I have always embraced social media and praised its virtues. But I have always been socially awkward too. I long thought that sites like Facebook were a Godsend for people like me because I could be social with people all over the world, and I didn’t even need to leave the comfort of my own home.
What I didn’t realise until today was how quickly things can go from great to awful if one uses social media while suffering anxiety. I’m not talking about having the sads, or feeling a bit stressed about the bills. That I can get myself over with some distractions, or some positive self-talk. No, I’m talking about the kind of anxiety that comes up behind you, shoves you to the ground and buries you up to your head. It’s paralysing, invisible and can send you insane or worse.
While under the influence of anxiety, normal perspective is weakened. You can hear, see and feel things differently. A comment or a post can be misread, misconstrued and in the absence of verbal tone, body language and immediate feedback can feel like an attack on our very person.
Little wonder then that it is the perfect storm for suicide.
So, here are some tips I have compiled to help those who are at risk of anxiety while still maintaining an online presence.
- Cut off all social media contact by dinner time. Tiredness is a comfortable bedfellow of anxiety. Put your phone on charge for the night, in a place where you will hear it ring but out of eyesight.
- Make a pact with a few online friends you trust, to contact each other if you start to feel like your social media life is getting the better of you emotionally. This will make the decision to find help easier when you are in the grip of strong anxiety.
- Make it a habit to keep your phone in the boot of your car, while travelling. You should still be able to receive calls, but won’t be tempted to look at it in between light changes (and they can be quite lengthy).
- Make yourself go for a walk every day. Even if you only go to the mailbox, the change in setting can work wonders for your perspective.
- Trim your social media ties to only those that raise you up as a person. If they don’t leave you feeling better, ditch them. This goes for friends as well as groups and pages.
There are different things you can do, but this is what I consider the bare minimum in order to prevent negative social media experiences from taking over.
. Your emotions are valid and important and should be treated with nurturing hands.
Let me know in the comments section if you have any other tips for negotiating social media.
*** If you or a loved one needs help to negotiate suicidal thoughts, call LIFELINE on 13 11 14 or have an online chat with a lifeline counsellor via https://www.lifeline.org.au/. ***