With so many people living on social media, and there are a lot of us, it is no wonder that those that struggle day to day may use it to find something to help them through the day.
But just how helpful is it?
Many of you who may read this may say "It really helps me!", "If I feel low I read posts that pick me up!", "It helps me get through the day!", " I do not feel alone because of social media!", "I love reading the positive quotes, they cheer me up!". I am sure this list is endless!
For many, who may have a dip in mood, or need a boost, perhaps these things may help. However, if you are suffering with anxiety or depression (these are longer term conditions over weeks, months or years), it may be hindering you rather than helping you. It is for these people, I write this!
For those sufferers who turn to social media for a boost, it may seem to give you sense of soothing. I would agree with this, as it may distract you from difficult feelings. However, usually this is temporary! In some ways, used like this, it is a little bit like any other 'fix', be it alcohol, drugs, smoking, sex, food etc. It may give you a short 'fix', and like many things used to get this 'fix', if used often enough, it feels like they get us through the difficult times.
What such positive quotes and memes may suggest however, is that we ought to aspire to be happy. Now you may say in response, 'Jason, of course I want to be happy you idiot...that's the point!". However, such positivity may confuse! After reading a number of quotes seen on various platforms, they suggest that you should be able to attain this level of happiness. If you suffer from anxiety, depression or any other long term (more than a few weeks) mental ill health, then such positivity may become something else!
Another tool of failure!
For many who struggle, this idea of self soothing or a quick fix can actually become the very thing that ensure you do not achieve 'Happiness'! They can actually become yet another tool in your arsenal to harm you psychologically. They can become an unconscious tool used to confirm you are sad, useless, not good enough...add your sense of self here!
They actually, like most things people use to 'soothe', become part of the problem. For toxic happiness, it can go something like this;
Feel really low, struggling right now or today
This feels terrible, painful, I hate feeling this, It is sh*t...
Need something to help, to make me feel better
Look on social media for a solution.
Read a bunch of quotes, posts, or replies telling us we can be happy, recovery can be achieved, tomorrow will be better...etc!
Momentarily feel better, but not because of what we have read, but ACTUALLY because we have been distracted.
Feel a little worse, as you have 'failed' because you cannot be happy, recovered like the posts suggest,
This is toxic happiness. A belief that we can and should be able to attain this thing that these quotes may indicate we should achieve called 'happiness' but we feel like a failure or worse, because, no matter how many quotes you read, you are not happy! So rather than help, these may leave you feeling worse, you have 'failed' to be happy. You feel you cannot then do what these posts etc say you can and what these people posting them, in your belief, have achieved! Like may other soothing methods, they can make you feel worse.
The 'better' alternative to happiness.
As a counsellor, I believe there is something better than this type of happiness to achieve. Okay, stop screaming at the screen "Jason, you idiot, I do want to be happy, I feel rubbish and want to be happy you...[add expletives here]'.
It makes sense that you want to be happy, but perhaps a more useful term is content. When we are content with ourselves, our bodies, our jobs, our relationships, our health and anything else we could add about you, we are more able to enjoy life!
However, perhaps you see the two as the same. I do not! Perhaps you feel that because of the way you look, because of your gender or confusion about it, or your fashion sense or ability [this list may be endless], you cannot be content?
Then perhaps you see being content as something to achieve! I do not! If it is something to achieve or strive for or work for, then it makes sense, that if you do not achieve it, you fail! I disagree.
Working towards being content.
Being content is not about your body shape, your ability, your skill set, your size, your colour, your gender [another endless list]. It is about just being you. That is it...it's all you have to do!
This sounds like such a simple concept, and it truly is achievable.
It starts by accepting that how you feel may be difficult, even actually be really uncomfortable, but it comes from somewhere within you. It is not work that makes you anxious, it is your relationship with it, the same rings true for your body size or shape, your gender...another endless list I am sure! The anxiety and feelings of not being good enough are within you, not outside of you...even if there is someone reminding you of this (such as in abusive relationships)!
Once you can start to connect with this, it can start to change positively.
What I am stating here is the following:
'Content' is already in you. No one or no thing (social media, drink, drugs) can give it to you.
If we tie to two things together, I hope it gives you something to think about:
It is not usually things outside that make you feel the way you feel!
Content is already in you, it cannot truly be found outside of you!
When you are able to tie these two things together, then life will change!