In the last 5 years or so the rate of mental illness in high school and college students has gone up steadily and in some reports rapidly. I do not think that there is any coincidence that this is because of the increased use of smart phones and social media. Bear with me. I am not some old man writing a hate article on technology. I actually love my new phone and I am starting to really love social media, but if you are prone to depression, anxiety, or mania you may want to use social media with a little more caution than the average person.
Whether you believe it or not we are always learning. Yes, even while we watch television, listen to music, or go out with a friend we are constantly learning. We think it is leisure but we are always absorbing information such as our favorite team or athlete’s statistics, who is dating who in “reality,” how to figure out a murder mystery, or the lyrics and dance moves to a favorite song. Everything we sense goes into our subconscious even if we try to reject or ignore it. Once we have heard, seen, or read something the only thing we can really do is set up a wall of other thoughts to keep it out of our mind as much as possible. We absolutely cannot unsee, unhear, or unread anything. If you open this document on Word you will find that unsee and unhear are not even real words. What I am getting at is that if we follow or become friends with accounts that constantly feed us upsetting information such as shock news, tragedies, wars, gossip, etcetera; we are setting ourselves up to walk around constantly carrying this heavy and unnecessary information. If you have depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness there is a good chance you are already hard enough on yourself without having to carry the burdens or stresses of others, especially those that you do not even have a human relationship with. My advice is to start backing away from any account that posts things that do not help you grow as a person. I prefer to stay away from news, politics, and accounts that critique, judge, or rate others because it will add fuel to my own fire. And if you are like me, we have more than enough fuel already. Let’s release it on our own terms without the help of some hothead we do not even know.
For those of us with mental illness, we must set up our accounts to feed us things that keep our mood positive. We must make sure that our social media pages feed us words of encouragement and growth. I can speak from experience. In 2009, during a bipolar 1 and prescription amphetamine manic episode, I let social media send me on a full blown rage. I was so tired of reading everyone’s opinions on everything. I just kept reading articles and posts filled with hate that I accidentally fed right into it by stating how tired I was of everyone else’s garbage. I didn’t realize at the time I just needed to back out of the news that upset me and find things that really were important to me. Let’s be honest, if we aren’t here to help others or pass on a positive message, there is no point in being on the internet in the first place. To those that had not seen or heard from me in a while, it probably looked like I was putting out a final manifesto before I was going to 1.) End the world, or 2.) End my life. It was definitely more the latter, but it really scared me when I found out that people thought I was mad at them. I wasn’t mad at anyone. That was never my intention. I was more disappointed at the abundance of hateful and judgmental conversations. I thought they were the wrong conversations that society needed to be having. I was simply reading articles or conversations between others and regurgitating how ridiculous the situations seemed to me. The problem with social media is that there is no way to understand one’s tone or volume. There is no way to tell if someone is being dead serious or overly sarcastic. From this I can recommend that you try to be serious on social media. I am not saying do not joke but say what you mean for the most part. Let’s use the old “#FML” for an example. It can be taken at least 2 totally different ways. In some cases it can be a joke and in other cases it can be extremely self-deprecating. Then there are a whole range of emotions in between that could be how we really meant it. We assume everyone knows us well enough to understand exactly what we meant, but chances are that only a few of our close friends and family did, and everyone else is currently passing over it without a second glance or pretending like they did not read our rant next time they see us in person. So I learned, don’t get mad at everyone else. I will start the conversation that I want to have, and I will find others that share similar interests.
Now that I look back I know it upset me because no one was talking about mental health. I felt like everyone was just posting selfies with cheeseburgers and beer. It turns out that that everyone was just the “everyone” that I had chosen to connect with. And of course the constant pop up ads and posts that try to fit in like a friend you have not seen since the 1990’s. Commercials and media can feed us an endless stream of information but we do not have to accept it into our lives on a full time basis, especially if it hurts our well-being. I needed to back off, take a breath, and decide what kind of posts I wanted to be around. When I came back to social media I made sure to follow organizations that I believed in. I found people that were talking about mindfulness and peace. I found people that were there just to send out well wishes and words of encouragement. Yes! There really are people like that. There are so many accounts with beautiful photography or poetry. Recently there has been a boom of mental illness non-profits and support groups. The only thing we need to do is step away from all negative and start figuring out what really makes us happy. I hope this article was either your first positive click in a while or one of many positive reads that you have treated yourself to. I wish you peace and positivity as you surf away and towards your next read. Remember, take out the hate and replace it with love. Peace is easier. Thank you.