This Blog Is Not About You

By Andrew Younger
Andrew Younger

My running watch will send me notifications from social media while I’m running. That’s cool right? No, I’m sorry, it’s stupid. I always have it turned off. Turn yours off too. Don’t we run to clear our heads? To get away from it all? When I go for a run, it’s often to get away from the rest of my life, and especially social media. Constant attention to social media can be damaging to our health and our relationships. Yet we add it to our runs?

Take it beyond running. Give yourself peace. Most of the time notifications for anything except actual messages turned off on all my devices. Even the ringer on my phone is often turned off. Just sayin. I will call you back and I appreciate that you read my post, but I’ve never needed to know every time someone clicked “like”.

Social media is a challenge for good mental health. It amplifies our every insecurity. Why did they make that comment? Why did they like that post. What does that picture mean? And, most insidious of all, is that post aimed at me? Assumptions. We are all guilty of them. We make assumptions about people’s lives and share them with others as fact based on, wait for it, social media.

There are of course bigger issues with social media. We tell people to be open about their feelings. That there is no judgement. Then stand back as the vitriolic comments against people who share their feelings in a way that’s too raw, or too “in the moment” ring forth. It’s ok to have feelings. To feel things. But also it’s not. It’s ok to like that photo. Or maybe its not. It’s ok to post that photo. Unless one person of your thousand “friends” thinks it means something it doesn’t. For those who are prone to depression or many other struggles, social media can become a place of judgement. For those with anxiety, social media can make feelings explode.  It’s where everyone else’s life seems perfect. But it’s not. For others social media can be a source of envy. There is an excellent Guardian article about this.

Long ago I stopped using Twitter regularly because reading endless twitter wars made me anxious. I signed up for Instagram, but I don’t follow politicians, or anything I think might be a space for negativity. If an account I follow becomes negative, I don’t follow it anymore. It’s a place I try to find peace in a caustic world of social media. Anyone is welcome to follow me, but I choose to follow stuff about running, dogs, and travel as well as friends. Things that make me happy.

I know so many people who spend part of their day scrolling through their friend’s likes to see who is reacting to their posts. Or constantly check out feeds of people they don’t even officially follow. None of that is healthy. Using time when we could be doing healthy or productive things with mind damaging investigations to see if someone else’s life is better. Just go for a run. Or a walk. Pet a dog. Anything else.

Facebook still remains a challenge for me. I have never been a fan of the platform. I unfollow people who just argue on their feeds. For the most part I only look at the top half dozen posts in my feed. I tried deactivating my account a few times, but I use Facebook for work, and I found I was missing out on events I wanted to be part of. As well it took only a couple hours of me being deactivated the last time for my phone to fill with texts from people asking me why I blocked them. That. Was. Worse. So instead I chose to change my approach. I deleted a lot of stuff (a process I’m still going through) to restore my privacy. I limit how often I’m online. I comment much less. And the majority of what is post now is shared from others or public running photos I’m tagged in.

Here’s the thing. Social media is not real life (shocker, I know). Everyone’s life is far more complicated than a Facebook or Instagram profile. Sure, I’ll tell you about my running successes. Maybe some of the failures. But you might not know how hard it was for me to stand around with people on the start line. Or the day I didn’t know if I could get out of my car or felt I’d lost myself. Or that the selfie on the sunny spring day was the day I forced myself out for a run.

Dr. Mike Brooks, a psychologist specializing in finding balance in hyper connected worlds observed this:

“To the extent that we use to learn social media to facilitate and enhance our in-person connections, we stand to come out ahead in terms of our happiness and well-being. Social media can be tantalizing, but we need to be very careful not to lose our focus on the real thing. Our in-person social relationships are what really matter.”

Mike Brooks, Psychology Today, March 13, 2019

With that, I’ll go back to running now. I did just get new shoes – did you see those on social media? And remember, just because this post speaks to you or makes you think of some interaction we had, this post is most definitely, not, about you.