One of the greatest struggles of the present day is trying to stay socially cognizant without getting overwhelmed or harming your mental health. I experience this almost every day on a personal and social level.
I have met more people in the last six years of my life than I had in the first 18. These connections include several social circles that range from formal to closely personal. This requires me to maintain different versions of myself with each of them.
It is not too difficult in itself because humans are inherently complex beings, and we usually have layered personalities. But, the pressure of juggling them on social media is too high. Social circles have gotten mixed up online and it is impossible to restrict any social networking platform to a particular sphere of life. But, I am now wary of actively participating on any of them.
Part of having different personalities for different social circles is knowing what I can safely express with each of them. In an ideal world, we could be perfectly open with each other. But we are not there yet.
I was taught very early on that it is my duty to speak up about things I believe in. But, I have also learned the hard way that we often have to work in harmony with people who don't share our core values or beliefs. Sometimes it is better not to engage in a pointless debate and waste our energy.
A few years ago, when I had different apps for family, friends and career, I could post about social issues on a select few of them freely. If I received criticism, it would be constructive because it was coming from a close personal connection who meant well. I would never have to worry about blatant personal attacks.
But now, that is nearly impossible unless I create closed lists and hide my posts from certain people. It feels like more trouble than it's worth to me.
While it is possible to be a silent observer on social media if active participation is intimidating, even reading or watching other people's posts is exhausting sometimes because of all the negativity.
There is so much use of hate-filled language. Every day, I come across offensive posts filled with casual racism, sexism and just general toxicity.
Some of these are made by people I know and with whom I need to maintain a connection, however flimsy, for complex reasons. So, I can't block them, and individually muting every one of those offenders is cumbersome.
But, I can't just delete the entire app either because it is also home to many of my other, more important connections.
This lack of boundaries has sent me into a social disconnection spiral more than once in the last few years. I would spend days without a single social networking app on my phone and simply unwind. But in the present day, no phone is an island. So, I would eventually have to go back.
It used to be that I would wait until my breaking point to disconnect because I felt guilty that I was abandoning others who were facing the negativity. However, I have come to understand that it is a part of self-care or self-preservation, and I owe myself a break every now and then.
Although I am an advocate of periodical disconnection as self-care, I have experienced the flip side of it. It is very easy to disconnect for too long and cross over to self-absorption.
I am often a couple of days late to learn about important environmental and political phenomena. When I do find out about them, the situation has usually escalated. This sudden rush of disturbing news is even more difficult to digest than the usual small nuggets of despair.
Disconnecting for too long also makes me vulnerable. I have found myself missing out on crucial developments in my personal and professional circles after a few of my offline periods.
Even in the absence of obvious losses, I feel a sense of missing out on the good things lurking in the corner of my mind.
I'm not usually nostalgic. But I often wish for the days when I had distinct, mutually exclusive social media platforms for the different aspects of my life.
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