The anxiety of scrolling

Following a four week social media hiatus, I describe how after only one day back online the anxiety of scrolling crept back in. Social media offers a global connection but often at the cost of disconnecting with ourselves. 

Today marks my first full day back on social media following a month self-imposed ban. The ban was a result of confusion, conflict and simply being fed up of the incessant posts about the referendum. Feeling an overwhelming anxiety every time I scrolled my app feeds, I decided to take myself away from the debates and reduce all social media activity until it was over.

Queue the evening of May 26th, I logged back online to the relief of a feed full of football post. I never thought I’d enjoy the social media commentary of a football match. Less than twenty-four hours later my full blown anxiety had returned and yet I scrolled, refreshed and scrolled again. Nothing particularly interesting or informative caught my attention, in fact a lot of posts from days previous popped-up but I continued to scroll.

It really struck me how anxious I felt. As I scrolled I viewed posts from friends on holidays, friends celebrating achievements, friends out and about, friends complaining, buy and sell posts, GDPR posts. A mix of the fun, the mundane and the utterly annoying but as my anxiety rose I continued to scroll. FOMO had quickly taken hold.

A misplaced unhappiness filled my mind, a lack of fulfilment, body dysmorphia, need for adventure. I say misplaced as when I think logically, laying all my ducks in a row, I’m actually quite content. However, social media makes me feel differently.

Since becoming sick last year (diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in January 2017) I have had to take a major step back. I have been learning a new normal and focusing on self-care. When I was diagnosed I was running my own digital content and social media agency, presenting a YouTube show, a radio show and building my career and even blogging for Electric Picnic. At that time I also won the Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur in County Longford for the Best New Business idea. Things were fast-past, life was always online and I was always available. Available for everyone else but myself.

As my business and my online profile grew, my health declined and to put it simply, I broke. I tried for twelve months to push through to no avail; I was broken and I needed to make a huge change if I was ever going to put myself back together. The health journey is for a different post as for this one I want to focus on the anxiety of scrolling.

In January 2018, I was got a job which allowed me to work from home. A blessing for anyone which chronic fatigue. It is a digital job but one which I can switch off from at 4pm. Another blessing, the ability to switch off. Except this social media addiction and the need to always be on prevents that. For weeks I swore I was getting a non-smart phone phone, I was deleting my apps, I wasn’t going to bring my phone to bed, all the lies we tell ourselves as we replace a good sleep with “one last refresh”.

And so came the referendum debates which I silently engaged in, soaked up and thought deeply about. So much so it was all that consumed my consciousness all day, every day. I needed to opt-out and allow myself a few weeks off. While I absolutely respect and applaud everyones hard work and commitment to their cause, I needed to make my own decision privately and offline. I needed the break I was promising myself for over twelve months. It was about me trying to finally take control over my mind and my behaviours for a more productive life.

The anxiety eased, the constant need to achieve subsided and I finally felt content with staying in one place and having one job. The fact I wasn’t going travelling for the first time in years didn’t bother me. Most importantly I finally began to forgive myself for losing my ‘hustle’ and stepping back from self-employment. This killed me, seeing so many successful entrepreneurs online and always feeling like such a complete failure. My mind and body broke and I was so useless I couldn’t run my own successful business. Pathetic.

These past four weeks I’ve found a new calm, one which allows me to be content with being really good at my new job. This allowed me to be really happy with having my own little house, even if it’s in a small Irish village, not the massive foreign city I always dreamed of. It also allowed me to accept that I cannot be everything to everyone, I put my music blog to one side which killed me. It made me realise that I have achieved my dreams of being a music writer and presenter and while I might not have become an MTV presenter, I did a lot of great things within Irish music and in a scaled back way I will continue to do so.

The most important thing I have found is contentment in myself, my body and in my new dream of wanting to live a quiet life with my wonderful boyfriend; full of nice adventures, love and happiness.

As the evening of May 27th rolled in and my thumb continued scrolling, all of the self-love over the past few weeks melted into a sizzling pot of anxiety. I’m fat, I’m not good enough, I’m dreading Monday, I feel so tired and so sick. So I did what any normal person would do, I wrote this blog post, the first once since January when I promised to love myself.

I wrote it to remind myself while also advising others to log-off. The instant gratification in receiving a notification will be quickly overridden by a crippling fear. Don’t let it take over your life. We can only be something to ourselves and allowing that human addiction of the need for acceptance take over is so utterly damaging. Accept yourself in everything it is that you are. If you’re not where you thought you would be in life that’s ok, because you’re exactly where you are meant to be. Accepting that is a beautiful thing.

Social media is a really helpful tool but don’t forget to stop scrolling, log-off and connect with real people but most importantly with yourself.

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