It’s been just over two months since I announced on the blog I’d be taking some time away from social media. In reality, I’d been avoiding those platforms for a while longer than the official post date, probably since around December.
A friend of mine did something similar a few years back, only she wanted to treat the whole leaving social media behind thing as an experiment. Her exile period was a month, and though her reasons for leaving were different than mine, I think we came to related conclusions (her conclusion here).
I left social media to refill my own well. We’d gone through major changes and hadn’t actually dealt with any of the stress that went with everything we were going through. For a way too long time, we’ve been emotionally and mentally drained. I figured that the best way to start the healing process would be to actually put in some effort with it.
I realised I had to take my own mental health seriously, as I’ve been advising loved ones my entire adult life. I don’t understand why I refuse myself the compassion I so willingly give to others, but I’m working on that too.
Anyway. With all the ugliness in the world at the moment, parts of social media platforms have become ugly too. Not everything is bad, but enough of it is. And when you’re already plummeting into thought spirals and depression, the last thing you need is more ugliness to worry about.
For me, stepping away meant being uninformed. My past information gathering process involved checking Facebook first thing in the morning, seeing what the shared topics of the day were, and clicking the news links. Then, to my email, where I opened my subscriptions and delved into the opinion pieces, news regarding my passions and whatever random news or interesting article my husband shared with me. From there, I’d start working, but pop back onto Facebook every hour or so, just to see if someone shared something new. Rinse, repeat. I watched YouTube discussions on various topics, especially news and educational sites. Ted Talks and opinion videos took up hours of my days.
At first, I still went online once or maybe twice a day. Then I stayed away longer and longer, until I was AFK almost completely. Sometimes, my computer remained in deep sleep for days at a time. Stepping away from social media became an internet-free time for me. My YouTube addiction was cured. I had no idea who had a baby or who split up. The major political developments in the word remained undiscussed at the dinner table, sometimes for days after the news broke. My husband was often shocked that I hadn’t even heard of the newest tweet from the POTUS.
Basically, I crawled under a rock and stayed there all too willingly.
Reading all of it here makes me feel stupid. I’ve never liked being out of the loop, but grew to like ignorance.
For a while I moulded myself to the couch and binge-watched TV. I didn’t want to do anything, talk to anyone or go anywhere. If it hadn’t been for Kayla who had to be taken to and from school, then be fed and given attention, I guarantee I wouldn’t have lifted my butt out of bed. For her, I had to make at least some effort, and I’m grateful that her cuddles and kisses have a natural anti-depressant effect.
Then one day, I felt better. Just a little, but enough to start doing the actual work and wade into the emotional stuff I’ve been avoiding and or suppressing. This is still ongoing. Each day teaches me a bit more compassion for myself and brings me a scooch closer to stability.
Still, the difference it made to focus on my mental health and not add more stuff to be flung around in the whirlpool is astounding.
My anxiety levels are manageable. I’ve been sleeping better. I’ve regained enough focus to go back to work with more drive than ever. And more speed – I’ve been finishing tasks much faster than I used to without the distractions. Muscle cramps I’ve been struggling with for months don’t occur quite as often.
I’m making art. I’ve started reading again – books, not just fanfiction, blogs or articles on my PC screen. I mean, as a writer I should be reading books, right? That’s so obvious, but somehow, I stopped. My Kindle’s battery drained where it sat on my desk, untouched for so many months.
Sure, stepping away from the internet isn’t the magical cure. Hell, being on the internet wasn’t even the cause of all of that, but the negativity was certainly an added factor. I hadn’t realised how far I’d fallen until I stepped away from my computer.
Now that I’m feeling better, I’ve been back on social media. Still not as much as before, but I do put in an appearance every now and then. I’m chatting to people I love again, I know what’s going on in the world again, and I’ve watched a Ted Talk or two. But I’m also trying to moderate my use.
The lesson I’ve learnt is that even the most harmless-seeming of addictions can have a profoundly negative outcome. But. It’s possible to overcome and grow all the same. It just takes some willpower and effort.
Have a good one.