When the the ‘Debbie Downers’ and ‘Patty Perfects’ on social media send you into a tailspin, just unplug—and recharge your mental wellbeing.
By Susan Reinhardt
Diving into a delicious humor novel is one of my go-to escapes for fighting depression. Recently, I downloaded Sophie Kinsella’s My (not so) Perfect Life. The book paints a spot-on picture of the love-hate relationship we have with social media and the increasingly significant role it plays in our lives—whether we’re 16 or 96.
Kinsella’s heroine, Katie Brenner, views everyone else as having a fabulous and oh-so-much-better life than her own, as seen via the narrow porthole of Instagram. When she’s bombarded with daily posts and photos from her friends’ seemingly superior lives, pictures of their sculpted bodies and of food fit for
Manhattan’s Eleven Madison Park, she decides to up her own online game. She begins to create fabricated postings that give her life a gloriously posh pedicure.
When I check Facebook or Pinterest and read about the uber-fab activities of others, it’s easy for me to slide into a flirtation with depression, an ever-so- slowly-growing melancholy, one idealized post at a time. I’m like the proverbial frog boiled alive before realizing what’s happened.
With the myriad filters and ways to alter images to utter flawlessness, we’re setting ourselves up to believe real life isn’t good enough.
It can be just as damaging from the other side, too. I have one friend who is a bona fide social media addict—she can’t get up in the night to tinkle with- out plugging into her Apple watch to catch up with every ping and ding. She count her “likes” as if she were Scrooge counting money. If a post isn’t garnering the recognition she thinks it deserves, she will eventually become so despondent she shuts down her accounts for a day or so to recover.
An therein lies a cure. If social media is causing anxiety or depression, the answer is simple: Unplug. Be it for a day, a week, a month—or forever. if you want to keep up with the news, look for online (or even of-line) sources outside of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and all the other social media platforms.
For me, that’s another ensnaring trap lurking on social media: the constant push of horrific news stories and the never ending missives from those seeking prayer at every turn. Who wouldn’t want to crawl under the sofa when reading a daily diet of death, illness and tragedy?
That friend of mine with the un-healthy attachment to her Apple watch has a habit of posting every shooting, every abused child or animal, on her Facebook page. She calls this her “ministry.” I love the woman dearly, but told her I needed to stay off her newsfeed. For my emotional balance, I choose not to follow the Debbie Downers—or the Patty Perfects.
The posts that bruise my soul the most are those from mothers struck by the bragging bug. I am the supportive mom of an adult son who struggles with crippling anxiety, depression and addiction. He is public in his testimony about recovery, but seeing the items from friends about their kids’ fantastic new jobs, prestigious college admissions, and other successes always sends me spiraling.
During one particularly rough phase, I shut down my entire Facebook account for several weeks. Instead of burning up spare time scrolling and wincing, I began walking around a beautiful lake with a good friend on sunny days. I also upped my yoga sessions.
I felt antsy for the first few days of my Facebook fast, as if I were missing out on something. But gradually that feeling faded and the time I spent in “analog” reality, either alone or with friends, mended my mind and eased the thrumming heartbeats signaling a bout of anxiety.
And while I did reactivate my account, I vowed to check it only twice a day, and only for 10 to 15 minutes at a time.
Another method I’ve used to minimize my exposure is purposely not linking my email or my two (yes, only two) social media accounts to my phone. When I’m at work or out with friends having real conversations, I find myself fully present, even teetering on the brink of pure joy.
A tête-à-tête over an al fresco meal, with the warm evening sun on my face, lights up my dopamine and provides a true connection to the world and people around me. And that’s something I can’t get by logging on to an electronic device.
Printed as “Viewpoint: Sapped By Social Media’, Summer 2018
via Esperanza – Hope To Cope
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