Hello there, good to have you.
I hope you have been well.
Today, I continue where I left off last time: for introverts suffering from mental illnesses, including major depression, the use of social media can easily exacerbate a lot of the symptoms. Remember how I contended that your self-awareness is heightened when you are stuck in an episode of major depression? I made the assertion based on personal experience, as well as conversations I’ve had with others as a mental-health support line volunteer.
In general, introverts are renowned for having our heads ‘in the clouds’, this tendency gets amplified when depression comes into the picture: rumination is a key component of depression. The ills of rumination is something those who struggle with chronic anxiety can relate to, then again, diagnoses of anxiety and depression are positively correlated. Spending time on social media, for most intents and purposes, worsens rumination, which in turn… Well, I’ll let you finish the sentence there.
Social media by design is highly curated, you may say “Aye” if any of the following applies (among many other examples):
- You have made at least one “un-tag”, “delete”, “crop this” request
- You have at least 20 selfies posted on your Instagram, but it probably took you 300 tries to get them #nofilter
- You have arranged, re-arranged, maybe even cleaned, your food dishes prior to posting them #foodie
- You have taken pictures/videos of yourself in the middle of a workout #gainz
- You have taken pictures/videos of memorable occasions but have decided to keep them off of your social #sexting
- You have removed, or made private, posts on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- You haven’t shared a link to that porn video you watched the other night, or day, whichever soothes your soul
That last one was added for comedic purposes, I hope it made you chuckle (or cackle, or snort), unless… *wink*
Generally, anyone with a social media profile aims to present their best selves, it’s a very practical thing to do. But this is easily forgotten sometimes, and for someone with depression, the self-critical aspect of rumination goes into overdrive when comparisons are made between what is seen of others and what is experienced by oneself. I am a lot better at spotting my triggers and managing my expectations at this point (along with other things I have worked hard at), but when I was down and practically out, I found the joy I got from using social media was always fleeting. It would almost always leave me feeling worse, because while I saw my friends and acquaintances either traveling or otherwise getting things done, I was reminded that I had to struggle to even gather enough strength to get out of bed.
Introverts recharge ourselves mentally by spending time alone, preferably doing things we enjoy; those with depression withdrawal socially are compelled to do so due to all the accompanying anxieties and insecurities, but may still use social media in an attempt to stay semi-connected during that period of increased vulnerability. So given how social media messes around with your perception of others and yourself, putting yourself in the shoes of an introverted depressive means even the good becomes bad, and the bad becomes worse, all because the negatives in life seem to be the only things you are able to focus on. Congratulations, your sense of self-worth just went from 100 to 0 real quick.
The “social” aspect of social media has also suddenly made you realize just how lonely you really felt.
How’s that for shielding your self-esteem in an episode of major depression by retreating online?
I will also make a special note here for my fellow men in general, and not just those who struggle with depression or other mental illnesses: it’s okay to talk to others about how you feel, to ask for help*, and not pretending you’re bulletproof in an attempt to protect your self-esteem and sense of masculinity. I get it, as men, we were raised and conditioned in such a way as to overlook our emotional health (I am still an expert at bottling up my feelings if I feel the need to). We want to be strong, because we believe we are expected to, for better or for worse: by our family, our partner/girlfriend/wife, our friends, etc. As for feelings? What the fuck are feelings? The standup comedian Richard Pryor once had a bit on the difference between men and women in handling a breakup/heartbreak. His observation: rather than giving emotional vulnerability a chance, men would rather bottle everything up and walk into oncoming trucks.
Emotional-/mental-health matters, guys, have you ever overheard the things women talk amongst themselves? Girls, overwhelmingly, were raised to accept it’s okay to get in touch with their emotions. The result? Women, overwhelmingly, outlive men when it comes to life expectancy. Have you ever knowingly taken on a job that made you more miserable and paid you less? Well, try to stop doing things that make you live a shorter life as well.
Social media platforms are also designed to be addictive (neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists & experts in related fields have been paid a lot of money for their input on how to maximize this addictiveness), and I won’t lie here either: I used to be one of those compulsive social media users. Checking my socials first thing in the morning? Yup; checking them throughout the day? Done that; checking them prior to sleeping, but then ending up sleeping approx. 2 hours later? That too. Being addicted to something amplifies the feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness.
If you feel powerless and hopeless about a situation, then you are less likely to do something about said situation. It goes for the victims of domestic violence, goes for the victims of bullying, goes for the victims of sexual harassment, goes for those who struggle with addiction, and goes for those who struggle with mental illnesses.
In the next post, I will go into more detail about a few of the strategies I have used to minimize the harmful effects of social media usage on my mental-health. I will also talk about how social media may affect anxiety.
Until then, remember to unplug, we’ll Randezvous again.
* For what it’s worth: As a mental-health phone support volunteer, the majority of the callers I came across were women.