I spend a considerable amount of my day online – posting on my Facebook author page, uploading pictures on my author Instagram or scheduling tweets on my author twitter account. You get the idea. Social media is where I market. It’s also where I chat with friends, and get the bulk of my information. Sounds lame, huh? Well, it probably is. But I work from home and spend the majority of my time with fictional characters, so what did you expect?
In some ways, social media is a godsend for me. I can reach out to my readers, I can tell the world about my books, I can keep up with friends who live far away, and even those that are near but I rarely see.
But as a person who struggles with anxiety, social media can be poison. It can distract and terrify me.
You see, many people use social media as their platform to inform others about issues that they are passionate about. Sounds benign enough. Noble, even. But there’s a fine line between informing people and scaring them unnecessarily. The truth is that life is scary. Anything can kill us. A simple ride in the car can be the end. A tiny cut can turn into a deadly infection. A fall can have catastrophic consequences. And if you believe everything you read online, pretty much anything you ingest has the potential to cause cancer.
I’ve always been a worrier. But, as many of you know, my anxiety took on a life of its own about four years ago when I started having health problems. I won’t bore you with all of the details again since I have posted plenty of times about this. If you have missed those posts you can scroll through my blog to find them.
One of the things I’ve shared with you before is my addiction to googling medical conditions and questions. Recently I’ve stopped doing this and found a lot of freedom and peace from that.
However, I’m still bombarded on social media. Every time I log on with the intention of engaging with fans, a post will undoubtedly come through my feed that sparks fear and anxiety. It’s always well-intentioned. A friend who has something they want to inform others about. Knowledge is power, right?
But did you ever think that knowing too much can actually make you powerless? If we live in a constant state of fear, how is that powerful?
Let me give you a hypothetical example. I’m taking fictional liberties here, but these are some of my actual fears. However, this scenario didn’t actually happen.
I think I have an infection, but I log onto Facebook and a friend posts an article all about the dangers of antibiotics. So now I’m scared to go to the doctor. But that same day another friend posts an article about someone dying from an untreated infection. In the end I know I’ll go to the doctor, but now every time I pop an antibiotic, I will be paralyzed with fear from the first article that was posted.
Honestly, I’m not feeling very powerful at that moment. My fear is owning me, so now I’m powerless to it.
The conflicting articles caused confusion. They caused hesitation and worry. And it was a situation that should’ve been straight-forward. On a side note, comments can do this also. I’ve seen friends post about being sick and oftentimes the comments are all conflicting, some laced with fear, some full of misinformation. And all of that can cause undue stress and confusion for the original poster.
If I take to heart every post I read on social media, I would be scared of meat, scared of vegetables, scared of restaurants, scared of medicine, scared of vitamins, scared of tap water, scared of large bodies of water, scared of doctors, scared of the sun, scared of chemicals in the air, even scared of the damn light bulbs we use.
That’s not power. That’s insanity.
I’m definitely not saying that we shouldn’t be aware of things. Today we have more knowledge, more understanding, more medical advancements than ever before. Therefore, I get people’s need to educate.
But hear me out, if I live my life in fear of every single thing, how is that helpful? Even if my fear keeps me from getting skin cancer, or brain eating bacteria, what kind of life do I have if I spend it scared?
I think it’s important to be educated. My kids wear sunblock, and I didn’t. I know the dangers of smoking cigarettes, and my grandparents didn’t. I know more about nutrition now than I did growing up, therefore my kids eat healthier than I used to.
Knowledge can be helpful.
But when I’m bombarded with all of this information every single day, I don’t know what to do with it. A simple log on to Facebook to post something can turn into hours of me spinning about dying of one thing or another. A potentially productive day can end that quickly for me.
We live in an age where anyone can post anything online. I’m doing it right now. And someone can read this and believe that this is 100% fact. That somehow I’m an expert on this subject just because I’m choosing to write about it.
The truth is, I’m not an expert on anxiety. I haven’t researched it. I haven’t gotten a degree in psychology. I’m not a doctor. But I’ve struggled with it my entire life. Therefore, I do know a thing or two about it. At least I know how it has affected me. If you’re reading this as a person who also struggles with anxiety, you may or may not agree. Your experience might be totally different.
My point is that this is an opinion piece. Take it or leave it.
All I want is for you to think before posting. Make sure that what you’re posting is from a reputable source. If it’s a medical piece, make sure it’s written by an actual doctor. Preferably, one you trust. And then decide if it’s necessary. Is the post going to help or possibly hurt those reading it?
One thing I love about where we live is the freedom to speak our minds and be ourselves. I wouldn’t be able to write this if that weren’t the case. I wouldn’t be able to share my faith, and be myself if it weren’t for freedom of speech. And I don’t take it for granted. If what you share online is something you feel passionately about, then keep doing it. My anxiety is not your issue. It’s something God is working on in me, and I hope to one day be entirely free of it.
But until then I felt like I needed to have my say. If for no other reason, then understanding. Sometimes I don’t scroll my Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. I simply post and log off. And I know some of you think it’s rude that I don’t see your posts or like them. That I’m selfish, because you see me posting, but not engaging. So now you know why.
I love all my friends on social media dearly. I just love my sanity more.
If you struggle from anxiety, I’d love to hear your opinions below.