health, wellbeing

Unsocial, unhealthy, unhelpful

Just three words that sum up the internet and ‘social media’.

Recently somebody said how they felt ‘social media’ was actually ‘unsocial’ because it stops people from talking. What it does is allow them to hide behind personas,  post things that they wouldn’t dare say to someone’s face, and ultimately, isolates them from the rest of the world. I can see their point. For a few days now, I’ve been glued to the computer screen (not literally) trying to get as much work done as I can whilst we continue to get battered by the snow.

What I realised is that the internet, in particular all the social channels I am part of, have managed to consume far too much of my time. Yes, it was great, I cleared all of my emails from the numerous accounts I have, but as a result, I’ve had to be on various social platforms to progress certain tasks, and then you get sucked into the web of Youtube, clickbait, and nonsense. I’ve wasted more time than is necessary and ultimately, it’s become almost like an unhealthy obsession.

On that unhealthy front, never EVER search for medical expertise online, particularly if you live with anxiety. More times than I care to mention over the past couple of weeks I have called on my best friend to get me through after being once again absorbed into the viscous circle of ‘this hurts, I’m ill, what’s wrong, internet search, flipping heck, about to die, I’m alone, what do I do, am I OK, who will help me, check online, panic again’. It’s a horrible situation and one I do not wish on anybody.

I’ve made it clear before that I’ve not always been like this, and although in my eyes, I’m through the worst of it thanks to being off the medication, there are still those really horrible moments when the anxiety monster likes to pop up and laugh at you and you scream back ‘why the hell did you choose me?’ I didn’t choose him. I didn’t ask him to enter my life. I’ve asked him more times than I care to remember to leave my life, but still he likes to linger like a bad smell.

And so…enter social media to take your mind off things. It can be good for a boost, but not if you use it to search for symptoms or get drawn in to the most inane and nonsensical debates. The internet is pointless trawling through it for an answer to a medical condition because if you believed all that you read about treating your anxiety, you’d almost certainly have died from another panic attack.

So, does social media have a place in treating anxiety? If it means contacting a friend to support you through making sense of things and keeping you grounded, then absolutely. I tend to use it like this because I know my best friend who seems to know how to make everything right has a young family who are likely to be in bed at the typical time my anxiety likes to make even a fleeting appearance. You see, even in the haze of panic, I’m still sensitive to other’s needs. I’m also a writer, so typing it out helps, but sometimes I’d rather just talk to people (and yes, my friend would answer her phone if I rang).

We’ve lost the art of talking. Not just telling someone we’ll see them l8r but proper engagement, listening, understanding, appreciating. How often do we arrange a cafe catch-up? And when we do, how many of us actually put the phone away, turning off our notifications just long enough to have a meaningful conversation with another human being?

That’s one of the reasons I love my Relax Kids work and mentoring young people. OK, so I’ve got lived experiences and I don’t harp on about them constantly when I’m working with others, but for the hour per session that I get with children and teenagers, we work solidly on improving our wellbeing and adopting positive processes to get them through the struggles of daily life.

We do this face to face, with sometimes deep, meaningful, and insightful discussions that are reliant on reading other’s expressions, interpreting the tonality of the voice, and accepting that we don’t need to be forever worried by what we read online, whether our friends are liking our posts, or what we look like as the opposite gender in some face swapping app, because in all honesty, those things don’t really matter.

I do some work in social media and communications, so I can fully appreciate the importance people put on it, and you may think this a bit of an odd post for me, effectively telling you to get off social media, but what really matters in this life is living it, and you can’t do that completely through a screen.

Turn it off if only for an hour a day, spend a day without notifications on your phone, don’t put the computer on. Will it really matter if all those notifications and emails wait another day? When you’re gone, they’ll still be there. So go on, get out, take a walk, meet with friends, book me for a meeting. You will honestly find a different world out there waiting for you to discover if you step away from these ‘social’ platforms and socialise in the traditional way.

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