A few months ago I was ghosted. A friend I considered close suddenly dropped off the radar, unfriended me on Facebook, removed herself from social situations where I would be and has disappeared. I know she hasn’t actually disappeared but she left my life and I am none the wiser as to why. It was, and still is, a painful experience. I am sure she had her reasons and I won’t press the subject, her silence clearly means she doesn’t want to talk about it. It did however make me reassess my social media presence. It made me withdraw and my anxiety and depression began to raise it’s ugly head again.
I am not alone. In the past few months I have seen a huge rise in not only my own mental health issues when it comes to social but also that of those around me. So what is it about social media that just makes us fundamentally sad and unsatisfied.
For me there seem to be three main sparks which can cause deep-rooted unhappiness.
I am a naturally competitive person, I am also hugely self-deprecating. This is a dangerous combination when it comes to social media. It was something that I first noticed when I had my son. I lived on Facebook, I found being a mother incredibly dull and would spend hours scrolling through Facebook. It was also the place that my new network of mummy friends were most active.
Facebook for me became the perfect outlook to become a “perfect parent”. The perfect photos, the organic homemade toddler meals, the entertaining of other mummies with brunches and picnics. But I also constantly searched for what other parents were doing. Why wasn’t my son walking yet? Why wasn’t my son able to swim, why wasn’t my son’s bedroom perfectly put together? I began to question what I was doing. Was I being too strict with his food? Other parents were happy with a sandwich and some pombears, why was I worried that he had to have organic butternut squash soup?
In a 2016 iMom Project survey researchers found that higher levels of maternal depression were found in those using social media with the implications of this being that mothers in particular become more critical thinkers on social media.
What’s the point?…
It wasn’t just the parenting that became an issue either. A few years ago I took up running. I was so proud of myself and milestones I was reaching that I shared every good run on social media. I now know that probably drove most people mad. My intention was to inspire others to find this wonderful outlet. It backfired. Suddenly I noticed other friends running. Other friends reaching those same milestones, doing better than me in many instances. I was devastated. I realised I hadn’t been posting to inspire, I had been posting to brag and now that the shoe was on the other foot I felt horrible. How could I compete? Why couldn’t I be that fast or wake up at 5am to get in that early morning run? The competitive monster in my mind once again woke up and instead of spurring me on I stopped running. I felt so depressed but what was the point in running if I wasn’t the best.
I felt like in both instances, both parenting and running, I should issue some Facebook-wide status apologising for my posts but then it hit me. This is societal issue. Of course we post to brag and of course we post only our best moments. Why wouldn’t you? I found the best course of action was to enjoy my own victories in private. My good runs, my well cooked organic children’s meals…and the occasional veggie sausage and chips for balance, the perfect parenting moments, the terrible ones…they are all mine. They serve no purpose to my friends and family and in fact have had quite the opposite effect.
Possibly one of the most hurtful things that happened to me on social media was being ghosted. According to Psychology Today ghosting occurs when “People who ghost are primarily focused on avoiding their own emotional discomfort and they aren’t thinking about how it makes the other person feel. The lack of social connections to people who are met online also means there are less social consequences to dropping out of someone’s life.”
As someone who finds building friendships difficult, ghosting and the social knock-on effect left me feeling incredibly lonely. Mutual friends become awkward and social divisions soon followed. The lack of information as to why I was dumped meant that my anxiety levels and questioning myself at times became overwhelming.
So why is ghosting so damaging? What is it about this practice, which social media seems to have magnified.
“Ghosting is the ultimate use of the silent treatment, a tactic that has often been viewed by mental health professionals as a form of emotional cruelty. It essentially renders you powerless and leaves you with no opportunity to ask questions or be provided with information that would help you emotionally process the experience. It silences you and prevents you from expressing your emotions and being heard, which is important for maintaining your self-esteem.” – Jennice Vilhauer Ph.D
The only root I have found to getting over my cyber-sadness moments is self care and switching off. The more I removed myself from the competition and questioning the more I found my own satisfaction with my achievements. I don’t need the “likes” on my run, I need to look and my legs and feel proud. Take a step back, remember the world isn’t based on validation or competition. It’s about your happiness and only you can achieve that for yourself.