The problem with social media as an introvert
Recently, I’ve been living the dream. I quit my job as a content manager of a health and wellness website to be a freelance writer. I went to working from 9-to-5 to writing whenever I wanted.
To be honest, it’s an introvert’s dream: a life of chosen solitude. I relax in my room and write if I want to, or I go to a coffee shop to write when I want a little more activity, but other than the occasional e-mail, I never have to work with anyone. It’s an entirely private way to live, and then when you’re ready for social interaction, you can close your laptop and go out with friends.
But even though I’ve had more alone time than ever, I recently felt myself getting more exhausted and overwhelmed, day by day. It was a familiar sensation that was creeping over me. . .the same sensation I get after being at a loud, crowded party for too long, like all of my senses were being overloaded to the max.
One day, as I was checking my Twitter feed, the overload sensation suddenly seemed overwhelming. It became too much to bear. It felt like I had been knocked over the head. I had hit my burnout point. My initial impulse was to run off and be alone in my room to decompress, but I already WAS in my room. I had been alone for hours. My solution that had worked for almost 23 years was no longer effective, and I didn’t understand why.
I looked at my phone again. In the minute that I had looked away from it, 15 new tweets had popped up on the top of my feed. I felt a lurch in my stomach. Suddenly, I realized that it was social media that was the problem.
Never before had social media been an issue for me. In fact, it was a blessing—a way for me to interact with people and keep up my relationships with people I care about without having to leave the house. Primarily, I used to use Facebook all the time for these personal relationships, but since becoming a freelance writer, I’ve become incredibly active on Twitter—tweeting over a dozen times a day, seeing what’s been trending, checking out the latest news stories, keeping up-to-date on the publications I write for, trying to find timely topics to write about and keep myself inspired.
Though I have had more time alone than ever before, I’ve felt the intense need to constantly check my Twitter, refreshing my feed over and over…to make sure I wasn’t missing out on anything.
Which is a totally ridiculous concept—of COURSE I’m going to miss out on something, even if I’m checking Twitter every second of the day, because there are things happening all the time. How can I expect to stay on top of everything in the world?
Previously, I had used social media as a tool. I had never understood the “negative” effects of social media, or why people would claim that it’s anything other than amazing. But suddenly, I understood. As an introvert, using your time to constantly be plugged in is the equivalent of going to a party with thousands of people there all the time—except you’re trying to keep tabs on ALL of the conversations.
For the first time in weeks, I put my phone on silent and gently tossed it away from me, far out of reach. I laid in my bed and put the covers over me. I started to conjure the image in my mind of sitting outside at the beach on a towel, reading in the sun without a phone in sight. And suddenly, I felt myself starting to relax and take deeper, slower breaths.
That’s when I knew: for an introvert, social media can be just as exhausting as real, face-to-face interaction. In fact, it can be more exhausting, because it creeps up on you, and the fear of missing out on something huge can keep you from ignoring your drained battery that is desperately craving a little time away from the constant conversation.
Sure, it’s important to network and stay connected, no matter what industry you’re in. Sure, social media can provide plenty of opportunities, and sure, it’s great to come up with ideas by staying up-to-date on timely topics.
But sometimes, you gotta miss out on what’s happening in the world, so you can keep up-to-date on what’s happening within you.