Is social media bad for my anxiety?

Trigger warning: Anxiety, mental health

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I’ve always been very open about my mental health on this blog, but if you don’t already know – Hi, my name’s Rach and I have struggled with extremely bad anxiety on and off throughout my life.  (I’ve also overcome an eating disorder and manage OCD if you’re interested in more mental health content)

It’s not a secret or something I’m ashamed of in the slightest, and I guess that as I’ve struggled with anxiety as long as I can remember, I’ve found ways of coping and dealing with it as best I can. But today, I’ve decided to write a little about whether I think social media plays an active role in my own personal anxiety, and whether I think that perhaps cutting back on it could be ultimately very beneficial to my own mental health.

So, shall we start with a little about my social media use?

Social media is something that up until the age of 18/19 I had little interest in.

Honestly, when I first started uni I used to turn my phone off to ”save the battery” when I wasn’t using it (hello grandma rach how ya doing). I didn’t have twitter, I barely used Facebook except for photos- and although I had dabbled in tumblr quite heavily, I would never have called myself a social media addict.

However, boring lectures where I wanted to scroll my phone, housemates who were super active on twitter and the fact that I genuinely loved meeting people online, meant that I soon developed a taste for it whilst I was at university.

I began joining and more actively putting myself out there on my social platforms, and it also became part of my blog promotion to find the little communities of bloggers that had formed online.

When I was in my second/third year, I had also decided that I actively wanted to work in journalism or social media (which I do now) – so I absorbed myself fully in it. I read and followed most news outlets, magazines, publications and major companies. I was fascinated by advertising, PR campaigns and media models… and to be honest, I’m probably a complete social media addict these days.

(It’s tough when you work in the industry to not become completely obsessed!!)

But has this had a positive or negative impact on my mental health?

The benefits

The first thing is, in some ways I think social media has been a bloody godsend for me when it comes to handling my anxiety, as it’s given me a platform to become totally myself.

I am literally as dumb and goofy as my stupid tweets. I genuinely talk like that to most people and I am a complete oversharer in real life as well. Social media gave me the opportunity in a way, to showcase the person I am, and the person that I want to be. It took out the anxiety of being self-conscious, of worrying what other people think about me – and allowed me to embrace and enhance the things that I love about myself.

Additionally, social media has provided me with a community and a platform where I can talk to others who might be suffering from mental health problems or anxiety. It’s a constant support network and people can be so genuinely helpful and lovely online, that I wonder where I would be without it a lot of the time.

The cons

Despite all the positives of social media, I think that a lot of it can also be anxiety provoking for many people. With countless feeds, constant comparison and an endless stream of new information – it can sometimes feel like it’s hard to keep up with everything that’s happening, and ultimately you’re never switching off.

For me, I find that my anxiety is particularly triggered by my Instagram, as it sends me into a constant spiral of self-doubt and comparison. Other people always seem to be working in cooler places, traveling, they’re thinner, they’re prettier… the list goes on and on… and for an anxious brain, that’s not something I would partake in! It can lead to serious self-doubt, feelings of imposter syndrome and genuinely reaffirming all the things you worry about inside your own head!

The thing I try to keep in perspective is that nobody showcases the bad bits of their life there, only the heavily edited selfies and pictures of sunsets.

The other part of social media I worry about is the amount of on-the-ball news that I consume. My phone will alert me when things are breaking news. I get a ping to my screen and I instantly know what’s going on in the world.

Great for a job in social media (gotta get that reactive content!) but terrible when you’re constantly being fed a stream of bad things that you may not otherwise have known about?

For example. the earthquake in Bali. I heard about it, realised my little sister was there and began to catastrophize and panic. Instant news updates can be interesting, but I find that more often than not they can put me seriously on edge.

What now?

Ultimately, I know my own limits. I know when I’m getting positive experiences out of things and I know when it’s time to take a step away from the screen or the phone and to have some real-life time.

I quit twitter a while ago to get away from toxic people and bad online spaces that were causing me to feel like shit, but now that I’ve got some perspective on it all and just don’t give a shit anymore, I’m far happier.

That brain space was seriously needed and that social media break did me a world of good, but who knows? Maybe if I ever feel like it’s all just getting a bit much for my anxiety then I’ll back off again!

What do you think? Is social media more detrimental or positive to your life and anxiety?

Rach

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