Social Media Anxiety

My Struggle with Social Media Addiction and Anxiety

In the past, while working a full time job, I used to excuse my social media use as a way of escaping into a potential fantasy life, a means of researching for future plans,  or just a place to get a little inspiration pick me up and get me through the workday.

It didn’t seem that harmful, especially since I had to be sitting at my stupid office desk for 8 hours a day anyway. But once I left the watchful eye of my manager that helped curb my internetting, I found it was much harder to stop myself procrastinating on the socials.

With no one watching over my shoulder, I lost the last bit of discipline I had. Turns out me as a ‘worker’ doesn’t have a lot of respect for me as a ‘boss’!

Below is a daily conversation I have in my head….

BossMe: Ok so we need to get organised write some blog posts and do some painting!
WorkerMe: But do we?
BossMe: Well, yes, if you want to start your business
WorkerMe: But do we have to do it right now?
BossMe: Well, not really, but it would be good to be productive!
WorkerMe: I do like being productive! But I just don’t feel like it now.
BossMe: But you can make yourself do it, like when you had a job.
WorkerMe: but I don’t have a job anymore, so I don’t have to do that if I don’t want to! What difference would it make if I did it tomorrow?
BossMe: I guess it wouldn’t make any real difference if we started tomorrow…
Workerme: Yes! See, we can relax today and start tomorrow! I promise I will be ready to do it tomorrow!
BossMe: Ok, if you promise…..

** Tune in tomorrow when I have the exact same conversation with myself! **

And this is how I spend most of 2020.

It didn’t help that there was a massive “anti-productivity” push during lockdown. It also didn’t help that I ruminated constantly and journaled everything to the nth degree. I got into a massive spiraling self conversations like the one above, but in every aspect of my life and it really messed me around.

So let me start the Social Media Addicts Anonymous confession (although given this is on the web and the very nature of social media, I am not sure calling it Anonymous is the right word for it!)

I did have a MySpace account (I think!?!), I joined some groups on Flickr, had Vine account  for all of two minutes and even chatted on IQC instant messenger way back in the day. I wasn’t on Tumblr, Reddit and I still don’t get Twitter. But below are the social media platforms that have gotten under my skin.

FACEBOOK: Where the addiction really began

I did struggle personally with Facebook for many years. At first it was fun, befriending *literally* anyone I ever met and voyeuristically watching what they were doing in their lives.  But then people started posting cryptic status updates looking for attention, they began spamming my feed with shared posts from random pages, people I liked posted political rants with heated discussions in the comments but not really debating the issue.

And all of the negativity was jumping in front of me every time I opened my Facebook feed.

To combat that I initially moved people into different lists, so I could choose who I saw on a regular basis and just pop in to check on the others, and I deleted people I wasn’t actually friends with. I unfollowed pages that were funning or interesting but that didn’t have any relevance on my life. So for a long while I didn’t have really anything in my feed and Facebook was ok.

Then came Facebook Groups. An endless supply of people sharing ideas and their stories on a whole range of subjects.

While I was at my office desk, I would often check into mindset or business groups to get a boost of motivation to keep going towards my dreams.

But once I was my own boss, these places became a massive time and motivation suck. I didn’t need to see other peoples dreams – I was here now and I need to actually live mine!

And it seemed everywhere I looked there was a consensus to feel ‘part of it’, you needed to find a community online. I started commenting and interacting with people to create a direct, personal connections but instead I felt myself feeling overly sensitive to peoples responses (or lack thereof).

I found, especially during the pandemic, that I couldn’t read peoples tones and intentions online and that I was only bringing anger and sadness into my life.

Since the negatives of Facebook appeared far outweighed the positives, in August 2020 I deactivated my personal Facebook. It’s not deleted – I still chat with friends on messenger and there is still a lot of my history on there that I am not ready to let go of. I am sure some of you will say “couldn’t you just have logged out?” but I know my brain is not rational on things like this. I would let myself have a quick peek, but this way I actually take some weird satisfaction of being totally gone from Facebook.

(If you are wondering how I do this but still manage a business FB page, don’t worry I plan to share that in a later post so you can do it too if Facebook is not working for you!)

