Social media and mental health

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It feels like it’s been a while since I last blogged. I’ve been trundling along with life, a few ups and difficult downs along the way, but I’m constantly challenging my own thoughts, assumptions, paranoias in attempt to keep on top of my emotions. I have done well I think, even if I do say so myself! I’ve done myself and all the therapy I’ve had over the years proud!

There is, however, a little corner of my life that I struggle with every now and then and it’s caused me to pause, take stock and look at what’s really going on. This little corner is Twitter. When my bookA Sad and Sorry State of Disorder, was in its pre-publication stage, my publisher advised me to increase my presence on social media as a means of making myself known in the big wide world and promoting my book.

I’m not the most sociable person at the best of times, but I dutifully opened a Twitter account and began to tweet. I took to Twitter like a cat to water, but I persevered,  believing as I did so that  Twitter would be a happy medium for me – I could be social with no actual interactions, and I could interact without actually having to socialise. In unfamiliar company (and, sometimes, familiar) I feel shy, awkward and inadequate. I feel as though I have nothing worthy to contribute to a conversation – a feeling which often leads me to conclude that I, myself, am unworthy. Tucked safely behind a keyboard all these insecurities would surely slink back into their shadows, right? Erm, no. As I say, on the whole I am pretty darn good now at challenging all the shit that flies around my brain courtesy of my disordered personalities (WTF!) but occasionally the shit gets the better of me.

Now, you may or may not know that personality disorders come in a variety of flavours and, as well as Borderline PD, I also have Avoidant PD (a little like social anxiety, but on steroids), and Paranoid PD (everything, and I mean everything is even more personal than it already is with Borderline). Quite the merry cocktail!a8ea1_1408_edfe0c92_259b3ea1So, disordered personality or not, I’m not going to lie: when I tweet I look forward to the likes. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I mean, who the hell wants to sit in front of a brick wall and talk to it all day? When I tweet I hope that I will connect with people, that what I say will resonate with my followers, encourage them, engage them. I research, I sleuth, I try and figure out what people want from a ‘mental health advocate’. I give what I can, and the majority of the time I feel as though I am indeed trying to spark up a conversation with a brick wall. I find myself looking at other accounts similar to my own, and comparing the number of likes and retweets they have, often with fewer followers than I myself have. What are they saying that is better than what I’m saying? What am I not saying? But by this stage I have lost sight of the purpose of being a mental health advocate, and everything has become oh-so-very-personal.

I have written about this ‘like’ issue before, and I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that at the grand old age of 43 I do give a shit, and yes it hurts and it feels personal.  However, I’m relieved to know that I am not alone in feeling this way. A recent article in The Independent discusses six ways in which social media negatively affects mental health, and an article in Cosmopolitan looks at the importance of likes and the psychology behind this. I am not alone, and yet at times I do feel incredibly alone. The less likes I get the more I tweet, desperately trying to validate myself and my writing and so on, and so forth, until I reach a point where I believe the whole of me is utterly worthless. My mental health is suffering, again, and as I clearly can’t fix this with likes and retweets, I have to look at other ways to fix this problem. After all, what is the point of trying to be a bad-ass mental health advocate if my own mental health suffers as a result?

My instinctive all-or-nothing tendencies would have me delete my Twitter account altogether (and believe me I have been sorely tempted many a time), but would this be a fix, or would it be defeatist and avoidant of the real issue? Because at the end of the day, the real issue is how I am feeling, deep down, about myself. Instead I will:

  1. Delete the Twitter app from my phone. This will mean I can’t readily check it.
  2. Check into Twitter once a day from my laptop, for ten minutes max.
  3. I will check in with myself before I check in with Twitter: if I feel vulnerable I will come back another time.
  4. I will only tweet if I have something to share that I truly believe will be of benefit or encouragement to others.
  5. I will not tweet for likes. 
  6. I will NOT tweet for likes!

I’ll try this, and see how I go. And in the meantime I’ll work on how I’m feeling about myself, and why.

If you have experienced a negative affect on your mental health due to social media, I’d love to hear from you about how you deal with it yourself. Let’s pool our tools and fight this fight together!

P.S. I would also like to hear from you if you would like me to carry on with my mini-series, which so far is even minier than originally intended. I have had very useful feedback following the Favourite Person blog, but I’m not sure that the series as a whole is particularly useful for my readers. Nobody on Twitter seemed to like it anyway…! Seriously though, I would love your feedback – the good, the bad and the ugly, because I want what I learn from my experiences to be useful and informative to others.


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