Social Anxiety by Adrian Clark

The irony of this post I am sure will not go unnoticed as you are probably seeing this via one of the many social links, however, this weeks personal insight from one of our readers will no doubt strike a chord with many of us. Do we do ourselves the honor and check out of the social circle now and then? I will let Ade share his views on just what that has felt like.

So, this week I did it. I’ve never done it before. I actually detached myself from all social media. I mean completely for the first time ever! Yes, really! I have to say at this point that I am by no means a huge social media user. I am the garden variety Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp user. I am 47! Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, etc. don’t really feature in my world but that doesn’t mean it’s not been hard.

It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and I’m only 3 days in!

Freedom:

Because you’ve actually made the choice which, is a difficult one because secretly we are actually all quite nosey as human beings. It’s a biological imperative that we know what’s going on around us and in our communities and social media delivers this information at a rate we were not really programmed for. But we can’t get enough! At the same time, it’s actually quite liberating to ‘let go’ and try to feel less reliant on it. It feels good. How many times have you spent ages scrolling through endless pages of Facebook to find something, anything that a) you haven’t already seen before and b) is mildly interesting and isn’t a picture of someone’s kid or night out or an actual picture of their dinner. There’s a considerable effort involved in mining these nuggets when you could actually spend your time doing something useful (I wrote this article instead).

Sadness:

I really feel like I’ve lost connection with people – no more facebook, no WhatsApp, no Messenger notifcations? Nooooo……Really, I haven’t. Of course, I haven’t but why do I feel so affected by it? It’s because it’s become the norm. It’s because people use technology in a way that means we just don’t need to talk to each other anymore. I think this adds to the feeling of sadness because so much of our communication is digital and if you’re not using it you’re on the periphery. The only actual text message I got today was from Pizza Hut because I once had pizza delivered!

Anxiety (Of course, that’s the theme of this piece!):

The defining part of this feeling is the yo-yo-ing between the two things above – Freedom and Sadness. Surely freedom should promote feelings of happiness, contentment, independance? Yet many of us have such a reliance on social media that the separation anxiety (albeit a conscious choice to do so) is unbearable. The nosey part of my humanness means I no longer know what’s going on as I did? I’ve disconnected, cut off, on the periphery by choice. I am…no longer in the club.

The conscious decision I’ve made has been incredibly hard to execute. I seem to have exchanged one set of anxieties for another. I don’t think we realise it sometimes but the use of ‘Last Seen’ on WhatsApp and ‘Last Active’ on Messenger can sometimes drive your anxiety. It’s like the old fashioned way of ringing someone a few times and them not picking up. But not these days. You can now see they’ve been online chatting but not with you? Arrrgggghhh! I sent you that message more than 8 minutes ago! You’ve only been offline for two?! I know it sounds mental but really we’ve all done it – all of us. And more than once. It seems the speed and the ways in which we can communicate has significantly raised our communicative expectations of each other. And yet the only thing that’s changed is the technology, not the people. Why should you feel compelled to answer a call when it’s not convenient or reply to a message within minutes?

On the flip side, the anxiety I now have is I don’t what’s going on at all! It feels weird. Uncomfortable however liberating I said it was earlier. But, let’s not dismiss the positives here I genuinely feel it’s been a good experience. It’s a bit like when you were bored as s kid. You end up finding different things to do. And you do. You could also compare it to an addiction. You still crave it, miss it and most of all think about it a lot.

The development of the internet, the multitude of devices that you can connect to it (your hoover, your fridge, washing machine – you get the idea), ‘Alexa play this’ ‘do that’ and ‘Ok Google put cheese on my shopping list’ means the internet rules our lives. How many times do you see people together on their phones and not talking?

I will undoubtedly and inevitably return at some point but for now, I’m good. I am happy to be on the periphery. Detached. Sometimes it’s incredibly important to detach and give yourself space to really think about ‘your stuff’. We seem to spend our lives looking at other peoples lives so much that I do sometimes wonder if we’re ignoring ourselves?

I’m tech savvy so have been able to switch off all my notifications on my phone, pc, tablet. I’ve deliberately put myself through this to regroup.

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