I have a complicated relationship with social media. With the profound isolation necessitated by my chronic illness and immunocompromised state, the opportunity to connect with others via technology has become a lifeline over the years.
But during the most harrowing of times, following my college graduation, digital technology use was not an option for me. My severe neurological symptoms coupled with my heightened sensitivity to electromagnetic fields made even glancing at a phone or a computer screen dangerous.
Within seconds, my equilibrium would shatter, the world would topple sideways, and excruciating sensations would crumple me into a heap of pandemonium. Over what felt like a lifetime, I gradually regained tolerance for phone use and light internet exploration. Exponential technological growth occurred in the time between my exit and return to the realm of virtual interaction.
So omnipresent seemed the avenues to connect with others who have chronic health conditions that I struggled to pull myself away from seeking virtual companionship. It was a gift to connect with people who could understand my daily struggles to persist through the often intangible yet burdensome trials. Not only has social media facilitated a feeling of unity with others who understand the void that chronic loneliness can cause, I’ve also connected with priceless medical professionals via others online.
In these and many other ways, the privileges of being able to utilize technology and access social media have been incredible. However, the habit of communicating via relatively one-dimensional means of connection can become addictive. I’ve found that I often grow frustrated with the limited responsiveness of others when I share personal, heartfelt information. Becoming entrapped in what I know is a very shallow replica of a real social system has messed with my mind. I can simultaneously seek validation and encouragement from complete strangers across the globe but then feel personally wounded when they don’t respond in the way I wish.
The oversaturation of constant information on social media means that we all become a little numb to the personal traumas of others, no matter the level of our concern. I know this, and yet I find that I continuously attempt to fill the void of connection with my peers through the same fruitless mechanisms. Expecting a different result from repeated action might be the definition of insanity, but the established pattern of seeking instantaneous gratification is challenging to break.
After experiencing unexpected heartbreak over the past couple of weeks, my desire to share tidbits of my personal life with a faceless population has dwindled. My therapeutic remedies of self-expression through creative writing and blogging appeal not at all. A break in my almost automatic updates to my Instagram and Facebook accounts has been revealing.
Regardless of how stellar, poignant, or insightful the tidbits I share through social media, they will never fill the void. There is no replacement for the warm fuzzies that blossom through in-person relationships. I’ve learned this in a visceral and haunting way. Learning something, however, is very different from being able to understand it and put it into practice.
The underlying causes of the voids are shrouded in decades of complications. However, it’s worth recognizing the inability of social media to nurture the kind of healing and authentic human connection I crave. That motivates me to pay less attention to the anxiety of going out into the big world. It’s a gentle nudge to say “yes,” to worry, contemplate the risks, and do it anyway.
Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disorder. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cerebral palsy.
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