health, particularly in teenagers. It really made me question my relationship with social media, my relationship with anxiety and their relationship with each other.
I do totally understand how social media could mess with your mental health:
- If you're feeling low, seeing the best and most edited sides to the lives of others can make you feel like you're failing.
- If you're feeling unattractive, seeing 5 million perfectly contoured faces can make you feel like you can't measure up.
- If you're feeling self destructive, it's all to easy to seek out content that will make you feel worse.
- If you're feeling paranoid, it's easy to look at photos of your friends having fun, and assume that it was more fun without you being there
- It you're feeling unwell, it's all to easy to find a whole bunch of symptom checkers that will have you ordering your coffin on Amazon Prime.
Not to mention some of the more complicated ways social media could damage your life. Fewer IRL interactions, more time spent procrastinating, getting upset about the amount of likes you've had, stumbling across your ex's new love interest.
AND SO ON...
I probably used to have a messed up relationship with social media myself, tbh. I used to base my own value on likes, shares, clicks, retweets, Bebo Hearts - whatever. I think most social media users, certainly millennials, have felt that little ego rush haven't we? When something we shared got more RTs than usual, or that selfie we posted got 20 likes (20 is a lot for me, OK!)... So how did I move away from that?
1. I share what I want on social media, when I want to.
That's not to say that I don't think carefully about my content, a lot of the time I do. I want my posts to be relevant and engaging, of course I do. But I don't measure that by how many "Likes" it gets any more, I measure it by how I FEEL about it. "Do I really believe in what I'm saying? Yes. Then I'm sharing."
If I don't feel like posting an Instagram photo today, I'm not going to do it just because I read an article once about scheduling content and posting at regular intervals. I'm just not. If I'm struggling to keep my head fresh, the last thing I need to do is to add pressure to myself that isn't real.
2. I follow accounts that I love.
Other than people that I have actually really met IN THE REAL WORLD, I am very selective of the accounts I follow. I try to steer clear of accounts that I think will make me feel sad or vulnerable or inadequate - I'm getting pretty darn good at not falling into the "marketing" trap of buying into brands that try to sell to me by making me feel crap about myself and my own life.
It's not all mental health related either, I follow some pretty sassy body positive accounts, some accounts that campaign for human rights, some artsy accounts that I like the aesthetic of, some accounts that inspire me to get into nature, accounts about education or business or politics, accounts about hygge, or coffee or yoga or anything really. But they all speak to me.
3. I like and comment with care
If I'm having a shitty day and I see one of my friends doing something particularly wonderful, yes, it would be super easy to feel jealous. We're all human. Jealousy is natural. Instead, I try to feel happy for that friend and leave a kind or proud comment. I celebrate the successes of the people I care about, and this makes me feel good. It comes naturally now, I look forward to seeing what my loved ones are up to, even on my grayest days.
4. I shifted my mindset and my focus
I'm not quite sure why or when it happened, but I managed to shift my social media mindset entirely. I no longer feel as though it's the amount of engagement that matters, but the quality of that engagement. Once upon a time, 100 likes may have got me psyched - but nowadays I'd much rather have 1 or 2 meaningful comments that I can respond to.
Actually, believe it or not, I've managed to make some special and real connections online with people all over the world - people who are REAL and don't use social media only to put their "best face forward". I get comments or private messages semi regularly from people who have felt some real value from my posts about anxiety - and that means more to me than coming first in any popularity contest.
5. I uncensored myself.
This is perhaps the most important thing I've done. I've "uncensored" my own social media accounts. I no longer spend time assessing whether or not content is going to make me look good, only if it's going to make me feel good. Sure, I love a selfie as much as any of y'all, but what really matters to me is the honesty in it, as opposed to the virtual thumbs ups.
My fave part though, is knowing that I am sharing stuff that is truthful, vulnerable, inclusive and unintimidating. That someone who is feeling low and is looking at my account is NOT going to feel worse for doing so, hell they might even feel reassured. "We're all molecules, sweetheart - pull up a pew and read about how I'm SO ANXIOUS today that I've got the shits."
I don't think there is anything wrong with social media, as long as we're all using it EXACTLY how we want to use it. Please try to remember though, everyone has their vulnerabilities, whether or not they choose to share them with the world. And just because Katie's been on holiday four times this year, doesn't mean she's not crying into her wine just as often as you are.
Until I started this blog, I never used to post much about anxiety or PTSD or losing my mum or feeling nervous - if you'd checked my instagram you would think my life was all just day trips and sunday dinner and shopping and puppies (aww). But it's not.
Live your life how you want to. Share what you want to share. Post 12 selfies in a row, if you want to. Who gives a fuck?