About two weeks ago, during the second phase of my leave, I was technically living on updates on Facebook: status messages, shares of friends, posts of friends, memes, videos, and all the Facebook had to offer. Every now and then, I’d pick my phone up, keep my fingers busy by scrolling, whiling my time until my eyes would ache and my nape would hurt. Well, I would not be doing so if Facebook was not so attractive for me to be a little bit (think: a little bit) obsessed by its platform: I could easily express my views through its status box—something that I could declare to rest of the world as to what interests me at the moment, those things I am engaged in, my flare for this and that, posts I like that I eventually share, what I am listening to, et cetera. Thus, basically it is more of being “open”, in a sense, bereft of inhibition about my personality or what makes me happy. But it does not end there. At the bottom of each post I make are “reaction” emoticons, which one’s potential audience might click on to express interest or enthusiasm about what I have uttered (of course, in electronic form), and perhaps comment on things that I have shared and jumpstart a discussion on such. Nifty, isn’t it? It is like, Facebook, in all its visage as the premiere means for internet communique can, in one way or the other, be primordial in tapping into a human being’s sociological progress. And this does not only go out to Facebook alone:—all social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram do the same, through a diversity of ways into utilizing each of them. With social media (Facebook, in my case, in particular), a person can get as many “reactions” to his or her rant or happy goings-on, or sometimes desultory posts and be attuned to each of them. Subconsciously, it then creates this joyous, almost manic, situation in the brain that eventually craves for more of the attention given to what has been posted or shared.
And this is where the problem lies.
Social media, in all its addictive properties, can somehow be psychologically cruel in a way, especially if nothing has been shared, liked, or commented upon by other people, “friends” or “likers” alike. This phenomenon then spirals into a sort of progression, appealing to a person’s emotions and mindset that he or she does not deserve other people’s attention because, perhaps, “no one likes them”, even if their posts are worthy of consideration. He or she then scrolls even further on the newsfeed or timeline then sees friends with lots of likes, reacts, shares, and comments thus creating a sort of chasm within the supposed “neglected” person’s consciousness that maybe the posts, likes, comments, shares that he or she makes are underrated, or worse, worthless. This then creates a mirroring effect upon both the conscious and subconscious, targeting the aspect of self-awareness, self-consciousness, and esteem. “Why does anyone hesitate to like my posts? I’ve poured much effort into this,” they say. Then again, “does anyone even like me?” The brooding over this starts; and especially with people with depression or mental illness in general, this could be a big deal.
There you go.
While social media in all its good intentions can bring about its sentients and sentiments of world peace or freedom, or even the warm and fuzziness of cat videos in order to elicit some positive feelings on the consumer of all those diverse platforms, there is no discounting the fact that, in particular for persons with mental illness, tipping the scales from more to less in terms of likes, comments, and reacts can be a very potent means for a mental trigger. It must be noted that people with depression, PTSD, anxiety, and so forth can be sensitive enough to whatever happens around them and could turn one good mood into a choleric one in a matter of minutes. Moreover, social media seems to have this knack for getting into men’s souls so to speak:—it could create behaviours or thinking not necessarily turbid at all times but something negative that, in turn, could affect not only the person who engages into it but also those around such people. And this negative effect is mostly psycho-social: the more likes and comments, the more one’s perceivable reveling in attention; for, who does not want attention anyway, more so online? Whether this said gleaning for attention be good or bad, withholding it eventually from the person concerned could, in some aspects, be a cause for depression. This is when there would be some account for that much concern.
(Nonetheless, this is not of saying that all social media users actually crave for attention. I am speaking in the viewpoint of someone and others who have depressive episodes with social media as triggers for low confidence about themselves.)
In this light—in as much as I constantly feel this “social media depression syndrome” as I would like to personally call it—I have come up with some little steps for myself to alleviate certain situations where I could be caught up in a social media psychological mess:
- I have resolved to refrain from scrolling my newsfeed ALL THE TIME within the day. As much as possible, I have limited myself to twice a day, one in the morning and another either in the afternoon or evening. Additionally, I don’t try to go through every posting anymore, except for updates about articles I want to read. In this way, social media can be a means for me to read up on stuff and make my brain alert.
- Except if I do have relevant (and positive) things on my mind that I do want to post about, I would content myself with stickers (Facebook has these larger emoticons that one may place in a post) to signify what I want to project to the public, instead of what I really feel. Why? No one wants to see status messages about depressive episodes, unless there are redeeming ideas in the end. People might then find a social media user toxic at some point when posts of such manner flood his or her followers or friends.
- In connexion to my post above, my usual disposition of ranting about my hapless life have gone down to almost zero percent. Knowing that I have in real life friends who care enough for me mellows down the desire to have my posts liked or commented upon.
- It is not easy to feel in good shape emotionally if I constantly follow up on my timeline or newsfeed about likes and comments. Hence, I have thought of diverting my attention from Facebook or Twitter to other things such as photography and reading some relevant articles on my phone or a physical reading material for that matter. In that way, I could “lose” Facebook for a handful of hours and not pay much cognizance about its existence.
- To some extent, if all else goes awry, I delete my social media apps from my phone until I am ready to view postings again.
As a person with bipolar disorder II and anxiety, managing my emotions online can really be that labourious for as much as social media can almost always be a “venting ground” whenever my emotional pendulum swings in such a crazy manner (to the point of not keeping up with it that much anymore). However, social media is mind-conditioning; and if a depressive person does not have the means to “protect” himself or herself from its addictive advances, then there will always be this period of a mind-collapse, or worse, more depressive episodes triggered none other by something intangibly electronic. With this, a diagnosed person should always stay on the safe side of precaution—if one could not handle something at a point in time, then it’s better to take a step back and breathe, be more engaged in the real world. Anyway, for the most part, social media is just that: virtual and ethereal that one could create some sort of discipline for himself or herself to weather its control and slithering clutches unbeknownst to many.