When I told my friend, Holly, about starting this blog about depression she was surprised.
“I never would have thought you were depressed looking at your Instagram.”
The comment hit me hard. Was I accidentally making my life look perfect?
To be totally honest, my marriage IS pretty much perfect (I know, gross 😉 ) I truly have zero complaints. What Ryan & I have is magic. That doesn’t mean the rest of my life is always like that though.
I’ve always been of the mindset that those closest to me knew my pain. There wasn’t any reason to splash it all over social media. I used my Instagram as a kind of personal journal to highlight everything I wanted to remember…and just skimmed the not-so-glamorous parts.
My inner circle knew about the depression and sadness. Wasn’t that enough?
Turns out they didn’t really know either.
Once, after doing a crisis post-mortem with my best friend, Jenny she poignantly said, “I always find out everything afterwards. It’s like you don’t tell me while it’s happening. You only talk about it when you’ve figured it all out and the drama is over. I want to help you work through this stuff.”
What We Post
When I sat down to think about this I realized that it was because I didn’t want to seem like a complainer.
I am a fixer. I always have been.
I want to show people solutions and skim over the ugly sides. I loved the after photos and ignored the befores.
There’s a running joke in my marriage that I don’t remember things accurately. I always remember them better than they were. I always look at the past – even the parts that break me – with rose-coloured glasses.
This makes learning from my mistakes harder than it needs to be. I guess it also means that my life story is significantly skewed for the general public.
I am a firm believer that you should never call yourself lucky or blessed because it makes the average person feel like they need to be bestowed a special power to succeed.
I’m starting to think though, that you can’t just avoid certain words. You have to show action. You have to show the failures so that you’ve earned the right to show the successes.
Which brings me back to the title of this article.
Is your social media making you sick?
Is it becoming a toxic pill of happiness you’re forced yourself and others to swallow rather than being an accurate portrayal of a life well-lived – bruises and all?
I’m not talking about those posts people make showing themselves crying or the fake “this is me waking up” shots. I’m talking about celebrating the successes but acknowledging what it took to get there as well.
And if you can’t show that stuff then maybe it’s time to tighten your circle of friends and up your privacy until you DO feel comfortable.
Who We Follow
It’s not only what we post that can have negative effects on our psyche.
It’s also who we follow and the stories we see on social media that cause us trouble.
A study done in 2016 shows a correlation between how many social media platforms we use and the amount of anxiety and depression symptoms we experience.
This can be for a variety of reasons including seeing negative stories and feeling like you’re wasting your life (Whoops! That one might have been meant for me).
One of the main reasons, however, is comparing ourselves to other people. What’s that saying? Don’t compare my middle chapter to your beginning? Something like that…
But the truth is that social media isn’t going anywhere. It’s not realistic to cut it off altogether. We need to learn to function in a healthy way in an unhealthy society.
Recently, I decided to take a more active role in the people and stories who find their way to me.
Here’s what I did:
I looked at every single account I follow on Instagram.
At the time, it was close to 700 accounts.
I unfollowed every single account that didn’t bring me joy, growth or laughter. I cut off all the Instagram models that made me feel fat and all the influencers who made me feel like I wasn’t where all the action was. I hate the word FOMO but I guess that’s the best way to describe it.
I also cut out about a million travel bloggers who I felt were misrepresenting their travel experiences. I’ve been to the famous Nusa Penida island in Indonesia and compared our tourist infested experience with the “isolated and secluded” photos from a number of famous instagrammers.
I started shutting out the noise on Facebook. Rather than unfriending people, which I find kind of mean, I simply upped my privacy settings and MUTED anyone who I found irritating.
I unfollowed pages that brought no value and put off notification posts from groups that were not relevant to my growth and happiness.
Truth be told, I’m not on FB very much these days anyway which makes my life much easier.
I started saving posts that made me happy or that made me think. I now literally have thousands of posts to look through that I know will leave me feeling inspired and laughing. I must say that Tony the Hippo features heavily. If you haven’t seen this little guy, you really should click here. His little face kills me!
This is easy to do on Instagram and Facebook but I do it mostly on Instagram because that’s basically where I live. Pinterest, of course, is the be all and end all of post saving.
How Much Time We Spend
Statistics say that the average person spends 136 minutes PER DAY on social media. I find that absolutely shocking but somehow not very surprising. Instagram has this new(ish) feature that tracks how much time you spend on the app.
Take a look how much time I spend on Instagram per day this last week (also, what the fuck happened on Friday?)….
Check out your stats by looking at the “Your Activity” section on Instagram and let me know your stats. Let’s cringe together 😉
So how do we spend less time online and more time offline?
Timers – this is a pretty basic idea but it really does work. Instagram has a timer right below your usage statistics so that you can at least be aware of how much time you’ve been wasting.
Make It More Difficult to Access – log out of all your social media accounts and mute all notifications for when you are logged in. That way you won’t be tempted to “quickly” check that meme you’ve been tagged in.
Change Your Passwords – this is an extreme one but I’ve actually made my husband change our Netflix password before work and not tell me what it is. This was in an effort to get more work done and it did actually work.
Turn Your Phone Off Completely – this one is pretty self-explanatory
Stop Messaging Your Friends – okay don’t stop completely but, every once in a while, drop by for a visit or give them a call instead. Make your social interactions more personal whenever you can. Heck, write them a letter for a change. I love stationary and getting mail that isn’t a bill.
So while social media might be making you sick now, you can turn it all around by focusing on what you post, who you follow and how much time you spend online. It truly can become a place that supports and empowers you with a little more curation and attention to detail.
Have you implemented any of my tips? Let me know how it went!