Social Media: followers, likes, views, comments, Snapstreaks, friends, shares, connect, status updates, notifications… what comes to your mind when you think of social media? What about, social media: anxiety, depression, obsession, fear, body dysmorphia, comparison, self-doubt, self-hate, pain.
I have every form of social media: Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram (a “rinsta”, a “finsta” or “spam” AND a “foodstagram”), I had a Vine (RIP), YouTube, and I’m not sure if there are any more but considering you can now be “friends” with people as well track your friend’s periods on period tracker apps, I assume that there is. Despite me having, and (very) actively using, every form of social media, I hate it. I mean I love it, I’m addicted, but I hate it. Over the summer I was feeling super strong about how bad social media is for development and growth, so I deleted if off of my phone… for 40 minutes, before I re-downloaded it because “I had nothing to do” and “I needed to know what was going on” In the 21st century it seems like almost everyone is on social media. In fact, when I meet someone that isn’t on social media * gasp * I immediately respond with How? Aren’t you SO disconnected? How do you find out anything? How do you know what’s going on with people? Well, the matter of fact is, you don’t, and I’m here to tell you that is a really fucking positive thing. One of the biggest promotions of social media is that it “keeps people in touch” Yes, you can post things about your life so that friends from far and wide know what’s going on. Yes, you can find people that you knew from long ago and reconnect with them. Yes, social media does allow for some “lost connection” amongst people. But how much of it is real? I was looking through the people that I followed on Snapchat and realized that I didn’t even know half of their last names. I knew they lived somewhere that wasn’t Los Angeles because we were “keeping in touch” for some reason, but I hadn’t even had a conversation with half of these people. Social media has become a thing of habit. It is customary to add someone on Snap when you meet them or give them a follow on insta, but are relationships truly forming? What kind of connections are these? (NOTE: lost my train of thought and spent 10 minutes scrolling through Instagram, snap stories, and facebook 3 times… looking at the Exact. Same. Thing.) Exhibit A noted? Yes, social media is a distraction from the real world. You all probably know that already though. “Duh, Shae! Our teachers tell us that at the beginning of each class!” or “We know! Life can’t be lived behind a screen!” So then why do we keep doing it? I mean I guess I could go into the science-y aspect of it and start talking about the nucleus accumbens and the reward center of the brain and dopamine and impulsivity and neurons and pathways etc. etc. etc. but I don’t have my degree and let’s be real, authenticity is key. But, that would be difficult for all of us, so instead, I’m going to make an obscure analogy that won’t make sense until the end, but we’ll all agree it’s really good. Social media is like a commercial jingle, but not just any jingle, like the most annoying jingles you can think of, I’m talking Kars for Kids level or Cellino & Barnes, or that Meow Mix stuff. No matter how badly you don’t want to think about it, it just pops into your head. You’ll be sitting in the middle of homework, or a conversation with friends, or reading a book, and either get that imaginary bzzzz of your phone or just have this instant need to look at your phone. Pops into your head, like the freaking Kars for Kids song. So why am I talking about social media on my eating disorder blog? Good question! Social media, while it was created to bring people together, has become another outside controller of your life. Think about it (unless you’re not a social media “addict”), how often do you check your Instagram in a day? How long do you spend on your captions? Filters? Choosing the perfect photo? How important are snapstreaks to you? Do they determine the foundation of a relationship (and hate to break it to you, if they do, then it’s probably not that strong of a relationship)? How many likes do you need to “feel good about yourself”? Do they determine your worth? Well, for me, my answer to all of those questions was a resounding YES! And I guess that’s why I’m writing this blog post. Because of the obsession, the anxiety, the depression, the invocation of self-doubt/self-hate within when I scroll past a skinny body on Instagram or wonder why my Snapchat was opened but not responded to. Did I say something wrong? Did I look weird or was I too annoying? I was controlled by my eating disorder for years. It took parts of me that are still being discovered or rebuilt and social media isn’t providing a strong recovery space for me. Yes, I follow some great instagram accounts, that post encouraging quotes, but I guess I could just buy a book with a daily quote, there are ways around it. I mean our parents survived completely without any of this, they had phones… attached to walls?! Isn’t that crazy (please note I’m being sarcastic here, I’m not that millennial-ized)
During my eating disorder, social media was almost like a physical form of my anorexia. I could find anything I wanted to. I fell asleep to videos of people cutting chocolate cakes or eating gooey lava cakes. I sat in front of mirrors pulling at my own fat as I looked at girls’ instagrams who had perfectly defined abs, whose legs did not touch, and not one line of cellulite. Social media let me stay in contact… with my demons, things I should not and did not want to be looking at, but could not control it… it was all at my fingertips. The likes defined me and the people that followed me affirmed my worth.
So today, I’m going to take a break from social media. I understand that I am spreading awareness of this blog post and this blog using social media but after, is when I’ll start my facebook freeze (and all other forms). I think there are so many other ways to talk to people. In person is great. If you don’t have the person’s phone number to call or text them the relationship probably isn’t that strong. I actually wrote a few letters, you know, with stamps and addresses, and will send those. Playing it old school! Social media isn’t needed to live, I don’t know if having it is actually living. So bye for now, hopefully it will last longer than 40 minutes. Until I can go on Instagram to look at actual friends photos and not just the people that liked mine. Time to focus on the important stuff! I’m going to go read a book now and have conversation with Real. Live. People!!!