I go back and forth on what I think of social media. On the one hand, it's a great way to keep in touch with your network. I had a private facebook group that was the perfect level of communication from my end (I posted whenever I wanted) and the perfect amount of engagement (comments I could read whenever I needed a boost). On the other hand, I think social media can be truly terrible for mental health, and it can get worse when you are vulnerable from an illness. Each of us has insecurities about ourselves: our physical appearance, our actions. "I weigh too much." "I'm not pretty enough." "I'm not popular enough." "I'm not successful enough in my career, in my relationships, in my life."
You get a few people that post everything all the time, an exhaustive documentary miniseries about their meals, their thoughts, their day-to-day. For everyone else, you get a small, carefully-framed peek into their actual life. Social media is a culled snapshot. Everyone KNOWS this, right? If you think about it, you know that facebook is only a fraction of actual life, don't you? When we are vulnerable, social media reaffirms our worst insecurities, showing that everyone else really is having an amazing life, and your life sucks: you have cancer, after all.
If you are open about this experience on social media, you will get the spectrum of responses.
- I love you and want to help.
- You look great! I can't believe YOU have cancer.
- You look terrible! I can't believe you have CANCER.
- Why do you only post happy things? People will think cancer is easy.
- Why do you post so many hard things? This is pretty depressing.
- Your cancer isn't as hard as what I've been through. Let me tell you what real problems look like.
- If you'd just (go vegan/eat better/exercise/take this supplement), you wouldn't have cancer.
You'll get condolences, offers of help, advice. This is nothing you don't get in real life, but on social media, it is multiplied... all the time... with hundreds of people. Social media is a tool. Use it as a tool, and gear it towards creating and maintaining the IRL relationships with wonderful people. Your facebook shares won't get you nausea medication when you wake up spinning, but it can be a good way to crowdsource company for an appointment. Your instagram likes won't keep you company while you get infused with chemo, but posting silly pictures can be a nice distraction. Remember you are not your facebook page. You are not your instagram likes. You don't live in the internet. You live in your body. You live in your IRL relationships with the tangible people who are helping you through this.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT REAL LIFE. I think we could all use the occasional reminder.