My iPhone is always set to silent. The tiny switch on the left-hand side is perpetually clicked to show the red part. My favorite texting app is literally the only thing with the notification on vibrate. I wasn’t always this anti-notification or anti-social media updates. My relationship with technology evolved around the same time I conducted a social experiment on Facebook. “How would virtual friends respond if I posted extremely honest/controversial content?” The answer, in short, was horrible. Virtual and real connections both responded horribly.
Friends and Family
Like many of you, I once operated from the misguided standpoint that family and friends – people I’d known for years, would craft their comments from a place of empathy and love. Boy, was I wrong! A strange phenomenon occurs when the face-to-face element is removed from interactions: people forget that they are typing to another human, or the keyboard removes the need to care.
It’s the strangest experience to have to defend a post on a website to loved ones because they think you’re being too loud or controversial. More than one decades-long friendship went up in flames over a social media interaction. It’s a mess. It’s also painful because I quickly learned in real time how the people I love think.
Isolation + Loneliness = Social Media Worst Practices
I consider myself lucky because I belong to the final non-digital native generation. My formative years weren’t spent hypnotized by a tablet screen. Hell, I wasn’t even hypnotized by a television screen. I wasn’t even allowed to have a TV in my room until I was 13 years old. Although I now spend quite a bit of time in front of screens for work and such, I’m at my most relaxed when I’m not all up on my phone or typing away at my laptop. I adore time away from devices.
A decade ago, I wasn’t this way. I was incredibly isolated and the only interactions I enjoyed were with my social media connections. Notifications ran my life and through my posts, I unnecessarily aired dirty laundry and exaggerated the
amazing life I was living. To be honest, I would’ve unfriended me after a week if I had to deal with that on my timeline right now.
But enough about me. I’ve noticed a social media phenomenon that’s rooted in one of two ends of the spectrum: pity-seeking content with the other extreme based in over-glorifying any and everything. Understandably, each user who posts on social media platforms desires attention. That’s how social media was designed. People are hooked into engagement patterns involving likes and comments, fueling their need for attention.
Users who desire to go viral do the
darnedest dumbest things, like the dangerous Tide Pod Challenge or most recently and annoyingly: The Cheese Challenge, where an unsuspecting baby/pet/sleeping boyfriend is assaulted with a slice of cheese:
Blogging Saves the Day
One of the reasons I created this blog was to channel my need to virtually interact with strangers while diminishing the social media anxiety catalyzed by my experiences on Facebook and other platforms. One of the last times I scrolled through FB Newsfeed, I ended up having an anxiety attack because someone shared a photo of a dog roasting on a spit. It feels so much safer to type into the void while creating something than to read people’s arguments, trolling, and poor attempts at activism online.
Social Media Mental Health Guide
Here are my favorite tips for healthy social media use:
- Trolls exist – there are people and bots who are specifically designed to make you feel bad, so don’t engage with them. I’m a huge fan of the mute or block button.
- Seek out wholesome interactions – don’t dwell in the social media dumps. When you’ve had a hard day, look at cat and dog videos and seek other content that uplifts you.
- Designate reasonable time periods during the day to engage on social media, so that you don’t wear yourself out unnecessarily.
- Connect with like-minded people online who you vibe with – this one’s the most important. It’s
the funsort of networking.
- Savor the good, satisfying moments, like this one from Twitter: