I was in the 6th grade when I created my first social media account. Unbeknownst to my mom, I spent hours perfecting my Bebo profile and messaging friends. Two years later, in 2007, I logged into Facebook for the first time. In the beginning, I exchanged pokes (who does that anymore), had wall-to-wall convos, wrote random notes about my favorite songs, and shared statuses like this:
@ll of th!$ hom3work !$ !rr!t@t!ng lolz
translation: all of this homework is irritating laughing out loud (plural)
I also posted embarrassing and over-edited photos, like:
In the 12 years since I first used social media, I’ve stuck with Facebook, loved and broke up with Twitter/Tumblr, and interacted with others on Snapchat and Instagram. These platforms have granted me a lot of positive experiences. Facebook and Instagram, especially the former, have fed my nostalgia with countless memories. While I was still on Twitter, award shows were my favorite because folks always had the most hilarious commentary (especially during the BET Awards). Following August 9, 2014, I realized the crucial role of social media in Ferguson and the larger movement for Black lives. Although I wasn’t on Canfield Drive when Michael Brown was shot, Twitter gave me an alternative news outlet to stay informed. All of these sites have also helped me stay “connected” to people from Detroit, Stanford, Cape Town, and other places.
Even with all of its benefits, social media has definitely contributed to my struggle with anxiety. Recently, I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. For years, I’ve been a persistent worrier, so it’s not totally surprising news. Yet, I’m attempting to process the various ways in which anxiety has taken shape in my life. When I use social media, anxiety often resembles:
Wrestling with validation
Sometimes, I take 10 selfies before I can post one that I think will receive likes. When I post statuses, I wonder how they’ll be received. My blog is also personal and honest, so I am always nervous to share my posts on other platforms. What will people think about me as I share my life beyond the highlights?
Feeling suffocated by information
One prime example… during the Presidential Election, I had to take numerous breaks from Facebook because everything was more than everything. It was too much. When I’m not careful, I spend so much time scrolling through the never-ending media on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Comparing myself to others
On social media, I mostly see people’s high points: relationships, successes, and just seemingly vibrant lives. It’s a blessing to see, but it is always tempting to compare my journey (that I know so well) to their journeys (that I may only know about on a purely surface level).
Craving more genuine connections
Social media keeps me in the know about the life snippets that people choose to share. Yet, it always leaves me hungry for more. How are people really doing? That question holds me accountable to maintaining real friendships and being open to new connections that blossom beyond the digital realm.
I don’t know what reconciling my participation in social media looks like. Frequently, I want to cut it out of my life altogether. Yet, its positives along with my addictive usage keep me involved.
Have you found healthy ways to use social media? If so, please let me know by posting a comment!