When I last posted, it felt good to write out what I was feeling. But I had no idea how many people would respond — on Facebook, through email, even in the comments section of this blog.
Thank you. It means a lot. I know I’m not the only one who has ever felt this way, but it’s good to be reminded that I’m not alone.
So … another reason that I think I’ve felt overwhelmed and a bit withdrawn, is because of some forms of social media.
Before Twitter and Instagram, I was solely on Facebook. I posted almost every day — sometimes multiple times per day. Articles I’d come across, photos from trips, the occasional funny video, whatever my heart desired.
But in the last couple of years (perhaps earlier than that), the tone … shifted.
As news events intensified, so did posts, discussions and arguments amongst people I knew and those I didn’t. Some things I’d read seemed sharp; others, almost scolding; others still, borderline mean.
So I’d manage it by muting or unfollowing for my personal mental health.
On a few occasions, friends would come into my DMs to espouse their opinions on a post where I’d left a one-word response … or vent about someone they’d locked horns with on a thread in my timeline … or intiate a conversation about a hot topic, out of the blue.
Here’s the thing: I know things can get heated, but I shouldn’t ever have to play referee in online chats. And sometimes I wish people sliding into DMs for opinion-based heart-to-hearts would check to see if I actually want to engage … not just because they need to unload their thoughts.
In this day and age, yes, we should have a more critical eye about what we read, and conversations should incorporate different points of view. Note the word “should”. And some people do try to be civil in online discussions. But others don’t … not really.
I think things finally struck a nerve with me last spring.
One day, I posted a news article about something to a world figure. It was probably the second article I managed to look up. It didn’t take long for a Facebook friend to pipe up, asking why the media was so biased in its coverage of certain individuals.
Honestly, when I found the article, the thought didn’t even occur to me – only that the event had happened. And perhaps I misread the tone of the comment, but it came across as a bit harsh.
So after posting another article on the same subject written in a different manner and pointing that out to the critical Facebook friend (it’s a big planet, friend), something in my head simply said, enough, I’m out.
The online sniping, and having to be aware of (potentially) emotionally-draining news events as part of my job, had finally taken its toll. So last year, I posted far less. I don’t think folks have noticed, because friends still tag me in posts and photos.
These days, I find comfort in Instagram, where all I post are things I do, places I go, and occasionally things I make for myself.
Ironically, I also go to Twitter – which yes, can be more of a cesspool than Facebook … but also a place where lots of genuinely great people share fun, funny, educational, useful, poignant things — which provide some levity and perspective on days I feel more introverted.
But I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Last year, a couple of my friends scaled back on time they spent on sites like Twitter. At least one of them said they actually didn’t miss being online as much. Even recently, I’ve seen colleagues announce that they’re taking social media breaks.
Right now, I don’t think I need to take a break of my own. But the more I see people do it, the more I think it’s a smart idea.
As this year goes forward, I will try to remind myself that it’s okay to occasionally unplug from the chatter as needed, in the name of self-care.
Because things can get you down. And in times like these, my mental health is more valuable than any tweet, post or meme.