Social Media Phobic

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?

9 responses

  1. FB is positive for me only because I can see photos of my nieces and nephews, and keep up on what they (and my sister) are doing so far away (they live out east – I’m in Iowa). Everything else on there drives me nuts – and here’s why. People only put on FB what they WANT you to know – what they WANT you to think. I’m the person who posts the picture of my son having a meltdown because I want people to see that he’s not perfect – that our lives are not perfect – but not everyone is like that. My sister is, and I get a kick out of her posts and updates, but most everyone else sort of pisses me off because it’s just flowers and sunshine. Even my mom is like that. She puts these super sweet, super loving comments on our kids’ photos, but she’s an ice queen in real life. She only puts those out there to LOOK like a doting grandmother to her friends, when in reality, she could care less about being a grandmother. It makes me sick.

    You have to remember that FB is not real life. It’s wildly popular because it lets people appear to live the lives they want people to think they’re living. Seriously.

    And twitter – I just don’t get it. I would like to understand it, because a lot goes on there, but I don’t have time to check it all day long and like you, by the time I see what’s going on, I’m 6 hours late to the party.

  2. I’m not sure it would affect the larger issue, but I use lists on twitter to help me from being overwhelmed. Then you don’t have to unfollow but you don’t necessarily have to see them in your timeline either.

  3. Hi Esperanza.

    I think I could relate to you. I was once like that also. I think the problem here is not so much Twitter or Facebook. It’s about being content with what we have and who we are. We will always be unhappy if we compare our success and failures to the success and failures of others–and that extends beyond social media. You have a beautiful daughter by the way =)

  4. I have facebook and twitter divided up similarly; facebook for real life and twitter for blogs. I used twitter just as an extension of entertainment, I very rarely tweet or respond to others’ tweets, it’s just somewhere I go when I’m waiting for an appointment and I run out of blogs to read you know? So there are no expectations or anything to upset me there, I haven’t even been on in like a month.

    Facebook breaks my heart as well. All those people with their living babies. It accentuates the large case of It’s Not Fair I’m currently harboring. However, living in the middle of nowhere and strapped for the cash needed to go visit friends that remain where I used to live, I think the good outweighs the bad. I’ve reconnected/connected for the first time with a lot of people I went to high school with that stayed in the area and have children G’s age, and in fact we are going on a playdate this afternoon with one of them. There’s also a lot funny entertaining people on my friends list and they help the loneliness that sometimes creeps up.

    I guess the social media experience is what you make of it. If you’d rather not delete people, you can always hide them from your feed and pop over to their wall when you feel prepared and up for the onslaught of jealousy inducing pictures. Just keep the people that make you smile on your feed.

  5. I do like FB because it helps me keep in touch with so many people I genuinely like but would never stay in touch with otherwise. I also find some interesting discussions and articles posted there. But I find it very hard to condense my own life into soundbytes, and so I don’t post often. When I do, it’s almost entirely cute things my son says, which I feel is probably annoying, but they’re the easiest to turn into status updates.

    I’ve never quite gotten into twitter, probably because of the immediate nature of it. I’m on maybe once a day, and when I read things I want to respond to, they’re already too old.

  6. I am very much NOT into facebook and twitter. Most of the reasons you’ve listed really don’t apply to me, but instead it comes down to this: too many words, too little conversation. It’s a picture of your ultrasound/holiday/cat with maybe ten words and I’m supposed to respond… how? I mean, yes, I know how I’m supposed to respond, but the truth is those sorts of interactions bring no joy to me at all. It’s a chore, an obligation. It’s an introvert thing.

    I like to actually get below the surface with people. I like to spend uninterrupted time drawing out prolonged conversations on meaningful topics. I like to make time, and have time made for me. To me, this *is* human connection, and it’s satisfying and it brings me happiness. To other people, that type of interaction is dull, it’s a chore.

