There can be a fine line between using social media to help you feel connected and using it to numb out. Because guess what happens when you start using it all day long to numb out? Instead of easing things for you, it compounds your stress, anxiety, and depression.
A year ago, I took a break from social media for a month. Holy cow, people. The results were jaw-dropping.
Within two days, I was accomplishing so much more and with far more ease. After feeling like I was always running out of time to get things done, I was shocked by how much time I suddenly had!
I started calling people on the phone again to catch up. It was easy for me to be present with my family. I went back to reading entire books rather than only finishing parts of them.
I found myself taking the time to simply BE. My anxiety and stress dropped significantly. The entire experiment was honestly remarkable.
But I also missed the ease of connecting with friends near and far. Friends would mention something big that happened in their lives and I wouldn’t know anything about it because I’d missed their posts while on my hiatus.
I realized that I needed to change my relationship with social media. And honestly, I’m STILL learning how to do this one year later!
In fact, earlier this week, I found myself back in a Facebook Funk. Maybe you’ll recognize the signs.
You wake up in the morning, ready to take on the newest day of this pandemic. You have your To-Do list ready to go. You’ve mapped out the working-from-home plan, the homeschooling plan, the home-project plan or all three. All-in-all, the day feels almost doable.
You get ready for breakfast and open your phone, casually scrolling through my emails, Facebook or Instagram. You don’t notice that your brain already feels a little bit more overwhelmed. You just assume it’s because you need to get going with the day.
So you do. You feed your kids and the dog. If you have a partner, you pray they know how to feed themselves! If you have kids, you instruct them for the 4th time in a row to brush their teeth and get dressed. When they finally head to do so, you feel relieved to have a moment to yourself so you plop down in a chair and scroll through Facebook and Instagram some more.
The kids come scrambling back downstairs, with one saying that the other one pushed her or looked at her funny or did any number of other unspeakable offenses. And suddenly you’re less tolerant and more frustrated. Just like that!
You tell yourself it’s because your kids are fighting again. Or it’s because this COVID-19 time is challenging. You remind yourself that you need to stay on track so you take another step toward your plans-for-the-day.
But then the phone rings or your boss emails with more changes in your responsibilities. Or you get your kid settled into homeschooling and then your younger child promptly wants to teach you how to do unicorn breaths. She then says, “Mommy, now it’s time for us to go outside for recess!”
And your brain goes into a panic! Not because you don’t want to spend quality time with your daughter, but because you can feel the pressures of the day building. Your brain swirls with stories about how your day is going to pan out. It’s already decided that it’s gonna be a day filled with stress. It’s already convincing you that it will be impossible for you to get done the things that you believe you MUST get done for work and home.
So you tell your daughter (or other family members, your partner or friend!) that you can’t go out to recess or chat or help right now because you need to work. You assure them you’ll have some time for them in a bit. And then you go into your own designated “work area” to get to the job of accomplishing.
But when you get in there, you feel frazzled so you decide to give yourself a break and look through Facebook and Instagram for a minute.
But we all know that a one-minute FB/IG scroll usually turns into 20-minutes or more, right? So you enter the Facebook/Instagram alternate universe. It’s only when a text goes off on your phone that you’re pulled back into reality and reminded of your location, your name, and what you actually need to do!
The remainder of the day can go on like this, right? In little spurts, you alternate your time between trying to be present for your loved ones, your pets, your work, the household needs, and…Facebook and Instagram. Isn’t that odd? When do you get to be present for YOU?
I’ve come to know that when I descend into a Facebook Funk/Instagram Ick, I feel utterly compelled to check my phone a thousand times a day. My day stops feeling doable. In fact, it begins to feel insurmountable.
The deeper the Facebook funk, the more difficult it becomes to even verbalize what it is that’s making me feel anxious. The stress becomes undefinable. And everything starts feeling like too much.
It’s also uncanny how clearly a Facebook Funk can mimic depression. It drains me of motivation and can leave me feeling exhausted, distressed and depressed.
My mind searches my brain files, trying to identify what’s causing me to feel this distress and anxiety. And then it starts spinning stories, telling me all the outside reasons that life feels this way. But the solutions feel insurmountable. Unattainable. Downright impossible.
I bet many of you know this funk yourselves. It’s real. And it’s EXTRA present for many right now because so many are homebound in the middle of an uncertain time. It makes sense that you want to connect. It also makes sense that you sometimes want to downright numb out, and FB/IG can be an excellent numbing agent!
But here’s the weird part about it. It can become a fine line between using social media to help you feel connected and using it to numb out. Because guess what happens when you start using it all day long to numb out? Instead of easing things for you, it compounds your stress, anxiety, and depression.
And at first glance, the increased anxiety, stress and depression may seem so wrong! But what if they are actually RIGHT? What if they are simply messages from your inner compass, calling you back home to be PRESENT with yourself? I’ve come to know that this is true for me.
The Facebook Funk and the Instagram Ick can persist for quite some time without being detected by us humans! In fact, I only know I’m in one of these funks when I start experiencing the symptoms that go with them. And that’s when I know it’s time to press my reset button in relation to social media. And it’s ALWAYS a lifesaver.
I regularly use the Flipd app to remove all the apps that give me access to social media on my phone, often employing this on the weekends. (Forest and Freedom are two other apps with similar offerings) I always feel great hesitation before I press that button to Flip my phone, but by Saturday morning, my energy rises, my focus increases, and my anxiety dissolves. My day feels doable again and I experience a spike in my general happiness:-) And interestingly when I return to social media a day or two later, I no longer feel owned by it.
So I ask you, are you in the throes of a Facebook Funk or an Instagram Ick? Have you considered the possibility that it may be aggravating your anxiety, stress or depression as you navigate this uncertain time we’re in right now?
If you wonder whether this often unnoticed Facebook Funk or Instagram Ick is affecting you, I encourage you to do a short trial without social media. I promise you the hardest part will be initiating the break from them!! The good news is that you will likely feel a notable difference in a short window of time.
And if you take this social media nap and yet find that your anxiety and stress remain uncomfortably high, let me help you. There are SO many ways to help you turn down the volume on your anxiety and stress, even when you are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Shoot me an email or a DM and tell me what’s going on for you to get the ball rolling. I’d love to connect.
And if you haven’t already been curious about your relationship with social media, now is a great time to explore this. It might just offer you some surprising relief in the middle of this challenging time!
P.S. If you’ve been enjoying my weekly blogs and are itching for more daily inspiration, friend me on Facebook (Emily Colwell) or follow me on Instagram (dr.emily_colwell). I post frequently and humor leaks into most of my posts!
Emily Colwell, MSSW, ND
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