I’m excited to welcome my new friend and debut author of Editing Emma: The Secret Blog of a Nearly Proper Person, Chloe Seager, to Pretty Books. As part of her blog tour, Chloe’s here to talk about something that many of us will 100% relate to… social media and anxiety.
By the time I reached adult life, I’d pretty much levelled out my relationship with social media. I’d worked out all my dos and don’ts during my teenage years and social media wasn’t something that heavily encroached on my time or disturbed my peace of mind. I’d finally worked out a way to take all the fun stuff (e.g. tweets about books I should be reading, connecting with people from the past) without the bad (e.g. wondering how my whole day got spent staring at mindless crap, or constantly comparing my own life to other people’s). Then I got a book deal.
Suddenly my lovely, calm balance was thrown… and I didn’t expect it. I’m twenty-five, not fifteen but out of nowhere, I was refreshing my Twitter notifications every five minutes and even, dare I admit it, searching my own name. Self-Googling is probably one of the least attractive things a person can do, but I’m prepared to hold my hands up. I did it. I did it a lot. It surprises me, now, that I didn’t anticipate this reaction. Putting your writing out there for the entire world to judge is a pretty huge thing to do (and I genuinely applaud every single person who gives it a go), but when all of those judgements are on the internet? … That’s terrifying. Of course, my healthy balance with social media was toppled. It’s a bit like going back to school and knowing everyone’s talking about something you did. Except what they’re saying is public and immortalised.
When I say I was checking Twitter every five minutes, I really do mean Every. Five. Minutes. Sometimes more. I think when you’re anxious about something, as I was with the book, or as Emma was with Leon, social media is dangerous because it provides immediate relief, but can be damaging in the long term. In the short term, Emma would find comfort in seeing the person who broke her heart, and in the short term, I’d think, oh great, no one has said anything bad about the book in the past five minutes. But overall, doing that meant Emma didn’t move on, and it meant I fed my anxiety until it got bigger and bigger.
I think I knew it was becoming a problem, but I kept dismissing it, saying ‘once this period of stress is over, it will go away.’ But a few months ago, my boyfriend – who is lovely and barely ever complains about anything crappy I do – said that he was starting to feel worn down by the fact I never seemed to be listening to him. I was constantly paying attention to my phone instead. It was then I realised (or remembered?) that unfortunately, these things don’t tend to just ‘go away’. You have to work on them to get them to go away. I’m feeling so much better now, but it did take effort after letting things slide. Once I found I’d reverted to being my teenage self, where my obsessive personality traits and anxieties interacted massively with my relationship with social media, I had to remind myself of techniques I used to stop it taking over. These are some basic things I’ve done to help myself, now and as a fifteen-year-old:
- Setting Time Periods For Usage
This is so basic really… but incredibly hard to master. Sure, I say I’ll only check it at 3pm, but it’s so easy to just have a quick click. When you add up all those quick clicks, though, it’s not so quick. Being strict with myself on times I’m allowed to log in, and moving my phone to a different room to make sure I don’t swipe out of habit, has been so incredibly helpful in claiming back my life. A tweet I would have seen after 5 minutes will still be there 3 hours later, and that way I don’t waste my entire day and I’m able to get some emotional distance.
- Redirecting My Thoughts
Sometimes, even when I’ve put my phone in the other room, I’ve found myself wondering about what’s on there and becoming anxious to check it. If I’m doing that, then really I might as well be checking it. It’s having the same emotional impact on me. Forcing myself to concentrate on other thoughts as quickly as possible every single time it enters my mind is easier said than done, but necessary for me if limiting social media usage is going to work.
- Being In The Room
This is similar to the first two points, but I just wanted to expand on it with regards to hanging out with people IRL. There have been times over the past year when half the time, I may as well not have been out at all. Because I’m in another dimension, on my phone. This has been massively damaging to all my relationships. Putting the phone away when I’m out with other people has made a massive difference to my friendships and to my own state of mind.
- Not Searching Myself, Full Stop
This really only applies to someone with work in the public domain, but after speaking with other authors and reading Lauren Graham’s memoir (so I know as a massive GG fan I’m biased, but it’s really funny and inspirational), I decided to go cold turkey on searching myself. Thank you, wise Lauren, you’re so right – what good can come of it? People tend to send you the nice stuff and you don’t need to see the bad. I’ve been tempted, but I haven’t done it for 8 weeks now, and the difference to my peace of mind has been incredible.
- Remembering ‘Forever’ Doesn’t Mean As Much As I Think
In the same way that, a few months ago, I was stressing over a bad Goodreads review being out there for everyone to see, forever, as a teenager I was stressing about bad photos being out there for everyone to see. But really, apart from me, who on Earth is looking or caring? They might technically be out there, but so is everything else, now – remembering that things get lost in amongst the huge abundance of stuff online, and remembering no one cares about my bad photos or bad reviews as much as I do, even if they do happen to stumble across them, has been a massive relief.
Thank you so much, Chloe! 💙 I’ve been (trying to) give myself more social media breaks. Twitter is definitely a source of anxiety for me – it’s tricky to remember that there’s so much you don’t see on social media – and I’m also a big fan of ‘being in the room’. I’ve been out at dinner or at a friends’ house while they’ve been stuck to their phones, chatting away to other people. It doesn’t make for a very nice experience, so I make an effort to put my phone away, too!
Editing Emma is out now – read more about it over on Goodreads – and I’ll be reviewing Chloe’s hilarious book on Pretty Books soon.