I have to say, I’m quite surprised I didn’t get lots of urgent questions in my inbox this week from people who lost the run of themselves during Snowmaggeddon mania. The fugue state lifting as they slowly came back down to earth, the keys to a JCB in their hands, confusion in their eyes.
“Oh God… What have I done?”
Anyway, you can write to me anonymously about your problems – snow-related and otherwise – right here.
How do you deal with the anxiety of social media? I find I’m constantly worrying about how people will interpret a tweet or what people might think of an Instagram post. I find myself wanting to share things but then my anxiety of how many like it will get or how people will view me because of it leads me to not post as much as I’d like.
Like pretty much everything in life, social media is bullshit for a variety of reasons.
There’s not only worrying about how you’re being perceived, which is what concerns you, but there’s also the constant stream of information about other people’s lives that we have to process, one way or another. At its worst, it acts as an always-on nightmare portal into gloomy world news and other people enjoying themselves or saying something irritating, on a loop, forever.
In saying that, I absolutely love social media. I’m not going to rhapsodise at length about its many benefits, but when used properly, it can be a wonderful tool for shared connection and moments of humanity, both trivial and important. (Also it got me this job, so there’s that.)
While I’m still figuring this out myself, I think it’s about knowing the balance. It’s about recognising the moment when it’s simply not fun anymore – and then actually doing something about it.
With most challenging things in life, we can’t press the exit button when it stops being fun. In a job we hate, in a relationship we’re unhappy about, or an impossible family situation, financial difficulties, health problems… None of these things can be made to go away at will with an off switch. But social media can. That’s the difference: you’re in control here. Don’t forget that.
Use it to improve your life, and try to stop when it detracts from it. If posting stuff stresses you out, don’t post for a while. Life is hard enough! (Of course, for some people, using social media is a necessity for their jobs. In that case: change the goal posts. You have control over the rules of engagement on social media, so exercise that.)
The thing is, deciding to use social media healthily is so, so much easier said than done. I’m sure we’ve all felt anxious as a result of social media for one reason or another, and yet also find ourselves still worriedly, absent-mindedly picking up our phones a minute later.
Knowing something is bad for us intellectually doesn’t mean it’s a foregone conclusion that we’ll actually do anything proactive about it. You’ll have to take a step back and look at your use of social media, figure out what makes you feel shit and what makes you feel good, and act on it.
My main advice is this: start using social media more consciously. It’s rare enough we take a step back and look at our habits, why we do what we always do, and assess if it’s actually working.
Unfollow accounts and block others if you need to. Make your account private for a while. Download a mindfulness app that will tell you how much time you’re using social media for, and figure out if it’s too much. If it is, download an app that locks you out after a while. Delete certain apps.
Turn your phone off during dinner and coffee meet-ups – or at the very least, turn it off vibrate and place it face-down on the table. Put it onto do-not-disturb or leave it in another room. Plug it in at night across the room from your bed, or buy an alarm clock and don’t bring it in there at all.
Leave your phone at home sometimes. If it makes you feel freaked out to leave the house without it, consider why and do it anyway.
Figure out who you’re worried about judging you when you post. Think about why you follow or engage with who you do, and how it makes you feel. Do what you have to do – just make sure you’re doing it consciously.
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Confess a story, ask for help or just shout into the void for a bit and see if that helps. All welcome. Anonymity totally guaranteed always.