If I were the captain of a spaceship whose mission was to gather information about black holes, I would most certainly die. Unlike more skilled space rangers (James T. Kirk comes to mind), who bravely take their ship to the brink of a black hole then muscle their way out of its clutches before it absorbs them into oblivion; I would get sucked in. Social Media is my black hole and I have not learned how to fly my ship to avoid getting pulled down into a soul-sucking vortex of feeling inadequate.
“Mommy, can you play trucks with us?”
“Just a second.” I waved them off as I sat hunched over my laptop swiping my index finger repeatedly over the smooth trackpad. I felt no sensation though, my fingers were desensitized to the movement as it had become like breathing, another thing I didn’t pay attention to. My eyes glued to the screen, I was essentially a human-shaped moth helplessly attracted to a blue light emitting images of perfect families, fit moms, exotic vacations, and all manner of other “accomplishments.” A deep ache radiated up my spine from the pit of my stomach which ended up as anxiety when it finally reached my brain. I was desperate to fix all that appeared wrong with my life. I felt terrible and angry but couldn’t really put my finger on the culprit causing me to feel that way.
At first, I thought it was because of everyone else, and the content they were posting: senseless yet sensationalized drama, irritating political views, multilevel marketing summons, etc. I found myself jumping on bandwagons, getting in arguments and worst, bending to the strongest, most compelling statements like one of those wacky air dancers used at car lots. I decided it was time to clean house, time to get rid of all the stuff and people that I thought were bringing me down.
With a simple click, everything I didn’t want to know about disappeared. I unfriended people I didn’t have a real friendship with, people I didn’t actually know, and anyone who, to be honest, annoyed me with the type of posts they put up. It worked for a while and there was a lightness as I scrolled through my news feed probably because there weren’t many people left on my friend list. Even with all of the junk cut out of my social media experience, I discovered there was still a deeper problem. I was still getting sucked in and feeling inadequate and angry. I had a problem that circled around addiction and comparison; a problem that had nothing to do with other people, and had everything to do with me.
I hated how easily I would fall victim to comparing myself or my achievements, to those of other people based on something as arbitrary as the pictures they took. I was trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” and ended up being the one to impulsively throw myself under the bus. I loaded my shoulders down with envy and guilt for how my life did not measure up. With every crushing hour I lurked there, a little bit more of my self-confidence withered. The time I had to actually live my life, was spent ruminating on how in the world these people seemed to have their lives together and I, apparently, did not. I was utterly unproductive and I knew it was becoming an unhealthy habit. I feared that all my children ever saw me doing was scrolling on my phone. I was paradoxically searching for some way to feel better about myself when all it ever made me feel was deficient. I needed a break and a chance to see things clearly.
Like an addict trying to kick the habit, I decided to quit cold turkey. I tried to delete my account but, that was harder to do than I thought. Regardless of whether or not my profile was truly deleted or not is irrelevant because I made up my mind to go radio-silent and remained so for over a year. It felt good to be free and I discovered that I didn’t need it like I used to. When I didn’t have amplified pseudo-reality to compare with, I was actually proud of my accomplishments and pleased with my life.
I was excited when an opportunity to be involved in the formation a new online community fell in my lap but, panicked when I learned that part of that community was going to take place as a private group on Facebook. I was terrified of returning to the habit I had worked so hard to eliminate from my life. I imagine it was similar to how a recovering alcoholic might feel at a party serving booze but with no wingman to help keep them honest. I had to remember what my foray into social-media sobriety had taught me: I am doing just fine, and I know that the images I see of other people are not portraying the whole truth, and that is okay. Social media is still a black hole for me, but I am learning a thing or two about how to avoid getting sucked in.