How Social Media Saved My Mental Health

Spending time on the internet doesn’t have to be unhealthy.

Laura Fox
Laura Fox
Jan 16, 2020 · 5 min read
Image from RawPixel

I was seventeen when I developed agoraphobia. Slowly my world became smaller and smaller until it consisted of just my house. I lost my friends, hobbies, and sense of self.

All I had was the internet. Without it, I would have been closed off from the world. I had no friends to chat with about current events, so the internet was how I stayed up to date with the outside world. I couldn’t join a group to do my hobbies or be in a classroom to study. Fortunately, I was able to do these things through the internet. But what helped to keep me human was social media.

When you are cut off from the outside world, it’s easy to lose basic skills. We take for granted how much socialisation allows us to practice these skills every day. With the current obsession of having a new year’s resolution to cut out social media, I feel compelled to talk about how I wouldn’t be here without sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Of course, there is a dark side to social media and it can negatively impact one’s mental health. And it’s important not to use it as a crutch. I was actively working on my agoraphobia instead of using social media as an avoidance tactic. I can happily say that I haven’t been agoraphobic for ten years.

Social media is given a hard time and so are people that use it regularly. It’s almost as if people think there is something superior about not spending much time on Facebook. Sure, there is a relationship between excessive social media use and poor mental health. But for people like myself, using social media has saved my mental health.

Agoraphobia meant I lost a lot of friendships. I was too young to understand it myself, so it was no surprise that my friends couldn’t understand it either. All they knew what that I constantly said no to things. They must have thought that I no longer wanted to be part of the friendship group.

Social media meant I could keep in contact with friends. Being able to message them and keep up to date with what they were doing made me feel less left out. To this day I still remain in contact with people I was unable to see again in person. Because that contact wasn’t broken, it was much easier for me to start seeing people again when I recovered from my agoraphobia.

Not only was I able to remain in contact with friends, I was also able to make new ones thanks to social media. It gave me access to people with similar values and interests. I found it difficult to meet like-minded people in real life and often felt alone. Social media changed that and I am still friends with these people today.

Accessing any sort of support group in my community was impossible with my agoraphobia. Even if I was able to leave the house, such groups were few and far between. But social media allowed me to become part of supportive communities. I joined mental health support groups and for the first time in my life, I was able to talk to people who were just like me.

Although I am no longer agoraphobic, I still find these groups beneficial for my mental health. I am recovering from postnatal depression and have found support groups on Facebook to be very comforting. I even found one that ran sessions in my local area. Without social media, I would have no knowledge of a group that is pretty much on my doorstep.

When you have a mental illness it’s easy to lose your identity. I was becoming a person with agoraphobia and nothing more. Part of my recovery was rediscovering my identity and social media helped me to do that. Simple things like sharing links to music I like or uploading pictures of my artwork gave me back my sense of self. And supportive comments from online friends motivated me to continue with hobbies instead of cutting myself off from anything enjoyable.

Being a new mom has been lonely at times. Some days I can’t get out of the house or have an adult conversation. It’s difficult to meet up with friends or do anything for myself. Social media has been helpful in ensuring that I am not cut off from my previous life. I am still able to connect with friends and we can keep up to date with each other’s lives. Being able to stay connected to colleagues has made me feel less anxious about returning to work. Sometimes being able to log into one of my social media accounts has stopped me from going mad when I’m having days when I can’t get anything done.

If used in a healthy way, social media can be beneficial for mental health. I believe I would not have conquered my agoraphobia without it and would have had a much harder time adjusting to normal life again. I have used it to be open about my postnatal depression and I would not have been able to do that in real life. The support I have received has contributed so much to my recovery. Whether it be a message from a fellow mother letting me know they understand or a nice comment on a picture I’ve uploaded of me and my daughter making it out of the house.

If anything is used in an unhealthy way it will negatively impact a person’s mental health. But not everyone is using things like social media as a crutch. The next time you feel an impulse to judge how open someone is on social media or how much they seem to enjoy using it, bear in mind that it might be helping them and a supportive comment from yourself could help them even more.

Laura Fox is a mental health worker and a mother recovering from postnatal depression. You can follow her mental health page on Facebook and stay up to date with her writing on Twitter and Instagram.

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