Social Media, Mental Health, and Anxiety Recovery
This week I’m joined by my friend Kimberley Quinlan to talk about responsible use of social media as it relates to mental health and anxiety recovery. Kimberley starts from the premise that social media is neutral, but that the way we use it defines it as healthy or unhealthy. Let’s take it from there!
When examining how you use social media as part of your mental health and anxiety recovery strategy, it helps to start by asking yourself how you can be responsible in your consumption of what is on the Internet.
Your mental health is your responsibility, and so is the way you consume content and interact online.
In this context, “responsibility” is not a disciplinary word at all. Being responsible just means recognizing that you have power and influence in how you interact online and how you manage and tend to your mental health. Being responsible is an act of self-compassion. It helps us find our power when sometimes we feel that we may have none. Being responsible is a good thing!
Not Everything Online Is For You
One good way to shift your social media usage into a more healthy zone is to understand and recognize that not everything you see online is for you. Not every post, page, or account is addressing your specific situation at all times. Work at not automatically attaching yourself to everything you see online. Stop and ask yourself of what you are looking at was meant for you and your situation. If not, move on. If a particular content source is creating content that consistently misses your personal targets, then it makes sense to unfollow or mute. That is allowed.
Social Media Can Be Overwhelming
There are a huge number of social media accounts, pages, and influencers repeating the same message all day long. This can get very noisy, confusing, and even overwhelming at times. Hearing 68 variations on the same message every two days may not be helping you. Ask yourself if you really need all that input. It is helping you to move forward, or is it just making your social feeds noisy or bloated. If you find yourself feeling confused or overwhelmed, take a step back. Mute or unfollow some accounts. That’s perfect OK. You do not need to listen to every online anxiety expert to recover.
Know The Business Model
Remember that social media networks and platforms do not exist as anxiety or mental health aids. That is not why they were created. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and all the rest exist for one reason — to keep your attention, then to monetize that attention. When your social feed gets a bit overwhelming, remember this fact. Ask yourself if you are serving yourself in the way you’re consuming content, or if you are serving the algorithm designed to keep you clicking the “like” button all day long.
Remember that mental health content creators are often creating content based on keeping your attention rather than aiding in your recovery. As a content creator myself, I can tell you with one hundred percent honesty that I am rewarded with more likes and follows when I create content that validates and soothes fear. I am punished with decreased “reach” when I move past that to teach useful recovery lessons. This matters when it comes to how you use social media in your situation. Keep it in mind.
Psychoeducation vs Behavioral Change
Much of what you will find on social media falls into the category of psychoeducation. This is valuable without a doubt, especially in the early stages of your recovery journey. Social media can help you understand what you’re dealing with. It can take the mystery out of your anxiety problems and help you feel less alone. This is all vital in recovery. But once those messages have been received, recovery continues with real behavioral change. This is NOT something that social media is good at assisting you with. Relying on the continuous scroll of doom to get you down the road to full recovery is like replaying the first 5 sessions with your therapist on a continuous loop while never showing up for the rest.
When you reach for your phone to scroll in an attempt to manage your anxiety, remember that you are accessing psychoeducation on social media. Psychoeducation is not a good management tool. Behavioral change is an excellent management tool, but social networks do not seem interested in promoting that type of information. Scrolling as an anxiety management tool can lead nowhere and can get you stuck on a loop where you must return every hour to “manage” again.
Be careful. Ask yourself “What can I DO?” as opposed to “What can I READ?”
Remember that consuming content on social media can be an aid in your recovery, but it by itself is not recovery. The life you want is not found in the scroll. That life is found on the other side of action. We recover by exercising and strengthening our tolerance, navigation and uncertainty muscles. We do not recover by scrolling and hitting the like button.
You Can Find ANYTHING On The Internet
This is wonderful. This is also not so good. Why? Because when things get bumpy in recovery, it can be temping to hop online and look for a way around your struggle or your discomfort rather than working through it. Searching and scrolling is certainly easier than moving through fear or uncertainty, but this can quickly become a trap. Be mindful of how easy it can be to abandon your recovery plan because you can find 14 other strategies online that promise to fix you quickly and easily. Are you picking up your phone because you would rather not feel the way you feel right now? Are you hoping to find a magic bullet that you’ve previously missed that will make you feel better? Look hard enough and you will find someone claiming to have that bullet. It doesn’t mean that they actually do.
When you are confused or struggling in recovery, a conversation with your therapist or a trusted advisor is a far better option that searching the Internet for a way out of that … again.
Originally published at https://theanxioustruth.com on January 19, 2022.