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Some Thoughts on Twitter, Anxiety and Mental Health

I guess I have been addicted to Twitter. Sounds quite dramatic, right? I think most people who use social media are partially dependent on it, especially when most of your interactions take place on platforms like Twitter. I’ve been using the site since the beginning of last year and I’ve met incredible people through it who enriched me in ways that I did not expect but there are always two sides of the coin and in this case, the other side was seriously burdensome. I think we all are aware of possible negative effects of excessive social media use. Thanks to the popularity of the Netflix docudrama ‘The Social dilemma’, the discourse on the topic increased last year but I’ve been thinking about the issue for a while now. When I say excessive use, I don’t necessarily mean the amount of hours you’ve used it (even though that definitely might be an indicator) but moreover, how much you need it to feel at ease. Since I’ve had a lot of free time due to me being on a study break, I’ve been on there a lot and noticed that I regularly got the urge to check in again and again. The need to be continuously accessible and keep up with whatever was going on with the people I interacted with and other events became stressful fairly quickly. Even though I didn’t consciously perceive it at first, over time, I noticed more and more how that affected different parts of my everyday life and emotional state negatively.

First of all – my attention span. It became harder to just read or concentrate on specific tasks for a certain amount of time without being distracted by the thoughts of what was going on or what content I could produce or what discussions I could partake in.

I tried to meditate for several times and realized how immensely hard it is to just be in the moment. I think I definitely benefited from the practice but I found out that I prefer something more active which still manages to make me feel focused but calm and started doing Yoga (which I’ve only been regularly doing for about a week now but I enjoy it so much that I want to keep doing it). Even though I noticed how it does me good to stay away from all of that virtual realms for a few hours, it got harder to achieve it. Looking at why I was so prone to use it, we’re getting to the actual problem: trying to satisfy one’s emotional need for interactions through social media platforms.

Of course, Twitter is not the problem. Even though the creators are implementing mechanisms and algorithms to make it more and more addictive and maximize the time we use it, the bigger problem (or at least my problem) is a personal one that made me more vulnerable to get caught up in this obstacle.

I (just as almost any other human being) need social interactions and the feeling of being connected to others and during times in which I don’t have these stable relationships and don’t meet or am in touch with people as often as I’d need to (like right now), Social Media has the tendency to unwillingly become a substitute for that. I know that there are people present who are willing to interact with me and who enjoy these interactions. One misleading aspect though is that these interactions lack something essential. Most of the people I interact with are there and know me but the engagement still stays rather superficial due to various reasons. Sometimes it is because we don’t connect much on a personal level or because said person just doesn’t want to have more personal connections and is just there for the light hearted fun which of course is absolutely valid but apparently not what I needed the most. I was basically searching for something I subconsciously knew I probably wouldn’t find online but I kept trying just because I couldn’t deal with crushing feelings of, well, not mattering. It’s one thing to occasionally feel down or depressed and it’s another to continuously get reminded of the fact that it’s fairly easy to talk and get to know people but almost impossible to make others deeply care about you. It probably does but this is not supposed to sound pessimistic or bleak, it’s only the reproduction of my feelings in those situations.

In addition to that, even if I managed to have pretty personal conversations with people, it didn’t reach the level of relationships I used to establish in real life because it lacked the physicality of meeting people in person and keeping up with their lives from a close perspective. The virtuality of the situation makes it appear as if I’m unable to fully become a part of someone’s life which is understandable for obvious reasons. That does not mean that I didn’t have and still have fulfilling relationships with some people I’ve gotten to know online but many of these didn’t manage to make me feel fulfilled. This is not an issue caused by other people but it’s the inherent struggle of me feeling not worthy enough which (if I had a bad day) was only reinforced by my twitter consumption since talking to people online only made me reminiscent of the fact that all of the superficiality that comes with these interactions is meaningless. It was a weird downwards spiral. I’ve had strange moments when I took breaks from the platform during which I would just sit in my room and feel the lack of something…important. Simultaneously, looking from a distance, I finally realized how superficial and seemingly pointless all of it tends to be. It’s not that I suddenly became worse but understanding that social media was just my distraction to deal with feelings of loneliness and anxiety (which now that I think about it is a bit ironic, since using the site often evoked my anxiety). Let’s note, the problem is not twitter but the toxic way in which I and many others use it BUT Twitter and other social media sites of course are willing and working on exploiting these weaknesses a lot of humans struggle with which makes it hard to fight at times.

