On one hand, I’ve found plenty of old acquaintances and reconnected with them—even met for the first time with family—and I’ve met genuinely good people. Social media was how I found out about bphope, after all.
I’ve built support systems through social media, and I use it to promote my work; though not as much as I “should.” (I’m about to change that, as I’m getting ready to use my business Facebook page again for the first time in years.)
But, on the other hand, I find it messy, full of people with ill intentions, and full of negativity. The negativity has increased significantly since the pandemic started, and you don’t need a funded and referenced study to see that.
A Slow Starter, Not an Early Adopter
I was slow getting into social media. I was stuck on AOL and Yahoo Messenger when everyone was on Myspace. When I got into Myspace, I held onto it till nearly the bitter end, before I started using Facebook, which I only started seriously using because of my 10-year class reunion. And I’m still not into Twitter, Instagram, or Tik Tok, even though I have accounts with each of them.
Before I realized that I need to utilize social media more for my work, it had never really interested me. That’s because I’m not really a very social person.
People who knew me in my twenties would probably think differently; I was almost always in the club, and people would want me to go with them because, somehow, I was “the life of the party,” though I couldn’t understand why. In retrospect, it was most likely a consequence of my undiagnosed bipolar disorder.
But I’ve never been the person who needed a huge entourage of people around them and needed to socialize with a lot of people. So, engaging in social media didn’t really benefit me.
Social Media as a Shield
Then, in the last 10 years or so, I became more withdrawn. Social media became a way for me to have some kind of connection to the world, especially on days when I didn’t want to leave the house.
Because it didn’t always require me to physically talk to people, it was a good way for me to keep a safe distance. It eventually became a shield when I was going through some of my darkest moments. I could say that I’m completely fine, when, in reality, I was a mess.
But I was still able to reach out and get help on social media, even though I was using it to shelter myself from the world. However, even now, you’re more likely to get a hold of me through Facebook than by calling my phone.
Surprising Issues That Arise
While it has its benefits, sometimes this type of reliance on social media isn’t always a good thing, because it could mask a real problem. It could also expose you to a set of issues that you’re probably not aware are going on.
Let’s take Facebook, for instance—I keep using it as an example since it’s what I use the most. Facebook is really good at reminding you of some of the stupidest things that you said or did a few years ago.
Have you seen the latest “memories” of posts you made on this day five years ago? Have you looked at those posts and asked yourself, “What the <insert expletive or inoffensive word here> was I thinking?” or wondered what possessed you to say such a thing in the first place? I have.
You know what was going on during a lot of these posts? I was either in some drunken stupor and trying to mask my bipolar depression, or I was manic. So, when I see these things now, I feel embarrassed.
I don’t delete these “memories,” though, because I see the benefit of looking back on them to see how I have grown or recovered since those times.
Guarding My Privacy
But I also intentionally don’t post a lot on my page anymore. If you go to my personal Facebook page, you’ll see that I post once every few months and it’s usually a quote, a photo of myself (though I rarely take photos), or something about my work. That also plays into my whole need for privacy. You won’t see anything about my relationship status, hardly any family photos outside of tagged photos, and hardly anything personal that doesn’t involve my work.
While I’m pretty open about discussing my bipolar disorder publicly, I feel that putting other aspects of my personal life on social media is a little too much for me.
I don’t even like when people post personal things about me on their pages without giving me a heads-up. I know that’s a little “extreme” to some people, but I’m really guarded about my privacy. Exposing my private life triggers my anxiety more than discussing my personal story about bipolar disorder does.
I don’t want to deal with questions, drama, or judgment. I simply don’t want a lot of people involved in my private life, and it’s no different than how I am off social media, in real life.
A Source of Entertainment & Bipolar Triggers
I think social media is a great tool with tons of resources. It’s also a good source of entertainment, and that’s how I try to look at it, for the most part.
I love watching videos and sending funny memes to my friends and family. But I also think that it could be dangerous and triggering, especially for people dealing with mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety.
Again, you don’t need a peer-reviewed study to see this, because it’s been all over the news for a while. Social media, especially now, can be very stressful for anyone. But when you add trying to manage a mental health disorder on top of that, it makes things even more fragile.
Whether those triggers are an unnecessary—often politicized—response to a post that most people would’ve seen as good news to outright cyberbullying, it doesn’t take too much for the content on social media to be overwhelming and dangerous.
I’ve learned that it’s at that moment when you have to take a break, just like how sometimes you need to take a break from what’s on television or even from other people. I know this is easier said than done; in one of my classes last semester, one student pointed out how she couldn’t live without social media because she would feel very isolated and alone.
But it’s critical to find a healthy balance; otherwise, what was originally supposed to be innocent scrolling and looking for videos from your favorite comedian or posting about your family event could turn into a complete breakdown.
So, find ways to make social media more enjoyable but also take breaks so you can find ways to reconnect with yourself. And if you just happen to see me around, don’t hesitate to say hi or send me a funny meme.
JB Burrage is a writer living in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. A Meridian, Mississippi, native, he served in the US Army for over a decade. JB’s battle with depression began before he became a teenager. After years of different diagnoses, he received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in 2011. JB lived in denial for a long time before finally accepting his bipolar, and he’s slowly working to manage it, one day at a time. To escape from and cope with the world around him, JB began writing skits as a child, and he later moved on to write books, plays, and other materials. He can be found at JBBurrage.com.
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