There is no healthy or safe way to use social media.
It's now been proven that it directly causes anxiety and depression, which is a big deal in the science and medical communities because, up until now, they've only been able to prove that using it is related to anxiety and depression, not that it causes it directly.
This comes as no surprise, given social media turned me into the worst version of myself. In order to justify my interactions with it, and while using it, I took on psychopathic traits. I would say that I was attending events that I wasn’t. I’d insist that I wanted to catch up, when I didn’t. I’d call myself things that had nothing to do with me, and I would use people, as I believed they were using me - to get likes, follows, and public adoration.
I’m no longer on Facebook and I’ve never had Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat. Yet I’m still on LinkedIn. It is my Achilles heel; the last frontier of my dealings with the psychopath that flatters me, knows my vulnerabilities, exploits them, and gives me the illusion of inclusion, and choice, where there is none.
The desire to connect, and be of value, is strong: it's in all of us. It’s what leads us to social media, and convinces us that it’s the best way to ‘keep in touch’ and make ‘connections’ that are going to support us. Yet not one article I’ve written came from a connection via social media, and the relationships that I have with family and friends only became stronger once I had deleted it. Not only that, my mental and emotional health stabilised, and the quality of my life improved.
The relationships that I have with family and friends only became stronger once I had deleted it.
Given this, you’d think that the fallacies of it would be enough to get us all off of it, and to do what we could to continue to cultivate true and honest connections with others – and with ourselves - in the real world.
However, it’s not that simple. Social media is far more cunning than this: it is a psychopath who has detained many of those that we care about. Through deleting it, in favour of connecting with people in real life or 'IRL', I lost both the illusion of connecting with them online, and in the real world.
All of my worst fears about what would happen occurred. I stopped receiving invitations to events, and l lost touch with what was happening in the lives of those that I cared about, and those that I didn’t care about. I tried to keep in touch with people via email, or text, yet this rarely ever sustained itself.
It was confronting at first. However, over time, the relationships that remained became more fulfilling. I finally had time and space to move on from school friends, ex-boyfriends, ex-employers, and colleagues, people that I’d had falling outs with, and phases of life that were over. While inundated by social media, there had been no time or space to grieve, or to consider how I truly felt, or what I wanted.
I finally had time and space to move on from school friends, ex-boyfriends, ex-employers, and colleagues, people that I’d had falling outs with.
I used to have hundreds of friends. Hundreds. Hundreds of little lies, and likes, adorning my daily life. It was seductive, and it deluded me into thinking that my existence and my identity was something that it wasn’t. Now, I have four friends. Well, five, including my partner, who is not on social media. And the quality of these connections could never compare to a ‘like’ or a ‘follow’ from one, two, or even a million people.
There is still LinkedIn. Ominous, and open in my tabs, haunting me, and taunting me, and asking me to use my energy to choose an image, create a caption, and post a post, when my time would be better spent writing a story, or having lunch with an actual person that I care about, and who cares about me.
A psychopath cannot be reasoned with. They play to our worst instincts, and they are good at it. They frighten us, bully us, and manipulate us. They delude us into thinking that the world is something that it isn’t - and they are always, always, wrong.
Madeleine Ryan is a freelance writer. You cannot follow her on social media.