Why it's OK to feel overwhelmed by social media

Words by Tori West

Like most, I’ve found the past few weeks of self-isolation quite overwhelming. But as someone who has been diagnosed with severe anxiety, as well as feeling overwhelmed, I feel pressure to take on responsibility for everything and everyone. This just leads to extreme feelings of guilt and more anxiety.

When I first discovered I would be self-isolating alone for at least a month, I panicked. Although I’m often a recluse, being alone in a house for a long period of time is something I’ve always feared due to my hypothetical worrying. What if something bad happens to me? To the house? What if I needed support and there was just no one around? What if I was so bored, my overthinking became out of control and trigger my depression? 

After a few days, I actually became used to the idea and I realised that being by myself wasn’t the problem, it was social media. I assumed the internet would be the saving grace of my self-isolation, keeping me entertained and connected the outside world. But it was actually becoming overbearing. At first, the Instagram live sessions were fun and I’d find myself keeping track of when people were planning their streams, but as a content maker myself, it pressured me to think, why aren’t I making content? But I felt too overwhelmed to be so productive.

As more and more people are online, the constant barrage of dm’s I began receiving was out of control, I was losing check-ins from friends and family because I couldn’t bear reading and answering the direct messages I was receiving. I started seeing posts like: “now you can expect almost-instant responses from people you’re talking to as everyone is at home bored’. But by feeling pressured to respond to everyone, I’d find myself constantly in conversation with someone, which was exhausting for my social anxiety. 

Another symptom of my severe anxiety is that I feel as though I can never say no. When companies started closing, I began receiving an overbearing amount of requests from people pressuring me to help them call out their places of work on my instagram stories for not pay them during lockdown. Some were asking me to help them call out the government for not doing enough - I began thinking if I didn’t respond, they’d think I didn’t care. But I just didn’t have the mental capacity to respond, because I worry about everyone’s wellbeing so much, on top of dealing with my own unbearable Coronavirus-related stress.

The odd thing about Instagram is that you naturally start thinking that people you’ve never met, are accessible to you. As much as it can make you feel like you know them, we forget we only see about 5% of someone’s life or day. 

To cope with my social anxieties, I have to set myself time boundaries on how engaged with social I can be in a day, otherwise, it exhausts me. As much as I love people and social media, and I’m privileged and grateful to have a platform, if you suffer from anxiety like me, remember, it’s also ok to not want to feel constantly, hyper-connected like everyone else.