Saturday, 15 October 2016

Is Social Media Bad For Our Mental Health?


Today, not for the first time, I realised how much of an impact social media has on my life. I check Twitter religiously; if I follow you I'm basically always creeping on what you have to say. In fact, some of you are a more frequent presence in my life than the majority of my relations. I love the community on there, and I love that there is always someone to chat with.


Sometimes, however, it's all a bit much. Today was a prime example of that. In the aftermath of the Ched Evans court case, Twitter became a place I didn't want to be. It felt like a place where you couldn't voice an opinion without the trolls coming out to attack - people were actively seeking out those who were upset with the verdict in order to pour salt on the wound and gloat about it. I found myself getting riled up and upset by the tweets I was seeing, always a second away from pressing send on a snarky reply to some idiot but stopping myself at the last minute.

And then, it dawned on me. I could just... log out.

I had never really considered how much time I'd spend on these sites, talking to people that I've never met yet have come to somewhat 'know'. When it's all going well, it feels great to have a bunch of great people in my life on a daily basis, just a click of an app away. When that sense of community is invaded by negativity and abuse, it feels like being attacked from all angles. 

I find myself getting so caught up in Twitter that it's almost like a virtual high school scenario. All the "he said, she said" (although in the blogging community it's mainly "she said, she said") is amplified; everyone has receipts and you can follow a whole conversation without anyone knowing you're 'eavesdropping'. There's all the indirects, the petty dramas, and the little cliques that form. It's even got to the stage where there are bloggers I've heard things about despite never having followed or interacted with - I literally hear whispers about people I don't know from people I've never met! It's so intense to be constantly surrounded by this that honestly, yes, I sometimes find it difficult to remember that this isn't real life.

No one is completely themselves online. You might think you are, but you constantly self-edit, whether you're aware of it or not. We lose a lot of the way we communicate when we only do it with text - I'm sure you're all aware that the majority of communication is through non-verbal cues like body language and tone of voice. We just don't get the full picture online, but we react like we do. It's confusing! 


Today I felt absolutely overwhelmed by the opinions of others. I know that might sound strange, but it's true - seeing the pure venom that people think is okay to put online made me feel sad, scared, angry, intimidated, and infuriated. And then I logged out, and felt a whole lot better.

See, the thing is, I'm never going to win an online argument with a troll. I'm never going to change a mind on Twitter (sadly). Of course there is a lot of work to be done, and I commend everyone brave and thick-skinned enough to take on these people who hide behind the mask of internet anonymity. But for me, all it does is make me unwell. I have felt genuinely sad and anxious since the Ched Evans result came back. I've felt hopeless and consumed by the utter poison I've seen. I had to detach myself from social media, reminding myself that a) I don't have to allow these toxic scumbags even the hint of moment of my time, and b) even if I did, they sure as hell wouldn't say this shit to my face - they are cowards.

Please excuse the typo, I'm an idiot.

Social media is a filter for reality. Going on Instagram is like looking at the pages of a glossy magazine, but with the added bonus of intense envy that your life isn't anywhere near as 'perfect'. Logging into Facebook is a minefield for body image issues, as you are still wondering how that girl you went to school with ten years ago is so slim, pretty and perfect despite now having two kids under two. Everything you do becomes twisted to make the perfect Twitter update. Everyone's opinions are absolutely everywhere, whether you asked for them or not. Is that indirect about you?! Why did that girl you thought of as a friend unfollow you?! Something that starts off as a comforting community of like-minded people becomes like a screeching wall of noise you can't turn off.

I have felt genuine anxiety from a vague tweet, I've had abuse online that has made me cry for hours, I've spent so much time wondering why I'm so far behind the people who's lives I see plastered all over Facebook. I feel like I can't move on from situations or people because there are constant reminders. It can be exhausting, and yes, it can be damaging to my mental health.

Don't get me wrong, I love social media. It gives everyone a voice and a platform, it allows you to 'meet' and interact with new people, and it allows news to travel instantly. I saw a great analogy to describe it: social media is like a car - whether or not it hurts you depends on where, how, and how often you drive. And for that reason I'm going to make much more of an effort to keep my real and virtual lives balanced.

As I think you can see from the poll above, if you ever find yourself affected by social media, you aren't alone and your feelings are totally valid. If you need to step away from the online community, you should. Your health is the most important thing.

What about you guys, have you ever felt negatively affected by social media?

Find the rest of my Blogtober posts here!
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5 comments

  1. sometimes im scared of putting my opinion out there because im scared people may turn against me or something, lovely post
    wwww.mssparkleandglow.com

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  2. Great post! I don't struggle with Twitter that much as I mainly use it for business, I keep my opinions for my blog which only a select few read and it's never about the news or politics.
    Facebook is a completely different thing, I find it cliquey, very childish and mainly it always upsets me that my "real life" friends have never been supportive towards my quest and my business, yet they plaster their pages with fake images of their definitely "not" perfect lives. I've cried many tears over FB to the point where I am now considering closing it. Instagram I treat as Twitter, for business, if people are posting about their lives, I'm not really interested, I mainly support other small businesses on there. We all know how fake , made up and filtered most of the pictures are and to be honest, their lives doesn't interest me at all, I'm no envious or feel like mine is lacking compared to theirs. My life is my life, not matter how hard it gets and I wouldn't swap it with any of these people.
    Don't give up on your blog and just block the trolls ;) xx
    PS: I completely agree with your regarding the retrial

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great post and I think what you're saying is completely true. Social media can be tough. Sometimes I read a tweet over and over before pressing the button because I'm nervous of what people think and some days I just can't look at Instagram and face how perfect everyone else's life seems to be. I guess we just have to remember that we're looking at someone's highlight reel - no one is going to publish when they're in their pjs eating beans on toast! X

    Emily-Alice.co.uk

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  4. Faaaaaabulous post pal! There were a lot of heated opinions on that particular matter and I think in the end you just have to switch off and log out and get the tweets and comments out of your mind. People are such keyboard warriors and I think being online so much and having that instant access to everyone we forget we can switch notifications off when we don't want it. Loooooving having your Blogtober posts on my feed every day my love! xx

    www.twentysomethingmeltdown.com

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  5. I love this post. I love especially the part where you had that epiphany of that you could just log out. This totally happened to me the other day! I live in America and currently with the election drama the interwebs are not a fun place to be. In moments like this yes, I find that social media stresses me out, especially when I just see negativity and arguments everywhere. So, it's time for a break. Social media is such a good thing, but only when we allow it to be. xX

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