Social Distraction

She curls up on her soft paisley couch amid a gaggle of decorative down pillows, folding her swollen feet beneath her. Smiling to herself, Anna pulls the wooden bowl closer, within easy reach. It’s filled with her favorite, lightly-salted organic popcorn; it’s her special Friday night treat. It’s been a looooong week, and its conclusion is worth celebrating.

Remote in hand, Anna clicks through the new movies on her DVR player, deciding on a romantic comedy. She smiles. One of her favorite actresses, Victoria, is the headliner. She can’t wait to see the vision the costume designer has with this character for Victoria. Whatever V. wears, it’s simply stunning. Fitting perfectly, with the perfect taste and the perfect mood. It’s always .. Perfect. Anna studies V.’s fashion sense, analyzes it and finds ways to integrate some of the cutting edge pieces into her own closet. It’s a rush, really. Fashion: it’s a passion.

Anna sips a light red wine out of a stemless wine glass, closing her eyes. Savoring the moment, she inhales slowly.

What. A. Week.

Tests, more tests. More doctor visits. More questions. More uncertainty. More “will this hurt?” More insurance company arguments. More treatment needs. And more frustration.

Will this cycle ever end? Not two and a half decades on this earth, and rheumatoid arthritis has her in a Venus flytrap grip. She takes another sip of wine, tasting the soft cherry flavors in her mouth, knowing she’ll pay for this later with swollen, painful hands.

She doesn’t care. It’s a small nugget of normalcy in a far-from-normal world.

“I am too young for this bullshit,” she mutters, adjusting the sound on the TV. Candles flicker in the corners of the room, casting a soft glow. She glares at her hands, wishing that dirty looks would perpetuate a cure for this autoimmune crap.

A small chime emanates from her phone on the coffee table. Curious, Anna slides the screen with her finger. It’s a notification from a friend on Facebook.

Gorgeous, leggy, dressed-to-the-nines – in stilettos, no less – and toasting recent work successes on the balcony of a Downtown high rise, accompanied by a handsome harem of XY chromosomes, Gabriella’s full-tilt grin overtakes Anna’s phone screen. The caption reads, “It just doesn’t get any better than this!! Wish y’all were here!!!!”

Anna can’t stifle the enormous eye roll.

“Damn it,” she mutters, glaring at the screen. Gabriella’s text earlier that day had invited Anna to the celebration. Anna had sent her regrets; she was simply too tired after this crazy week, dealing with this stupid flare, to be able to smile broadly and enjoy any type of function other than a quiet movie at home.

She knew she had done the right thing.

But, man. This sucks.

She looks again at her beautiful friend’s photo and a pang of envy hits – hard.

She’s so healthy. So perfect. So fashionable. So mobile. So not-in-doctor’s-offices-all-day dealing with pain. So out partying. Doing whatever the heck she wants. Drinking, laughing, dancing. Being a twenty-something.

Anna feels hot tears brew behind her eyes.

“This damn disease,” she chokes out, folding her arms around her knees, pulling the wine closer. “This is going to be a long, lonely night.”

****

Our world has changed so much with social media.

Everything is updated, posted, pictured, videoed, captured and disseminated at a harrowing pace. Some days I feel like my eyebrows are permanently glued back with the frenetic spiral of check-ins, check-ups and check-outs.

And I’m soooo guilty. Hear me kettle; I am pot. 😉

But this whole phenomenon has gotten a little out of hand .. Wouldn’t you agree?

I promise that this will not be a rant about the inherent issues with living in a digital, up-to-the-millisecond social media-soaked world. I promise.

But I do want to talk about how we lose a little bit of our soul every time we bow to the BING of the phone.

It’s called FOMO.

Fear Of Missing Out.

Sounds benign, right?

I mean, missing out… Big deal, right? Who cares?

But that’s the thing – it IS a big deal.

Especially for chronic illness patients who are homebound… Who’s only lifeline – it feels like – is that dang phone. It’s the one thing that keeps us connected. And for young people living with JRA or other autoimmune diseases… Their friends are all over the outlets and airwaves living their lives, being teenagers and twenty-somethings.

And all this time, we’ve been thinking that the 9-digit, attached-at-the-ear nugget saves our sanity and makes our lives easier.

I respectfully beg to differ.

Our social media addiction is more than a mere distraction. It’s part disease, part obsession and creates a mostly pseudo-reality. And it’s really, really hurting us.

Here’s how:

  1. Feelings of alienation
  2. Cycle of negativity
  3. Fear of exclusion
  4. Insecurity
  5. Fear of criticism
  6. Feelings of envy and jealousy
  7. Increased societal pressure to conform to “norms”
  8. Passive-aggressive behavior
  9. Withdrawal

Do any of these resonate with you?

I know they do for me… I can relate to every single one. But they don’t define me anymore.

social media

In fact, I’m so determined to buck the social media bad mojo that I have a policy of not checking my Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other social media platform until I’ve written in my gratitude journal, read my devotional, brainstormed my dream board and intentions for the day and meditated. And… I limit my time on social media. Literally, I set a timer. Without some sort of structured time constraint, social media minutes – undoubtedly – turn into a vacuum of sorts, not recognized by the law of physics or time travel.

What’s more, is that I started to notice a pattern during that tweet-ified period… How my social media day was “going” largely determined my mood – for years. If I wasn’t sufficiently liked, applauded, shared, commented on, box-checked, emoticon-ed, tweeted or double-tapped, I was crushed.

We have this innate desire for approval. We want to feel connected, like someone gets us. We want security. We want happiness. We want comfort and comforts. We want to be pain-free. We want to be included. We just want to be happy.

And we’re looking in the wrong place.

The argument can be made that social media, phones and computers are connectors, that they have afforded us connections with a vast network of family members, friends, acquaintances and networks that would never be possible otherwise. They’ve enriched our lives versus encumbered us. That – at face value – is absolutely true.

As with any open door, however, there is always flip side… A side that’s just a bit darker, a bit more complicated. There are consequences and there are side effects.

What’s even more intriguing are emerging studies regarding social media updates and a person’s true well-being and their reflection of self. Physicians are witnessing a disconnect between a person’s emotional state and their social media quips: patients are walking in with symptoms of depression, but if one reads their status updates, a completely different story is voiced.

If you find yourself in the quicksand of social media, to the point where it is bringing you down – like I did, there are ways to pull the proverbial rip cord without missing out or ticking off your friends.

They’re a little 20th century, but sometimes simple is good.

Social Media Alternatives:

  • Read
  • Blog
  • Journal
  • Exercise
  • Meditate
  • Meet friends for coffee, tea or lunch
  • Rekindle a hobby – gardening, scrap-booking, hiking
  • Volunteer in your community
  • Get OUT and LIVE

Spend some time away from your social media networks. Don’t worry – they’ll still like you. 🙂 Give yourself permission to enjoy LIFE. A little absence from the social media dog-and-pony show makes the heart grow fonder, and a little balance gives us the best of both worlds.

****

How do you combat our social media love affair? I’d love your thoughts and comments below.