Monday, October 17, 2016

I'm Slowing Down On Social Media for the Sake of My Mental Health

I've been on a self-imposed personal Facebook ban for several weeks now. I do social media for my business, my Conference Center, and my mental health advocacy, or I'd be on a ban altogether. I'm not going to lie - when I go on for these reasons, I usually sneak in a "happy birthday" to those I'm close to, or occasionally like a cute picture of a dog if I see it without scrolling. But I'm trying very hard not to scroll, nor am I posting, with the exception of one picture collage of Grace.  Twitter is slightly better, and it moves past quickly, so I rarely have to look at something again and again and again.  Instagram has lots of pictures of puppies and inspiring travel destinations, and snapchat is mostly one or two friends using funny filters to make me laugh, so that one's totally fine.

Here's the thing that I want to be clear on: I am not determining my friending or following or unfriending or unfollowing on my political views, which I will not discuss here unless they directly relate to mental health legislation or something of the like. It's the views. In general. I don't care if you are saying you're going to vote for ME for president (please don't, I'm an introvert who gets anxiety when people make eye contact with me, and I look bad on camera). I'm usually one for a good political discussion between people who can agree to disagree at the end of the day and still respect each other as people, even when their views differ. But what 90 percent of people on Facebook are doing is immature mud slinging and name calling behind memes. Most people won't even come out with their opinion in a thought out and respectful way. They post nasty, snarky, memes that they can hide behind. They aren't even just hiding behind their computer. They're hiding behind a picture, that someone else created and they just lazily hit the "share" button on, on their computer. And then, there's the people that decide to march up and start an all out gloves off fight with someone they barely know in the comments section. Often, they're not even fighting with the poster. They're fighting with another commenter on the post that they wouldn't know if they fell over them walking down the street. Life has come full circle, and we're back to being three years old on the playground yelling "Jimmy's a poopy head" and then kicking Jimmy for good measure as we walk away, thinking there will be no recourse. Except we're saying it more often, with greater force, with much harsher and more dangerous words, and we're no longer three. We're now people making the crucial decisions in our families, our jobs, in society, and this is how we're acting.  (CYA: I don't know anyone named Jimmy, to my knowledge. If I do, Jimmy, my sincerest apologies. You're not really a poopy head).

I don't, per se, have an issue with conflict (just ask any number of my exes). And I don't have an issue with politics - I generally think it's fascinating, and I'm following all that's going on in the world in terms that I can handle. But I can't even scroll through my Facebook feed without seeing numerous fights breaking out. Angry fights among angry people.  Being on Facebook, I'm literally surrounded by negativity and anger. And I don't need that in my life - not when it doesn't even involve people I know, let alone myself. For someone who's emotions are extra sensitive, who can physically feel this anger and negativity of others, this is too much. It literally makes me feel like I'm being crushed and suffocated. I believe everyone has their right to post what they choose, but I also have the right not to be crushed and suffocated by it, to see it nonstop, day in and day out.  I write about mental health, depression, and suicide prevention daily. I am not one to shy away from difficult topics, and it takes a lot to be "too much", too difficult to discuss, too negative for me. But this has done it. And so I'm slowing down on social media for a while, especially Facebook. It is crucial to my mental health that I do so.

It also has some added bonuses. I notice that when I'm spending quality time with people, I'm tempted to check my phone significantly less. I'm more present when I'm present. I still have all of my friends, even if our political opinions differ. I'm not getting my "news" from Facebook memes, which means I have to actually research things, and I learn a lot of really interesting information along the way. I don't have the battle the "I just signed on Facebook to check one thing before bed and suddenly it's 1AM" monster. But mostly, I don't feel like my soul is being sucked out by negativity and anger, and I feel significantly less anxious. And for me, that's critical.

I'm not sure how long this ban will go, but I imagine at least until after the election on November 8th. And if after that it still causes me severe anxiety, I'll keep it going until it doesn't.

For now, for your viewing pleasure and completely non-political enjoyment, here's a collage I made for Grace's "Gotcha Day".  Because puppies are much cuter than politics.

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