Trigger warning- there are topics in this post that relate to mental illness, suicidality, violence, abuse, and PTSD. If you are suicidal, call the national hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the crisis line at 741-741. For veterans in crisis, text 838-255.
I've been rolling this post around in my head for a long time, probably a few years now. There are nuances to the collective ideas we speak that have become more clear during quarantine.
Back in January, I found out that I had a person who claimed to work for me created a profile of my business with the Better Business Bureau. This was followed by a string of credit card breaches, and some false claims that I had charged people for things I didn't.
It was apparent to everyone who I reported it to that I had been either phished by a phony email, or my business had been hacked. Either way, I had to take a hard look at where the other breaches could have come from.
There were several places. Social media was one, as free apps are never secure, and contain a lot of your information. Chrome Browser was the other, its breached extensions having logged many of my keystrokes. But the most disconcerting thing was that someone could take my business info and try to make it their own.
Apparently anyone can take the information you have on the internet and claim that it is theirs. That is why I google my business all the time, to see if there is any erroneous info out there. In this long process that lasted months into quarantine, I took a good, hard look at what social media and other ways of spending my business' time had done to me.
Once I took a large step back, and decided to consider removing myself from several online platforms (even my website had been hacked), I began to notice a bigger pattern that I have been noticing for years. Quarantine seemed to make it glaring now.
I had started to hear this a lot, when covid began. A lot of stress from my clients, a lot of self-deprecation, a lot of self-doubt and lack of self-worth had always been present with people who used social media. But this was different.
The collective consciousness often reflects itself in narratives. Narratives are stories we as a society repeat to ourselves. Narratives are widely distributed by social media and the internet. The internet is not that old, only since 1996 has it been around, but since the advent of social media platforms, the way in which we use it as a collective to spread narratives has changed.
The narrative now was that those things that people feel when they use social media, and focus on what others have going right with their lives, and what they do not, was permanent. With the advent of covid, the added helplessness of quarantine meant that not only were people powerless, they were also scared that nothing would ever change.
They would now not ever be able to better themselves, or have a better life, or move on from the past, now that covid was triggering everything. I hoped that this might be uncommon, but I heard it from many different clients.
So, back to my idea a few years ago. When I stopped practicing Allopathic medicine and went into Wellness, I had to change my language. I had to start by saying "I am well", rather than "I am fine". Wellness started to take hold, and the language around it.
Back then (2010-13), social media was still rather new. I used it a lot, but I was still seeing my friends, and chatting, and following inspirational pages. I purposely stay away from the news' sensationalism, and I do not in any way, shape, or form participate in posts that have any kind of violence attached to them.
What changed? During quarantine, when I was forced to take a step back and consider deleting my hacked accounts, I started to notice something. My time away from social media and the internet had been really good. I needed the mental break. I started to be more productive. And I started to notice the new narratives.
Back when the internet was new, there were of course forums where people could talk, but the social platforms were just that, social. Ways to keep up with family and friends. During covid it morphed into something I have always admired, a way to promote social justice. I've always been for these causes. But the spin was what got to me.
About five years ago, the internet was all about people's stories, what they had overcome, and how they made their lives better. In the past five years, what had started to creep in was comparison, and a keeping up with the Joneses mentality. The fighting got worse, and the forums started to be a place of contention rather than civil discourse.
And then suddenly, I noticed it had been in my face for a while. Again, I don't watch the news on purpose. Social media used to be my refuge away from that stuff so that I could focus on the things that mattered, the people I love and my business. But my feed started to fill up with news. Bad news.
Daily during quarantine I was hiding violent, or hateful posts. Posts about abuse and other issues. Posts that I rarely had to worry about before. My favorite platform had become a place of violence, and the sad thing was that I hadn't even noticed the gradual shift. Covid made it obvious.
I realized after the last step back after a hack (I've had to report hacking five times), that I have now seen three murders on social media. I've seen footage and photos. And that is not what I was there for. I was there to see inspiration only. I didn't ask for that footage or seek it out. It was there in my feed, repeated several times.
Something shifted during quarantine in the collective consciousness, to tolerance of the violent behavior that had started to appear on social channels a few years ago. It was out in the open now, and it had been deemed acceptable to see it. It's been studied many times in history, what happens to the collective psyche when people are locked down, and what followed isn't unique to our situation.
So, I stopped using that platform. If it wasn't for my business page and my lovely friends and followers, I would have stepped off it altogether. And my mental health improved. I no longer compared what I was doing every day to others, and I no longer had to follow and listen to the collective narratives that are repeated over and over on social platforms.
I am not good enough
I don't have power to change my situation
I won't ever heal from this
I am not smart enough
I doubt my own wisdom
They were in my face, and I hadn't noticed how much they had influenced me. I had noticed it in my clients years ago, but had not yet noticed it in myself, until now. I really believed these ideas because they were in my face every day, and we have little to no power over what comes up in our news feeds, just like we have no power over what we see on the news.
I also noticed that a lot of the stories of overcoming abuse had taken center stage. These are inspirational, but the language used bothered me. There were intimate details, and it had become acceptable to share them. Social media had also introduced the words PTSD, suicidal, and anxious, as if anyone could suffer from them.
I realized that what had been introduced into the collective consciousness was this idea that we are all mentally ill. And if you are using social media, this idea will be repeated to you daily, several times a day. You are anxious. You are suicidal. You have PTSD.
What I found so interesting after stepping back from all that mess, was that I truly believed that narrative. That I had those things. But then I remembered the truly mentally ill people I have known and taken care of, and I remembered life with my father.
He was truly suicidal most of the time, and truly anxious. He was paranoid and afraid to leave the house. He shook a lot of the time and had regular digestive issues from fear. He frequently talked about death, and attempted to bring it about three times, before succeeding in 2012.
I had a patient long ago who had true PTSD. He threw a chair at a hospital window, trying to break it, believing he was still in Vietnam. Something about being in the hospital had triggered flashbacks for him.
Social media has introduced the concept that the average person can suffer from these things. I can assure you, you don't. You may be worried about what is coming, or may get butterflies in your stomach, but you aren't truly anxious. And you may think about death, but you aren't suicidal. People with true suicidal ideation often have a plan and a way to carry out that plan (edit- if you do, see the numbers at the start of this post).
You also don't have PTSD, unless you suffer from flashbacks that are so debilitating that you can't function. The fact that social media has introduced these ideas and concepts into the modern vernacular and diagnosed everyone that uses the platforms with it, is a true disservice to the collective consciousness and to our psyche.
We are all mentally ill, we are all anxious, we are all suicidal, and we all have PTSD. How does that sound, now that I say it that way? Ridiculous, right? Because it is.
Please, if you are rooted in the world that is the social experiment, and feel that your self-worth is related to nebulous likes and what you share, step away. It will get you stuck. No one should have a constant barrage of news or media in their face all day. Take a breather. Gain some perspective. You'll be glad you did.
And remember, watch your language. Watch what you say to yourself, and guard your mind, body, and spirit from those places, people, and platforms that tell you that you are somehow flawed. The language is there to keep you stuck. It's not good for you. It doesn't help you grow, heal, or be productive.
We all know this, deep down. All that's needed is to bring it into the light.
Questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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