Lately I’ve become increasingly social media phobic. I can barely bring myself to go on Twitter, and I only do so to check up on a few people who I know have been struggling a lot. When I do go on, I last about five minutes before I feel the walls closing in. There is something about it that just stresses me out. Sometimes it stresses me out so much that I feel almost like I might have a panic attack. I honestly don’t understand it.
Facebook is not much better. I almost never go on my newsfeed anymore and when I do I can feel my mood souring. There are a lot of pregnant women and new second babies in my feed right now. Tons of sibling shots, toddler big brothers holding up newborn baby sisters galore. If it’s not that, it’s pictures of climbing volcanoes or swimming with dolphins or sipping mai tais on the beach at sunset. And the thing is, I’m not even wishing I could go on vacation right now, at least I’m not until I see everyone else’s pictures of them going on vacation.
I don’t know what is wrong with me, but right now I can’t handle these little windows into people’s lives. I just can’t assimilate all the information, and I don’t know why now, suddenly, these little glimpses are just too much. I feel like something inside of me is broken, that I’m a socially inept that I can’t handle this stuff anymore. Especially since I can’t quite put my finger on why I am so unhappy on these sites that everyone else loves.
I wrote recently about expectations and how they are the root of all sorrow. I wonder sometimes if sites like Twitter and Facebook just trigger my expectations, like seeing how everyone else’s lives are playing out, plants the seeds for the expectations I have for myself. If everyone else owns a house, I should own one too. If everyone else goes on amazing beach vacations, I should go on one too. If everyone else has a second child, I should be having one too. It’s hard to let go my expectations, when I see everyone else achieving theirs
And of course, not everyone is achieving their expectations, but on sites like Facebook, all you see is that parts where they ARE achieving their expectations. It’s not an accurate representation of people’s lives, but when you’re looking at all the well lit pictures, it’s hard to remember that.
(I just went on Facebook, after writing this post, and eleven of the top fifteen posts were baby pictures. And five of those were sibling pictures. So yeah, I think that is probably the problem.)
My issues with Twitter are harder for me to understand. My Facebook “friends” are mostly real-life friends and even if they weren’t, Facebook is a place for sharing the glorified happy in our lives. My Twitter feed is almost exclusively ALI bloggers and the content shared there couldn’t be more different than what I see on Facebook. And yet going there still stresses me out. Even though I’m not seeing everyone’s plasticine happiness, even though I am getting realistic looks into people’s lives (and many of them are struggling) I still feel stressed and overwhelmed. I just can’t keep up. And the little snippets make so little sense without the larger context of the person’s life. I just can’t handle it.
I think part of it is, there are people there that it’s hard for me to read. And I can’t pull the trigger and unfollow them, for various reasons, but I also can’t handle seeing them in my timeline. I realize, writing this, that I started stressing out about Twitter when all the shit was going down on my blog, and I was hearing that people were speaking ill of me on Twitter (not using my name or anything but it was clear who they were referring to) and I think I never really recovered from that. And even now, when I know all that has died down, and I wouldn’t have seen any of it myself anyway, I still feel panicky going on that site.
And honestly, it makes me sad. Twitter at least, was a lifeline to people I genuinely like and care about. I want to know what is going on in their lives. I want to follow their stories and offer support. But I feel like I can’t follow some people without also being exposed to others. So that is one problem. The other issue is that I can’t be on at work and by the time I get home and my daughter is in bed I’ve missed the whole day. And the way Twitter works, you just can’t come back from that kind of absence.
So I stay away. And I feel guilty for not being there. And I feel remorse that I’m not following people’s stories. And I worry that I’m missing something important, so I just avoid the possibility all together, by never logging on.
Mi.Vida thinks it’s good that I can realize these sites bother me and successfully stay away. I’m not so sure. I mean, I see his point, but I don’t think it’s enough to just know they bother me and avoid them. I want to deal with my issues head on. I want to figure out how to be okay logging into Facebook and Twitter. I want to engage with people on both those sites on my own terms, I don’t want my participation governed by my anxiety and cowardice, by my inability to embrace other people’s happiness and success without comparing it to my own, by my fear of conflict. Nor do I want to go there out of some self-imposed obligation to be there, which is the main reason I do log on. If I were making a choice about whether or not I wanted to be on the sites for the right reasons, that would be okay. Right now I don’t feel like I have a choice, at least not one that I want to make.
Do you believe social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are positive presences in your life? Why or why not?