    I don’t like to live in fear of missing the one important thing going on in someone’s life because everyone I know is showing me what they cooked for dinner. I realise some people really thrive on exchanging small talk and photographs of what they cooked for dinner. These people are extroverts. To them, human connection means saying, “Wow! Looks tasty!” when someone posts a photo of what they cooked for dinner. That is a satisfying interaction for them. It is not a chore or an obligation that they fulfill in the hopes of earning a more satisfying interaction at another time.

    Facebook and twitter are good for picking up interesting links to interesting articles I might like to read if I have some spare time and I’m looking for recommendations for interesting articles.

    I wouldn’t feel bad about not getting into facebook or twitter, or feel that it’s a personal deficiency you have to correct. I think you have to ask yourself if you’re the type of person who has a two-minute conversation with all ninety-three party guests or if you’re the type of person who usually has a thirty minute conversation with five different party guests and realise that, at the end of the day, as long as there are enough types of parties to keep everyone happy there’s no problem.

  7. I tried leaving a comment when this first post went up, but it went into moderation (which it has never done before) and my WP was on the fritz. This topic is important to me so I thought I’d try to comment again.

    FB isn’t real. It is people presenting the life that they want you to THINK they live. I honestly think that the people with the most active FB accounts are those who are most unhappy with their real lives. That statement may offend some people, but this has been my observation over the years with the people I “know” on FB. Even my mother, who is an ice queen in real life, leaves the sweetest comments on pictures of our kids (my sisters’ and mine) to make herself look like a doting grandmother to her friends. She’s the furthest thing from a doting grandmother! I only like FB for the photos so I can keep up with my sister, her family, and my old friends since they live so far away.

    Twitter.. oh how I don’t understand Twitter. I don’t look at it all day, so I’m always late to the party as well – and that’s OK. I have a hard time tracking the “conversations” on that platform.

    Don’t let social media get you down. It’s just a little more “real” than “Second Life,” which was the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard of.

  8. I don’t do Twitter. I can hardly keep up with Facebook and the blogs I need to read, let alone get involved in Twitter. So I can’t comment on that.

    But I think that stepping away from (or reducing your exposure to) anything that makes you feel that bad, that puts real stress on your life because you feel you have to “keep up,” that adds to the stress in your life rather than relieving it, must be good for you. A good and rational and empowering act. So don’t feel guilty for doing that. (I agree with your husband). You need to know what you can and can’t cope with, and then act accordingly. So bravo you!

    Because, you know, we can’t all banish our issues. We all have issues, and as nice as it would be to deal with them all head on, and get rid of them, we can’t do that. I’ll always have issues with scan photos and breast-feeding, with comments along the lines that my life is never going to be fulfilled or important enough because I don’t have children. I can’t change that, no matter how I deal with the issues head on. And if almost all my FB updates were along those lines, I either wouldn’t be using it, or I’d be blocking or unfriending the people who were making me feel bad. Not their fault. But not my fault either.

    I use FB because I have friends and relatives all over the world and the country, and FB is a good way to keep in touch. I only have two friends from my city on FB – and to be honest, one of them I block from most of my status updates. I wrote a post a while ago on social networking and infertility (July this year if you want to find it). Essentially I think the settings on FB are there to be used. Use them, and don’t feel guilty!

    Oh – and I agree with Courtney. If FB is real, then I do little other than blog and drink chardonnay. Oh … wait …that’s true … (it’s Friday afternoon, 5 pm, and time for wine!)

  9. Wow this post really resonates with me! As an infertile without any children I recently deleted my FB account. I gave it a lot of thought and as I come to the end of our fertility journey (fingers crossed we are in sketchy beta territory as I write this) after 2 years of treatment, I just can’t see how it is healthy for me to spend time watching all my real and FB only friends raise their children, it is a constant reminder of the life I want but can’t have. The other hard thing is the extent to which FB posters “complain” about their kids, the hectic routines, the balancing etc. Sometimes it is really hard to watch how much they are oblivious to what they have to be grateful for. I’m sure my in real life friends will continue to update me about their children because we have relationships and I will see them when we are together, but I think it is healthy for me to not know about every single milestone!

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