How I learned to manage my anxiety online and IRL
Every morning the first thing I do is click through the various apps on my phone—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Timehop, Slack. Between the texts and emails that need responses, it’s easy to feel behind on the day even before getting into work.
But it’s a new reality in my job managing social media. Being on the Internet has been a part of my life since my parents started getting those AOL disks in the mail back in the '90s. But this is something else entirely —a reality that has prompted my anxiety to go through the roof.
From 6 a.m. until I go to bed, I’m connected to the Internet. Each retweet, like, regram, view — I’m there. Every day I take in all the news, being sure to take note of what’s trending on Twitter. Has there been another tragedy? What’s the latest news in our post-election reality? How is this going to impact me? Sometimes it involves figuring out the best way to manage unsavory comments that make me shake my head. But overall, it’s an exciting role — being able to be connected to the world instantaneously, pushing out content and being completely in the know.
As of late, I’ve become more on-edge than usual.
Just a few weeks ago I noticed a tightness in my chest and a ringing in my ears that wasn’t there before. It was a familiar feeling, the same feeling I had during my first anxiety attack a few years ago. But it was still just as terrifying.
The feeling of not being in control of my body, the feeling of always needing to be on high-alert, the feeling of being in a daze — I didn’t feel like myself and I couldn’t figure out why.
It wasn’t until a recent weekend camping trip where I had a moment of clarity that, in retrospect, seems pretty obvious. Having no service on my phone and being with friends in nature was a huge relief.
To be able to cut myself off from everything made me wish the weekend lasted longer. But during those few days, I still felt like I should be worried. Something terrible was happening in the world and I was missing it. How would this impact social media for work or just for my life in general?
Camping calmed me down but I also had trouble living in the moment, always concerned about what I was missing out on. I was having FOMO for one of the key catalysts of my anxiety: the Internet. Between my job managing social media and my own personal social media presence, I’d become exhausted.
Now, more than ever, when I hang out with friends, I want to be fully present in the moment. And I hope they’ll do the same.
I’m tired of having high expectations and feeling underwhelmed. I’m tired of feeling completely drained by the Internet.
It’s time to retire ghosting — both of significant others and of friends. Because in those in-between silences of ghosting are the pressures to like someone’s Instagram photo, to comment on a Facebook post, to share our love online for appearance’s sake. I yearn for real-life interactions, hand-written notes, phone calls, and plans that manifest in person. I hope for hugs over retweets.
Alternatively, the Internet has been the focal point of so many great interactions and moments in my life. From creating awesome friendships with amazing women on Twitter, to discovering new music and writing, there are so many great exchanges that I’ve been able to foster online. While being connected 24/7 may be a part of my life at work and at home, I don’t want it to define me.
It’s not going to be easy, but I know there are ways to manage my anxiety in an age of endless information, notifications and, more recently, global uncertainty.
Whether it’s being more active, or volunteering, or making more intentional and meaningful decisions about how I spend my time, I hope that I can create a reality that doesn’t feel so frantic and chaotic. I know that there’s a way to strike a balance — I’m just still trying to figure out what that balance will be. At this point, I know it won’t involve having thousands of Instagram followers. And it won’t be engaging in never-ending Facebook comment threads.
And I’m okay with that. For once I’d like to be the one who doesn’t respond to other people’s text messages because my phone is off and I’m living my life, out in the world, offline.