Amanda's day begins with Facebook. Most mornings there are no comments or likes but this morning she has two comments, a "LOL" a "cool" and a "like"after a photo she posted yesterday of her cat playing with a new toy. Brief feelings of elation follow. Immediately she begins to think about what she might post today that is interesting, that could attract more attention, "comments", "likes".
Throughout the day Amanda checks for comments and likes and looks at what all her Facebook "friends" have been doing today. Their lives look so interesting, definitely more cool than hers and she dreams of what she could post that would be even more cool.
Late afternoon comes and two old friends ask if she would like to come to a local cafe to catch up. Amanda feels a pang of anxiety and has an excuse not to meet them on the tip of her tongue. She goes, but she is not really present and barely follows the conversation. Scrolling on her phone is a distraction from the anxiety of meeting others face to face. There are no more comments or likes on her feed, but, if she can have a photo of this meeting it will have made the trip worth while.
Later in the evening Amanda posts the photo she had the waiter take in the cafe today. Three smiling faces. It almost looks that she has an interesting life but the truth is that she feels lonely, disconnected and very anxious. When really honest with herself she feels empty, envious, inadequate and competitive. 11-30 pm and she is still on social media. 3 to 4 hours every day on social media as well as all the extra time that goes into thinking about the social media.
More scrolling and posting seem to work as a distraction from those uncomfortable feelings. When she is really, really honest with herself she would prefer fans to friends. She's forgetting how to be a friend, to share vulnerability, to connect emotionally, to give and receive support, to have fun.
Amanda's friends notice that she is very distracted, not really present and doesn't seem to have any interest in the hobbies that once she was passionate about.
Social media can bring people together to share common interests and can augment face to face communication skills but........
Only minimal effort, thoughtfulness or commitment is required.
Feelings conveyed are often inauthentic or shallow.
Real, face to face communication skills are not being practiced.
Growing disconnect between social media (filtered) life and actual life creates anxiety, shame and loneliness
Anxiety is dealt with by zoning out with even more screen time, more shame and loneliness.
If you identified with Amandas story what might you do ?
Her first step was to get motivated. To look at the costs of not changing versus the benefits of changing her use of social media.
My post on motivation shows how to go about assessing a problem and your readiness to change
Amanda is clear that she wants real friends, not just fans. She is willing to be authentic, attentive and responsive with her true friends. She is ready to make an effort with concrete steps. Step number 1 is to turn off phone notifications. Step 2 was to share with a friend her plan.
Counselling can support with a personalised strategy, steps, that will work for you to pivot from social media / internet distraction to the deeper human connections that address loneliness and anxiety. If you are ready to be the best version of you and need some support, then make that call !
(While Amanda is not a real person. The loneliness and anxiety experienced by compulsive users of social media is very real)