PINTEREST: The Procrastinating years

I will admit that for a few years I did have a serious addiction to Pinterest but it didn’t feel like too much of an issue at the time.

The job I did then had big gaps between work and I was dreaming of starting a creative business and travelling overseas. I could easily fill my days researching the best places to stay in Paris, or how to set up a craft stall – the possibilities of finding new information both on the internet and Pinterest were literally endless. Dopamine hits for days.

Actually more than days. If you want to know how deep the obsession went – I currently have over 17,000 pins . Even if it took one minute to create each pin, that’s 283 hours I spend pinning. That SEVEN WEEKS working 40 hours a week. And I can tell you now many of those pins took a lot longer to find and pin than one minute!

I don’t pin much these days, but that is more to do with the fact that for my areas of interest I have literally pinned all the information I can find and/or need.

There is nothing left to do but DO. 

And even that reminds me that even in a fraction of time I previously spent of Pinterest, I could have made and developed so many of those creative ideas and projects. It is depressing that I essentially wasted all that time and doubly depressing that I actually know this and still let social media steal my time. Which brings me to….

INSTAGRAM: The Self-Defeating Scroll

Instagram, back in its heyday, was a lovely place to be. Pretty pictures and nice people, not too overwhelming, people just putting stuff out there to share.

And like all nice things, it was bought out, commercialised and corrupted to what it is today. I know that sounds overly dramatic, but it certainly doesn’t feel the same as the first few year it was around. And I think that is also part of the problem, this nostalgia for the ‘old days’ adds to the discontentment I feel when I get on it right now. It still has the pretty pictures and the nice people, but also has ads and algorithms and addictive triggers and those just feel not nice.

Instagram for me is like the lover I can’t quit.

I hate how trapped I can get in the endless scrolling and the constant comparison with others, but there are also people on there I adore – their content brings me joy and inspiration and I can’t bring myself to let go.

For me, connection and inspiration comes from the authentic sharing on Stories and there is the rub – stories are fleeting, you have to check in every day to see what’s happening or its gone. I must see Jamie Beck creating her stunning photos and see her gorgeous daughter Eloise ask, yet again “Where the leaves go? Go see Meow?” HOW COULD YOU NOT WANT THAT IN YOUR LIFE?! 

(to totally fan girl here, if it wasn’t for Jamie Beck, I think I could get rid of Instagram. She just lives such a beautiful life, full or creativity and wonder, while still sharing the realities of life. AND she is doing it in France! Jamie is basically living my dream life, and I tell myself I need to see it so I can remember what I am working towards… has this passed into creepy overshare territory? Sorry….( not sorry – I ❤️ you Jamie!!))

ahem…. anyway….

In terms of sharing my own work online, I find Instagram a total creativity blocker. In soooo many ways, so I it might just be easier if I list them out. here:

  • time suck from scrolling the home feed (which is just full of stupid twitter screen shots which I hate but also always want to read! 😤)
  • comparison to all the other creatives who are obviously doing better work and further along their journey
  • pessimistically searching for my new idea to find someone already doing it, so I can then feel bad that they will think I am copying them, or alternatively finding everyone is doing it and it’s become generic (hello black cockatoo paintings!)
  • stopping the creative flow to ‘document the process’ for followers
  • pressure to create picture perfect images
  • the strain of posting regularly and feeling of overwhelm when I don’t have anything to share.

Do any of them sound familiar to you? Yup, yup, yesssss.

Conclusion

I have been working on ways to minimise Instagram’s influence over me, but it’s not an easy process. I can’t give it up, but I have taken it off my phone which has helped a lot in terms of doomscrolling. I deactivated my personal account but I haven’t posted on my business account in over six months, so it’s very much a work in progress at this stage.

Next post I am going to go into more detail on the strategies I use to deal with Instagram anxiety and feelings of overwhelm, so if you have similar issues as me, check it out – I hope it provides you with some ways of feeling better using social media.

Thanks for reading to the end, I know it was a long one! Please feel free to share your experiences with me, it’s good to know you are not alone!

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *