Social Media made me needier (don’t be the same) 😢

After a long and painful relationship, I’ve made the decision to end my silence and sadness, remove the frustration and lead an even more crap, insular and isolated life.

That’s right, I’ve deleted Facebook. I’ve disintegrated my account, crumpled up the app and bleached any part of it from my existence. It’s in the bin with an increasingly high pile of stuff that seems to make my already stress-filled world even more difficult.

Seriously though, there’s no question that social media is positive thing providing a lifeline for many people, giving them the opportunity to see the daily life of friends and family they love, sharing comments, opinions and ideals, as well as pictures and news. It couldn’t be done so easily just 15 years ago. And these days everyone is on social media. Everyone has the app on their phone and posts their ‘stuff’ regularly. Everyone picks up their phone and looks at it throughout the day, throwing the odd ‘like’ or comment where appropriate. Even people who didn’t believe in it’s excitement and importance at the beginning, are now relying on it.

But are we really present?

Lonely grandparents are seeing grandchildren that are many miles away whenever they want thanks to Facebook. I’m listening to my daughter on FaceTime to her Grandad right now. She’s aimlessly telling him pointless nonsense just as she would if he was right beside her. For many other friends and relatives who are seperated by distance, this is the only way of keeping informed.

But wouldn’t a cuddle warm our hearts properly?

For me, after removing the app I felt nothing but relief. And when I reach for my phone I’m not bothered about it. I thought I’d be swiping aimlessly like a lost puppy looking for it’s master – investigating everywhere and looking sadder as I rounded every empty corner. But I wasn’t.

I was fine.

I look at Instagram, Twitter and I look at this site, these are all specifically for my writing and creative life and I’m happy with the level of connectivity they give me and being able to stay linked to the creative world is more important to me, virtually speaking.

For me, Facebook was a place where negativity was breeding. It was home to a small number of ‘friends’ who hadn’t asked me how I was for many years. So on a depressing day I wrote a post, a post explaining how let down I was to be forgotten by others. How isolated and invisible I feel because of the agoraphobia and how my social anxiety is keeping me inside and ruining any chance of a ‘normal’ life. How desperately I needed some real friends or someone to talk to. How frustrated I was that I felt no one cared and that no one understood what my levels of silence and sadness feel like.

Looking back, I got stroppy.

I realise that may have been a bad idea, it may have been stupid to reveal so much of my current struggle on FB (my partner used to berate me constantly for opening up too much on there), because it may not be received positively by others.

When the responses to my post were mostly negative, when people got angry and didn’t properly read what I’d said (acknowledging that I honestly understand EVERYONE has stuff they need support with), when I was accused of not realising I’m ‘not the only one with problems’, I knew my journey with those people and that app was over.

Even more alone

However, on the face of it I’ve removed a tool that actually connected me to what remained. I assume most agoraphobics are desperate to keep this app active and current. It’s their only connection to anything outside the window. That’s how I felt for a long time, but I guess I’ve resigned myself to the fact that if your ‘Facebook friends’ don’t care about you, then how can they be friends?

When I left I’d amassed a ‘Friend List’ containing around 60 people. From looking at other users ‘Friend Lists’ (back when I was on the app), I know this is only around 20% of the norm for someone my age.

That added to the sadness.

In honesty, my friendship circle has always been odd, and that difference is probably the reason FB isn’t workable for me. I don’t know any old school friends and I’ve never had extended family, I’m not a member of any clubs and I haven’t socialised for years. My existing friends that I’d amassed from my late 20s (when I joined Facebook) gradually drifted away through distance, death and devotion. The friendship-loss ‘3 D’s’. Then agoraphobia hit me and the precious dribs and drabs fell away too. They stopped caring because I moved away, became consumed by grief, didn’t stay in touch, and shut myself away. I presume many of them got tired of trying.

I don’t blame them, I’m tired too.

I’ve always been a firm believer that people drift in and out of your life as and when you need each other. That’s my explanation for the unlikely friendships I’ve been exposed to in the past. But that doesn’t stop the sadness I feel that the friendships ended, whatever the reason. I’ve heard through the grapevine about births, deaths and marriages that have long passed but I didn’t know about, and I’m sad I wasn’t able to support the people I used to love through those events.

Despite feeling exhausted and deflated over the friendship losses, I still tried to keep in touch with those I had left. I’d message people struggling, comment on special photographed moments, and enjoyed reading about the goings-on in peoples lives. General Facebook stuff.

Was it positive to still have those 64 friends when I’ve been indoors for so long? For a while I thought it was. I thought those people must have really cared or been interested in my life because they looked like they were still around. Their existance on my special list of friends made them real and present. But just like a customer in Argos waiting for a shelving unit, I think to most of them I was nothing but a number.

Time

I use an iPhone which has the useful ‘screen time’ feature. That feature tells me (with undignified clarity) the many hours I’ve been wasting on pointless exercises. Since dropping Facebook my screen time has dropped too…by nearly 25%. Ridiculous. I was wasting a quarter of my iPhone moments observing and partaking in the lives of people who ignored me when I could have mastered Angry Birds.

Don’t get me wrong I still use my phone, I’ve just become consciously aware of what I’m doing with it when it’s in my hand. Prior to my FB endgame I was spending life scrolling aimlessly, sometimes for hours a day. Hours.

Others need support too

For the record, I’ve always tried to help others who are going through stressful, crappy, awful stuff as much as I can (although I’m more limited today because I can’t be physically present and I understand how annoying and unbelievable that is). In the past my partner and I had always tried to jump in when people were struggling if we could. We offered time, advice, assistance, recommendations, car journeys, donations, dog walks, and even money. We’re acutely aware how horrible it can be to be thrashing about just to keep your head above water, and that gets much harder in moments of extreme stress and strain or when you become unwell.

I’m not claiming for one second that everyone else has it easy, I know that’s not the case. I was just asking for more support, explaining how upsetting it is when the people available to you don’t send a message, make a call, show support, offer congratulations or even send a fucking meme. I felt abandoned so I also felt, in that moment, that those ‘friends’ should be doing better.

I was hurt.

On reflection it can’t be an easy ride trying to be my friend IRL. I’m complex and hard to understand. I write what I know, so stories I’ve heard and things I’ve seen often get translated to fiction. I live indoors permanently and it’s become my ‘normal’. Unconsciously (but selfishly), I expected others to respect that and live within my constraints in order to remain friends. I stopped attending functions such as weddings and birthdays so friends never saw me or my family, in some cases I think they wanted me gone, some didn’t notice my absence and a couple wondered why. I don’t attend my daughters school so there are no parents in my life, no gossipy mums or soap watching dads to chin wag with. And my own life events pass by without much mention, so no one is aware of a celebration or special moment that i’ve had.

In many cases, I was pushing people away.

  • I’m guilty of caring too much and not at all.
  • I’m guilty of hearing but not always listening.
  • I’m guilty of jumping to help a friend at the first sign of a problem, then leaving our relationship to fester if nothing else important happens.
  • I’m guilty of prioritising my family over all things.

However, even though I’m terrible at it, I still believe there is room for people to stay friends through mental health problems, no matter how severe. Social media has a huge part to play in our survival and relationship management.

Including Facebook.

In conclusion…

I wouldn’t recommend becoming as isolated as me because, as you can see, it’s a boring, empty, shameful and pointless life to lead.

In order to maintain good relationships you’ll always need care, communication and respect and it needs to go both ways. As my guilt list above proves, I acted poorly on several occasions. I made huge mistakes that caused my friends to lose faith in my love, support and priorities. I lost people I genuinely cared for, and I feel nothing but hypocracy saying that. Grief has been so difficult to navigate for me, but I sabotaged some of the relationships I had left, and it made the grief even bigger.

So even though I’ve given up on it, don’t jump to remove yourself too. My comments about the lifeline Facebook provides are 100% true. Having an online presence is the norm these days, and connecting with your friends through a screen is necessary as a biproduct of the busy lives people lead.

My only recommendation is to look at your screentime. Take a moment to try and reduce the strain on your eyes, look away from the lcd and back to something positive. What can you look at? Your partner, nature, a calendar, a book, your favourite shoes, some artwork – there’s a million things!

Leaving social media behind will start out feeling like a cleanse, but before you know it lonliness and disconnection are waiting round the corner. A steep, slippery, shit-coated slope will follow, potentially ending in my neighbourhood – Alonetown.

It’s bollocks here, trust me.

Agoraphobia

I wanted to write a little update on my insular life because it’s changed lately and that change has been pretty horrible.

The old ‘Steph’ was troubleshooting the SHIT out of life. If a problem was coming I’d turn up with the solution, that’s what my Mum used to tell me. I couldn’t bear to make someone elses load heavier, so I fixed it before I shared it.

Bottling up the problems and only having a conversation once the stress feels like it’s in the past, isn’t productive or helpful. Now I find myself unable to manage even the smallest negative surprise. A phone call, letter or knock at the door that I wasn’t expecting normally ends in tears and panic. No exaggeration.

And now the outside world contains so many unexpected surprises that I can’t imagine how I’d cope as they popped up everywhere around me.

As a result, aince the anxiety skyrocketed, my agrophobia silently got worse too and when my partner asked a fair question recently – “Do you ever see yourself going out again?” – the honest answer was “No“.

I’m aware that, in the past, I’ve been able to see a space and time where I am back outside again. There were a few things I wanted to try and do, and until recently I felt sure I would (one day). Silly, basic, everyday things were on the list;

  • Visit my daughters school
  • Go to the local coffee shop and newsagents
  • Visit a pub for some lovely lunch
  • Take charge of the supermarket shopping for the first time in years
  • Visit a friend and have a hug (very needed)
  • Have a picnic and visit a zoo (to see my daughter incredibly excited)

The list goes on.

I didn’t have huge aspirations, just essential things that ‘normal’ people take for granted. Watching as my daughter leaves school and knowing what her face would look like when she saw me at the gate is a luxury I haven’t been exposed to yet. I feel pangs of pure rage at myself and guilt for my daughter as I type this. She deserves better.

And now, today, I find myself more ‘indoors’ than ever. The state of my life, although boring, feels incredibly complicated and messy. Like a huge ball of string with knots and frays all over. It’ll never be fully repaired.

My crusade to help others has never had more momentum. I have incredible, exciting, surprising news ahead, soon actually, and these are things I doubt I would have achieved if I was still an ‘outsider’. It’s given me new courage, and removed the old.

But I wish I had both.

I wish I’d kept some of the real, quality friends.

I wish I could do better.

The picture

This picture was the most fun I’ve had with my iPad possibly since I uploaded this site (I’m such a nerdy loser). The opportunities to add more stuff’ were endless and my original idea to create a candy land style village turned into what you now see. I love the colour, I love the happiness and I love all the treats dotted around the scenery.

It took 60 layers to create this picture and in total I was working on it for 3 days on and off. What does it represent? The only land where I could live, be happy and be stress-free outside (at the moment). An isolated, chocolate coated, super bright, extra fun cul-de-sac with scenery, buildings and even a floor that I can bite whenever I feel like I want to. It reminds me of an episode of The Simpsons where Homer leaps about eating donut trees and swimming in chocolate lakes.

Who wouldn’t go outside for a chocolate lake?

Published by stephc2021

Hi! I'm Steph, an amateur writer and illustrator specialising in Mental Health and being a self-confessed Spoonie. My website is home to any successful fiction I create, with stories that have won so far covering difficult subjects such as baby loss and mental health in grief as well as some funny and heart-warming tales when I get the inspiration. Every drawing and picture on my website was created by me. I spend a lot of time coming up with illustrations to accompany all of my posts and pages. I try to create original content across all of my channels, whether I'm writing about my own fiction or just generally musing on mental health or my own issues. I want to be part of the change because I believe the understanding of MH in the UK is getting better, but has a very long way to go. By being honest about my own struggles and symptoms I think others will relate and hopefully it will encourage them to talk to someone and get the help and support they need. Long term my goal is to help children too, help them understand their own mental health and how to help with the mental health of those around them. I live in the UK with my partner, daughter and dog, I swear frequently and I adore a well made, traditional, gooey, chocolatey, delicious brownie.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: