“There’s going to be a nuclear war,” my friend looked at me, his eyes wide and sincere. “This will escalate, honest. We need to be prepared.”
I looked at my friend in horror. A friend I admired and respected. My stomach lurched and a knot of apprehension started to swell and grow. A seed of worry, planted there by the media, becoming fertilised and nourished by that one sentence.
I felt a dark cloud settle on me that day. It was the 1990s. A few months before I’d come out of a long-term relationship, been involved in a car crash, and taken my finals at university. All at the same time. It’s fair to say I was a little vulnerable.
And now this. I think it was the break up of Yugoslavia. Or it could have been the Gulf War. It might have been neither.
Thank God then there was no such thing as social media.
Fast forward to 2016. When a tragedy occurs, or a major event that shocks the entire country happens, those who use social media turn to it for solace. They express their shock, their anger, their grief. It all comes spilling out. A stream of consciousness, a fast river of emotions.
To see them, amplified, by seemingly millions of voices, millions of thoughts exiting urgently out of my phone into my (limited) head space, it’s too much. Especially when I’m still in recovery mode.
I have to back off. I have to tear myself away and, temporarily, I delete facebook from my phone. I mute (temporarily) voices on my twitter feed.
Their thoughts and emotions make me anxious. It is affecting my own thoughts and emotions. It is overtaking my own thoughts and emotions.
I am taking in millions of people’s thoughts and emotions.
Whispers of a dark cloud start to form in my head.
So I turn, instead, to writing. I turn to real-life friendships, dog walks and baking. I would turn to gardening, too, but the rain is thwarting that.
I love social media. It is responsible for a lot of good that has happened to me in the last decade. But I make no apologies for backing off from it when it becomes too much.
And incidentally this is not, in any way, a complaint about people tweeting about their emotions. People have every right to do that.
However. My own mental health requires me to step back.
When it stops raining, do come and join me in the garden. I’ll provide the cake.