Mental health and wellbeing is very close to our hearts, and while we truly aim to have an always-on approach to covering all aspects of mental health, we have chosen to shine an extra bright light on #WorldMentalHealth today, and for the rest of October.
We bring you The Big Burn Out — a content series made up of honest personal essays, expert advice and practical recommendations.
I'm not surprised how much better I feel since I started my social media hiatus. The idea to abstain from Instagram and Facebook was born when I began realising how anxious I felt after I spent time online. I'd be having a perfectly fine day, then I'd find myself scrolling through photos of other people, many of whom I barely know. Suddenly, I was comparing myself to friends of friends and celebrities. Everyone always seems to be having the best life ever online! Even though I understand the images are heavily edited and only tell part of the story, absorbing those messages isn't a healthy choice for me.
The proof: on days I was either too busy to go onto social media, or actively tried to avoid it, I noticed I was happier and more able to focus on what was going on in my own life, rather than getting distracted by what others were doing (perfectly, or so it always appeared). I also noted that posting my photos seemed to have a negative effect on my mental state, too. Because, comments. Somehow even when I share a completely innocuous picture of me with my kids, there is always that one comment that doesn't sit well with me. "Holy boobs! You must be breastfeeding." Sigh. Maybe I'm being too sensitive, but that's besides the point. There is something I can do to limit any stress that social media causes me: simply stay away from it.
Since I began my social media diet, I have stuck to it with one exception. My neighbourhood has a Facebook page for parents that always offers helpful tips, reminders, and updates, so I have learned I need to be engaged there. I also learned that when you are accustomed to scrolling on social media while waiting to check out at the grocery store, or in the school pickup line, it can be a challenge at first to retrain yourself to do something else. But it soon became clear that if I didn't have my face buried in my phone, I could be more present in the moment.
I'm not fixating on some post I saw about how perfect and wonderful everything is for someone else.
Maybe there wasn't anything too exciting going on at the store, but it's not like the opposite could be said for what was happening online. So I missed a few funny motherhood memes I'd forget about two seconds later. Oh well. And I wouldn't exactly consider it a huge loss to not find out where my neighbour ate lunch. She can tell me later. Oh, and if I don't see the latest photo of a Kardashian, so be it. There will be more in the future; that we know!
The more I have stayed off of social media, the less FOMO I've experienced, probably because I've been busy paying attention to my real life. I'm not taking pictures just so I can post them on Facebook. I'm also not fixating on some post I saw about how perfect and wonderful everything is for someone else. For example, I once saw an acquaintance's post-salon selfie that only served to make me feel less than, since I hadn't even had a chance to shower that day! Another time, I ended up getting superdown on myself for not making the little heart-shaped pancakes a college friend prepared for her kids one Sunday morning.
It's so freeing to protect myself from seeing a post about this friend's kid being on the honour roll, or that one's husband surprising her with something my husband didn't. Who needs all of that noise coming at you? There's enough of that in our everyday lives, without ever turning on the computer. We are overdosing on letting what others are doing influence us, and it's not OK. At least not for me.
I have come to terms with how social media affects me: it breeds jealousy and insecurity, and leaves me feeling empty, disconnected, and inauthentic. I don't want or need it in my life right now. In fact, I feel like it's kinda over for me forever. Of course, I can't say how I'll feel about it in the future, and I could definitely end up changing my mind. Until something changes, though, you won't find me on Facebook or Instagram. But you might notice how much less stressed and self-doubting I am; if you aren't too busy online, that is!