Erica is the first to admit that she relies on Facebook to find real connection in this virtual world, however, at a time when social media is changing minute by minute to keep up with the ever-changing pandemic, the need to social distance from social media urges her to disconnect.
We are all taking these strange, unprecedented times day by day, coping with the fear and uncertainty and solitude. We are trying to maintain some of our daily rhythms by relying on all kinds of amazing technology that I didn’t even know existed two weeks ago. Just today, my kids did Google classroom lessons, I streamed workouts on two different exercise apps, my book club convened on Zoom, and I used Marco Polo to video-message with a dear friend who lives in Boston. As you can see, I am not a Luddite. But, there are fan-favorite technology platforms that I have chosen to distance myself from during the pandemic: social media.
Many people are turning to social media now more than ever to feel connected during this time of intensified isolation. With a single click, you can read the thoughts and reactions of hundreds of others living the same Twilight Zone plotline. The content on a general newsfeed at any given moment ranges from useful tips “A recipe for homemade hand sanitizer” to humorous pleas “Homeschool Day #8…send wine ASAP” to personal diary entries that open windows to one’s fears, insecurities, and needs. In the “Pre-Pandemic Era,” I admittedly spent too many minutes (likely hours) each day scrolling through Facebook and Instagram. I have always struggled with our society’s dependence on social media and my own lack of willpower when it comes to spending large volumes of time tunneling down the rabbit hole of “updates”. But, I always remained a faithful online socialite due to the multitude of ways that these platforms encourage connectedness and foster community involvement.
But once this global crisis emerged, I felt a discomforting shift as I scrolled through the familiar screen of blue and white. Like many others, I was hungry for information and very uncomfortable sitting with the uncertainty that this peculiar situation brought. It was two days before my boys’ spring break was set to begin, and my husband and I were trying hard to sift the facts from the opinions to decide whether or not to cancel our flights to California. I found myself relying on Facebook as my news source, click-hopping from linked headline to headline, some from reputable sources, and others merely “dressed-up” opinions from some doctor, practicing some kind of medicine, living somewhere, making a “guess” at what was about to unfold. The facts were unclear, the opinions widely contradictory, and the tone was frenzied. Many status updates from my vast network of “friends” were beginning to announce self-righteous quarantines, and some bordered on being accusatory and judgmental. “I stay home for those who can’t stay home.”, “Just broke my kids’ hearts and canceled Disney….you should too.” I’m not saying that these declarations were not appropriate or correct or well-intentioned (turns out they were all of the above), but the barrage of pandemic proclamations from media experts and dear friends alike started to overwhelm my emotional stores. And yet I was absolutely addicted to the “panic feed” that filled my screen. I found myself checking it every five minutes, looking for more information, changes, updates, mandates, trends, breakthroughs, cures…anything? Anything new?
So with a few internet clicks, we canceled out flights to California. I then made a necessary decision for my mental health: I clicked once more and deleted Facebook from my phone and vowed to institute a “self-imposed quarantine” on myself from the social media frenzy that had sent my nerves into overdrive. I have health anxiety during “normal life,” and my spouse is a health care worker who must circle in and out of the hospital multiple times per day, so to keep my cool, I need to act out of “an abundance of caution” and isolate completely. I need social distance from social media.
While I still check news sources to get necessary information, I’m committed to experiencing this odd tangle of daily frustrations and unexpected joys with a small network of family and friends. I realize that I’m missing out on funny memes, brilliant homeschooling hacks, and breaking news like “Schnucks is out of toilet paper…again,” but these sacrifices are worth it to keep my sanity.