Given the recent coverage of Facebook data mining and constant media coverage raising concerns around the amount of screen time that is healthy for us, I was reflecting on my usage, in parallel to some other things happening over the last two weeks.
So let’s get my stance out straight away – I use Facebook and Twitter a lot I initially kept the two separate – Facebook was for family and friends, Twitter was more for mental health connections. But that started to blur, which I became increasingly comfortable with, especially as the #365daysofcompassion daily posts started. At the same time I stopped using Instagram, very occasionally I will take a look but hardly post on it. I also started to reduce my usage of apps like Pocket, where you save an article for later or offline reading. All I found was that I was building up a collection of unread articles.
I mention the #365daysofcompassion hashtag specifically, as that has enforced the positive power of social media for me. The sharing that occurs daily under that hashtag is breathtaking , from simple thoughts about the day through to the most heartbreaking, profound story telling. I have seen people, including myself, take strength and comfort from around a post that someone has shared. You never know how , why or when something that is shared may help someone else.
It’s been humbling and inspiring to connect with some amazing people, both mental health professionals and those who are facing their own challenges. And let’s not forget that being a professional doesn’t make you immune, we are all human.
Some of the stories that are shared, many told as they continue to progress, can be very hard to read, but for me that is the additional power of sharing. Deep down we want to be heard, not necessarily to get back an answer, but to be heard, without judgement and with compassion. By compassion I don’t just mean a kind word back or a motivational quote – I mean someone listening who tries to understand how you feel, to be there in support.
And this kind of connection is talked about in many forums and peer support networks as being important , for those feeling isolated and seeking understanding which so many with mental ill health are. There are many chat forums, some where they run specific hour long chats, based around a topic and with a few questions to prompt the sharing of thoughts. These can be hugely helpful and supportive.
But of course there are negatives to social media. There are people who simply go looking for a fight on it, who will make a deliberately confortational comment to get a response or make comments that I would like to think that they wouldn’t if face to face. I don’t just mean the so called trolls, of which I have only ever really had one experience of (I resisted the urge to reply to a comment about one of my blogs, choosing instead to block the person and not engage, which was very hard, to both not react and to not dwell on the comment). Sadly even professionals debating points of views can sometimes include comments which descend into insults and lets face it, name calling, which is very harmful on a social platform where patients/clients/ service users (whatever you wish to call us) can see these. Sadly something can happen sometimes that can encourage people to forget that behind every user name is another human being.
And aside from those offering each other support, you also come across a few who go further than offering their experience, but then telling you what will help, with a handful even charging for that. That is highly dangerous, what works for me may not work for someone else with depression. There is a definite line between sharing experience and telling. And charging for that, without appropriate training and accreditation is way past that line.
I guess that social media simply reflects some of the attributes of human society, both the light and dark ones.
So with that in mind,at the start of the year I came up with my usage rules (which I will admit I don’t always stick to !)
* each time I open Facebook or Twitter to pause and consider why I am doing so, what is my motivation. So for example, is it to post something I have thought about , to see what posts are in my timeline to interact with or to take a specific action
* if the answer to that is “just to look or browse” then I try to not open the app, there is no clear intention behind the action and am likely to just get distracted. Or I will see something that I do want to interact with and not have the time to do so properly, which can lead to the Pocket backlog problem
* where I see regular posts that I find troubling or emotive (as was the case a few months back around a proposed mental health framework) I made a choice to stop following some people, even though I highly regard them. I found that it was too distracting from what I wanted to focus on. That doesn’t mean I have stopped paying attention to that proposal, but doing so in other ways away from a social media timeline.
* when I post to be clear of my intention behind why I am doing so – be it to inform, entertain or raise awareness- and for that to be positive experience for anyone that reads it. And that is not to be measured by ‘likes’.
* regularly review those who follow me and those I follow: followers are important to check, especially on Twitter with the number of bots and spam accounts which sometimes just follow as they pick up a word in a tweet.
As with many things in life, it’s the how and why that is important. For me the power of connections, the fabulous people who help to create a supportive community feeling, is priceless. So for those who write and read the #365daysofcompassion posts – thank you, it’s a wonderful thing you are creating.
Image via Pixabay