Social Media and Mental Health

Something I realized as I was staying home more and more during the pandemic was that I was constantly on my phone. My addiction to my phone started before the pandemic when I was still in in-person school. I was away from my family and hanging out with friends felt like a chore. Therefore, I spent every spare minute of my time on my phone and the Internet became a place where I could relax and stop thinking negative thoughts for a moment.

My phone became an addiction and it started to take up more than just my free time. After quarantine started, I was isolated from my friends and social media became more of my world. I primarily used YouTube, which became a coping mechanism that deterred my negative thoughts, but it also deterred any motivational and positive thoughts as well. I watched childhood cartoons, ASMR videos, food videos, and arts and craft videos that seemed simple and harmless. 

However, as much as I tried to shut everything that was stressing me out, I seemed to get the opposite effect at times. I don’t wish to stay away from the news or the outside world, but it might be different hearing news from others or even reading about it from a reliable source. But seeing videos with the noise and the actual images on video increased my anxiety. It’s hard not to read the comment section and there was a lot of confusion, hate, and anger in places that I didn’t expect.

It became overwhelming and I knew I needed to take a break, but it was difficult to when YouTube is also something that helps me stop thinking anxious thoughts. Although irrational, I began to think that everyone thought the same way as some of the ignorant and hateful people on the Internet and it made me develop bad social anxiety. I wouldn’t want to leave my house and I started to feel nervous being around people in case one of them did something harmful to me or my loved ones. It made me stay on my phone more and I often felt woozy and unmotivated to complete my daily tasks, which caused more anxiety. 

Recently, I have been feeling better and have gotten other things to occupy my mind outside of my phone, such as working out and baking. Sometimes I do feel upset or have a bad day and still reach for my phone, but have been doing so less often. That is because I only do things that are not stressful or don’t require much effort nowadays. I am content with my progress but am still worried that once I start taking on more stressful tasks, I’ll revert back to my habit of constantly using my phone.

Before the pandemic, I tried therapy. One therapist told me to just stop being on my phone because it’s up to me to want to stop. Another therapist told me to find something else to occupy my time and to give me the satisfaction that social media gives me.

Sometimes I don’t see how I could stop and sometimes I feel good and can see myself in a future that isn’t controlled by my phone.

Another reason I use my phone often is because I feel hopeless sometimes for the future waiting for me. I know all good things take time but I’ve just been so discouraged by all my recent projects. I’m so used to failure that I don’t expect anything else so why not just stay on my phone and ignore it all? On a good day, I’m always worried about when I’ll have another bad one and spend the entire day on my phone and then feel too upset afterward to sleep. A lot of the things I used to like to do I don’t like to anymore because I doubt myself and am used to taking it easy each time I get upset or anxious. I do want to have dreams again and achieve them. But right now, I’m just handling small things that make me temporarily feel okay and helps build my will and motivation. I’m lowering my expectations for myself, even though it’s not a good feeling.

What’s your relationship like with your phone and social media? Do you use it – or anything else – as an outlet when you’re stressed, worried, or upset? Have your phone habits changed since last year?

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