Social Media Black Hole

black-hole-92358_1920If 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.

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