I’ve had this post on my “to-write” list for a while now, having drafted bits and pieces on my phone over the past couple of weeks. I’d originally planned to publish it a couple of weeks ago, but life got in the way, and here I am finally ready to send it out into the world – coincidentally on World Mental Health Day. Each year there’s a theme, and this year’s theme is mental health in the workplace. Whilst social media isn’t necessarily everyone’s workplace, it is somewhere I spend the vast majority of my time, so it feels quite apt to be sharing this today.
I don’t know if I’ve actually openly said on my blog before, but I have anxiety. Social anxiety, health anxiety and generalised anxiety disorder, to be specific. I like to think I’m quite open about my mental health, particularly on social media, but it took me a long time to come to terms with my formal anxiety diagnosis. In general, I’m often reluctant to share too much about my mental state with friends and family, because I sometimes feel like I’m burdening them with my own problems. When it comes to the online world, however, I’ll happily ramble away about how I’m feeling and typically do so as a bit of a release.
Social media is a funny old thing, especially when it comes to having anxiety, as it can be both a blessing and a curse. I can’t imagine my life without social media but, at the same time, I know I need to spend less time endlessly scrolling through timeline after timeline. It’s difficult to find the right balance, particularly as a blogger who also works with social media a lot, but it’s something I’m always striving to improve as I learn and grow.
I think my main issue with social media is that it is massively overwhelming. I follow a lot of people, which is something I’m slowly cutting down, and as a result, my feeds are typically an incredibly fast-paced environment. It’s information overload, with everything from what someone had for their tea to new developments in marketing and the latest atrocity that’s happened somewhere in the world filling up my newsfeed at an alarming rate. When you get sucked in, it can be hard to escape, and I know I’ve lost many an hour to that never-ending cycle of scroll, refresh, repeat.
News consumption in the current age can be a difficult path to tread. We’ve never been as well connected as we are now, and whilst it’s fantastic to be able to learn more about the world on a global scale, it can also be pretty harrowing. Atrocities and attacks are happening across the world on a daily basis and the instantaneous nature of social media and the internet means it can be difficult to escape when you need to. I need to teach myself to recognise when I need to take a step back from the news alerts and live-tweets because it can be way too much for my frazzled mind to handle.
And maybe the biggest issue of all – at least for me – is the comparison. People have this funny habit of only sharing their highlight reel on social media, which I myself can be guilty of too. It’s natural not to share the messy room behind the flatlay or the rain-soaked selfie, but it can create this false pretence in my head that everyone else is doing so much better than I am, even if they’re not. When people share that they’ve just bought a house, or maybe they’ve announced a pregnancy, or secured an incredible new job, I can’t help but compare my life to theirs. It doesn’t matter if we’re at completely different stages in life, my brain likes to dwell on the little things until they become this huge, overwhelming issue that I can’t shake.
At the same time, though, social media has been great for my anxiety. As tough as it can be at times, it’s also created this invaluable community for me to turn to when I need it most. I’ve met amazing people through the power of social media, who act as an incredible support network for me. If I need someone to talk to, or I’m feeling stressed, anxious and just want a distraction, I know I can turn to Twitter and find someone who’s there for me in seconds. As someone who struggles to open up in “real life” at times, this is vital for me. Plus, I follow a lot of animals on Instagram and Facebook, so more often than not I’ll open up the Facebook app to find a cute dachshund video or Lis will be sending me fluffy kittens.
Although I don’t always find it the easiest to share my mind when I do it’s an incredibly cathartic experience. This sharing of experiences and information is one of the best things about social media and something as simple as hearing that I’m not alone is massively soothing for me and my anxiety. I first discovered the Scottish Association for Mental Health through social media and this was a huge turning point for me. I’ve discovered new coping techniques, new ways of thinking and new sources of comfort through social media – and for that, I’ll always be thankful.