Social Media Drains Our Mental Health

They always say never talk politics over dinner. Every Thanksgiving, we as a nation post memes about brushing off remarks made by our family. Yet, I sit here after maybe an hour of sleep for the second time within a week. It is a little past nine in the morning, and I might fall asleep around ten if I’m lucky. The other day I realized how tired I am of not saying how I feel about these matters. I realized that for the last four years, I have been in a place where I thought if I spoke about this freely, I had one fear in the back of my mind. I’d lose a family member.

I love my family, but Tuesday made me realize something important. My family isn’t just blood relations. I would do anything within reason for my family. For the past almost eleven years I put everyone’s well being above my own. In many ways, I think now it is because no matter what, you want to be loved by your family. You don’t want someone to look at you as a poser or as uppity. You don’t want someone to look at your life and talk behind your back. We are all human, and that hurts no matter what, but when it involves blood, it hurts worse.

So we mentally beat ourselves up. We sit back and don’t say anything because it will be too much. That one sentence will be the final nail in the coffin of that relationship. Very rarely can we agree to disagree and sometimes on each party’s side there is no place to disagree. For me, that’s always been equality. We have all been through horrible things in our lives. We have had to endure the death of our loved ones, and we’ve had to watch those around us suffer in ways we never thought. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

I’m realizing more so of late what we don’t say kills us. A part of us dies a little each day because we are observers in our own lives, our platforms. After all, we don’t want to be uncomfortable. We don’t want to start anything. At our core, we want to be peaceful people. The world has conditioned us to think that if we are blood-related, we have to stick together. I’ve always thought that, because it how most of us are taught. I have a cousin that I can yell at, but you will never yell at her in front of me. Social media these days makes that harder to navigate.

We accept a person on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etcetera, and that’s it. We are not supposed to remove them because they are family, and you don’t do that to family. Besides, all these platforms make it easier for us to connect, so we should click accept and move on with our days. The problem is sometimes it’s not that easy. There are so many ways now on these various platforms to ignore someone. You can unfollow them. You can snooze them for 30 days because sometimes they are just temporarily getting on your nerves. And last but not least, you can unfriend.

Not too long ago, the person who gave me the idea to write this asked about this policy on her Facebook account. How do you know when to unfriend? I remember telling her that typically I will snooze some people, others I have unfollowed, but when it came to family, I never unfriended anyone. Oddly enough, not too long after that, I had a family member unfriend me. I did not get a say back ultimately because, by the time I had gone to bed and woke up again, he had said his peace and unfriended me.

Yesterday I felt hurt by this. Today I feel this odd sense of relief, and that makes me sad. I feel relieved because, ultimately, I did what I know in my heart to be right. I said most of what I wanted to tell him the other day. Now and then, we all get to a point where we need a break from one another. Alone time is essential in our world that makes us feel like we have to be connected 24/7. It’s vital for our mental health. We have to preserve ourselves, and I’m sure that is how he sees what he did too. Part of me asked myself what I did wrong the other day. And to be honest, I don’t see it.

And I don’t see it because I was defending my other family. The family that isn’t blood. People who have stood by me in ways that sometimes our own families don’t because we all form those friendships. We all form those bonds that are so strong that person becomes family. It does not matter if that person hails from an aunt or uncle or our very own parents. I learned with a quickness the other day that I’m no longer tolerating hate. With Facebook’s algorithm, sometimes I see it, and sometimes I don’t. I have decided though I’m not going to be quiet anymore. I cannot sit back anymore when our entire country is on fire.

So here’s what I know. I can unfollow people, which brings me peace of mind in the most natural way. However, I realized that by unfollowing, the only thing we do is never see that person’s posts again. In many ways, isn’t that the same as unfriending without the drama? I suppose that’s the point—no drama llama. However, part of me feels like I’m just unfollowing the hate instead of trying to solve it. The fact of the matter is, though, I alone cannot heal the world. I cannot put that burden solely on myself because until people genuinely want to rid themselves of hatred in their hearts, it will remain.

I also know some of you who are reading this who will be annoyed by what I have written. You might even be hurt. It’s not my intention. And ultimately, if you have unfriended me or written me off in the past, or might in the next couple of months, then I cannot change your mind. Hell, some of you might have unfollowed me a long time ago because you’re sick of hearing me go on and on about mental health and equality. The craziest part of all this is knowing that no matter what, people will remain in my life who loves me unconditionally.

People who won’t get defensive when I try to educate or remind them to check themselves. People who will do the same for me. I remember last summer Adam Baldwin said, “I want to be a better person than I was yesterday.” Those words have stuck with me for almost a year now. Those words remain my truth. So at the end of the day, please remember that self-care and mental health are crucial for you, and if you have to walk away, that’s okay. And also, remember that sometimes when someone walks away from you, whether online or completely, your life might be changing for the better.

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