I’ve talked enough about the problems, I want to think about solutions. I was never sure how to deal with it since (in contrast to people I know who struggle with mental health issues), my feelings of despair and anxiety only overwhelmed me in certain situations. It took me a while to make the decision to seek professional help because I had phases in which I was fairly fine but because the issue became burdensome and hindered me to handle my studies but (more importantly) to realize fulfilling relationships with other people, I made the reasonable decision and looked for therapists and after a few months of being on waiting lists I luckily found one I’m really content with and who is going to start therapy with me soon.

 Besides professional help, there are a lot of seemingly little things I’m trying to do for my physical and mental well-being which turned out to be extremely helpful long-term: eating healthy, getting enough sleep, making time for relaxation. The last point includes Yoga but also just sitting down in silence sometimes (preferably in the evening) drinking tea, lighting candles, reading something enjoyable, listening to calm music, watching Mushi-Shi (I’d recommend that for sure!).

Another pretty important point is reflecting on my feelings. I guess I’ve also thought about my emotional states and mental issues a lot but something I’ve underestimated has been keeping track of my emotional states. I try to at least shortly write down how I feel and what I’ve been doing daily. Just a few notes so that once I’m feeling depressed or anxious or overwhelmed I can take a look and trace back what the issue could be. Often I know it already but sometimes I find something (like lack of sleep, not eating properly, lack of social interactions, etc.). Talking of social interactions, they are essential (if that didn’t become clear already)! As I said, at the moment I only meet two friends every couple of weeks, besides that my only interactions take place at work or with family members or my flat mates but sometimes, little conversations already make a big difference and lighten my mood.

Another point concerning keeping track of your health I don’t want to not mention is keeping track of your physical state by checking your blood values and overall issues. Dealing with Hashimoto (I’m such a weeb, even my immune disorder is Japanese) and anemia I’ve done enough research and experienced it on my own body often enough to know how for example vitamin deficiency  or thyroid problems can cause immense negative effects on your mental health up to states of depression. I feel like people underestimate that or don’t even think of it while still finding themselves in states of lethargy and despair.

All of these things and practices are ones I try to accomplish (obviously not always succeeding) but the key is to stick to them and well, get better at caring for yourself bit by bit.

Another point I think I should address this because it’s something I’ve been continuously working on. Even though I haven’t mastered it yet, something that is incredibly helpful in terms of dealing with (mental health) problems in general is OPEN COMMUNICATION. I don’t , can’t and don’t want to give everyone I interact with a self-written analysis on my psychological state (even though that would probably be hilarious at times) but I think it’s essential to tell people if they or your interactions trigger anything in you that makes you feel uneasy. This doesn’t have to do anything with them or the interactions itself but it’s important to reflect on it to understand yourself and your problems better and to not expose yourself to these situations if you’re not ready to. It’s not easy to talk about personal problems with anyone, I think it’s only natural that a certain amount of trust is necessary but it’s pretty important to try to work on explaining how you feel so that other people who don’t know about your situation do not misinterpret it. Luckily, I’ve only made good experiences with these situations since people I chose to interact with are usually rather considerable and understanding. I understand that not everyone is as willing to make themselves vulnerable but I just want you to comprehend that once you actually do and receive honest acceptance regardless and are able to take it in, you might not only experience one of the most beautiful but one of the most important and necessary feelings in order to reach a sense of strong fulfilling human connection. As you probably figured out from this text, I’m working on that but just acknowledging this gives me a sense of hope and motivation.

Twitter and social media as such have become pretty important outlets, not only for me but for a large part of the anime and many other communities to connect with people with similar interests which wouldn’t have been possible to this extent otherwise. I appreciate the platform for that but I hope that everyone is aware of the possible effects and uses it consciously. I’m not in a bad state, I’m pretty aware of my issues and I’m trying my best to improve them but I know that there are many others who might fall into a downward spiral or dependency which can become even more overwhelming. How hard it may seem, never ever restrain yourselves to ask for help. It may not be apparent at all times from all angles but trust me on this, we all have issues in strange ways. It might sound tragic but it is the key to relatability and true connection. Please, please take care of yourself.


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