It was March, and I was in about week 4 of my depression. I have always had a tendency toward depression, though in the last few years I had been pretty consistently happy. But then that kid shot up a high school in Florida.
Of all the social media outlets, I’ve always preferred Facebook, and as a person who works from home and spends much of her day alone, I’ve thought of it as a way to engage in meaningful conversations and to find like-minded people with whom I can discuss shared experiences. I hear about events and get-togethers, I join groups of politically, socially, and intellectually similar people, stay connected to faraway friends and family members, and stay in touch with the world.
But then February 14 happened, and my terror of guns and outrage over the fact that this keeps happening to kids and that we are doing nothing … well, I hit a sort of breaking point. Like those folks who, after 9/11, couldn’t shut off their TVs or radios and obsessed over the news, unable to turn away from the horror, I became obsessed with guns and school shootings and my terror and indignation over all of it. I engaged in some magical thinking: If I stay attentive, read everything there is to know, think about it nonstop, plan for every possible disaster, engage in every discussion, join every group, read ALL THE THINGS … I can keep my family safe.
I pored over Facebook incessantly. I wept, incessently.
And then I took a break, because mental health. I deleted that sucker from my phone and exhaled.
I felt better. It was after the National School Walkout, after the March for Our Lives. About two weeks had gone by without once looking at Facebook, and I thought, “Well, they’re probably not talking about it so much now, I’m probably okay to get back on and visit with some folks on Facebook.”
And they were done, mostly. But then there were these tidbits:
- Posts about new or remodeled, gargantuan-sized homes
- Photos from vacations we can’t afford to take
- Folks having nasty political arguments they would never have in person
- A photo of a $300 pair of shoes someone treated herself to and is now obsessed with
- Friends I haven’t seen in ages getting together with other friends (aka without me)
- A friend my age who looks freaking amazing in a swimsuit obsessing about diets and weight-loss
- Another friend’s insufferable, attention-seeking, “If people only knew how lonely I am…” post
After what felt like an obligatory check-in, a small respite in the workday, I felt drained, depressed, jealous, left out, angry, disappointed, and basically just annoyed and irritated by people I usually liked and respected. I felt, ironically, like a high school kid all over again. And if you know my personal experience with high school, you know this isn’t a good thing.
I shared this with my husband, who coincidentally never visits Facebook and only occasionally pops onto Twitter or Instagram. His response? “Yeah, I have never felt good after going on Facebook.”
I thought about that and had to admit, maybe I never had either.
I’ve known lots of people — family members, even — who have made big (and I would say somewhat overly dramatic) “I AM LEAVING FACEBOOK!” pronouncements, citing “I want more time with my family,” or “I’m trying to break my phone addiction,” or even the lame, “I’m so busy I need to focus on work right now.” Those are all, I guess, valid reasons. I suppose they are added benefits I’m receiving as well. They aren’t really my reasons, though. Mostly it’s this: I just feel better when I’m off.
My work doesn’t really allow me to stay off. Networking, staying informed, sharing business news, selling things on the Marketplace, sending messages to businesses I need to speak with, and, let’s be honest, being a contributor to Reno Moms Blog … these are all reasons that make it necessary for me to be on, and it certainly is great for those things. A lot of my work is dependent upon it. It’s benefited me in a lot of ways. And it’s a wonderful way to share big news or fun things about my daughter and family and work, quickly. It’s a curse, but in many ways it’s a blessing, I totally admit that.
But even my once-daily check-in depletes my energy. I get tired of comparing myself to other people. I wish I had the inner strength to be unaffected by it. I’d love to sit here and tell you I’m happy for my friends and their beauty, their work success, their well-earned vacations, or their popularity. I guess now’s the time to admit I’m not, and I’m not proud of that. Don’t get me wrong, if a dear friend called me and announced she was flying abroad for the first time or buying a new home, or if I spotted her awesome shoes and asked where she got them, these things wouldn’t bug me. I can’t really explain why that is. It’s not that I don’t want good things for my friends. (Cue the hateful comments from strangers on Facebook about how I’m a shitty friend.) But the whole social media thing just never makes me feel good. I’m weak, I guess. But for me, it’s like the high school yearbook all over again — how many people can I be seen with, how many inside jokes can make their way in there, and how many signatures can I get? It’s a race I might finally be too tired to run.
In the last month I’ve had Facebook off my phone, without that mindless, time-filling scrolling that wears me down, I’ve looked out the window more. I’ve been more present with friends and family during social activities because I haven’t felt the need to share photographic proof of it with strangers. And I feel a lot less depressed. It’s just a thing that helped me. And it’s a lot cheaper than therapy.
Do I realize the irony of saying all this and knowing damn well I’ll be sharing it on Facebook (via my computer) and checking a few times that day to see if people like it? Of course. I am human. This is not to say it’s all or nothing. I’ll still be there, albeit less often.
But in taking this one small step — taking it off my phone and controlling it, without letting it control me — the world feels a little less scary and alienating. And I just feel better.