I often find myself at odds with social media. It’s true that sometimes it uplifts me, but other times it can bring me down. Having lived with mental health issues from a young age, I’ve had to learn the importance of using social media properly. While it can be a great tool for connecting with others when needed, it’s also something I’ve had to withdraw myself from at times to protect my mental health.
The positive side of social media
Connecting with friends
As someone who doesn’t socialise much and who can spend days in bed, social media is a great way for me to quickly and easily connect with my friends and family.
Not only existing friends, but new ones too. I have made an amazing set of friends online who I can turn to when things are going really well, or when I am feeling a bit lonely.
They make feel like I have company, even though it’s not face-to-face. I can even talk to them about my favourite TV shows. It’s not uncommon for messages to start with, “Oh my! Have you seen Hollyoaks today?”
As well as linking me with friends, social media also allows me to connect with people in my industry. Fellow bloggers have become amazing friends and it’s hard to imagine not having them in my life.
Finding out about local events
Since I’ve moved house, I like to keep abreast of what’s happening in my local area. It’s something I hadn’t really done before moving to a smaller area, and it is only due to social media that I’m able to find out about upcoming events.
There’s a local Facebook group that makes it really easy to see what’s happening and there’s so much that goes on throughout the year. Everything from arts festivals, to local nights at the café, and even pudding nights.
When I find getting out hard, my other half would come with me – and often my parents too – meaning I still get to experience some of the fun entertainment offered.
Watching funny videos
I probably spend way too much time watching funny or cute videos.
Something as simple as a cute dog just being themselves can make me smile, if even for just a moment.
Over time, I have found social media pages that I know I can always rely on to help me break into a smile or burst into a belly laugh. I have them bookmarked so I can always access them directly and quickly if I’m in need of something to take my mind of things.
The negative side of social media
Seeing things that trigger me
The world around us can be a nasty place and people often want to share breaking news or stories of cruelty to help raise awareness of certain issues. For me however, content like this can be something that really affects how I feel.
Even on a good day, unexpectedly seeing something negative can spin me around and send me into a bit of a downwards spiral.
I try and take things into my own hands where possible and mute accounts that I find triggering, or change my preference settings on websites to hide certain topics. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to control everything that you see when scrolling through social media.
Comparing myself to others
When I was younger, I had lots of dreams and aspirations. Sadly, because of the impact my mental and physical health problems have had on me, I have not been able to complete some of the things that I thought I would.
So, when I see people celebrating achievements on social media, it can sometimes be hard not think: “I’ll never manage that” or “why can’t it ever be me?”
I’m sure to some this might seem like jealousy. To me it feels more like a deep sadness that I’ll never be able to experience some of the things in life that I thought I would.
I think these days most people have realised that social media can affect us in positive and negative ways. In the end it is how we use it that is important. With that in mind, I think we all need to proactively take control over the way we connect, and not do so mindlessly.
Sometimes it’s important to step back – not logging on or even deleting apps from your phone can be helpful when you’re stuck in a negative pattern.
Personally, I have days where I consciously don’t look at my social media feed at all. Instead, I just stick to groups and personal messages, as I know from my own experience that they are the safest places to be.
It has been a long process in learning what is right for me and it is a journey I am still on. However, from my first steps of realising that reading the headlines on a nightly basis doesn’t work for me, to working out the best ways to utilise social media, I am slowly making the internet work for me, rather than against me, one website at a time.
UK/MED/20/0071 March 2020