Does anyone else struggle with managing online engagement and virtual time?
It can be tough to balance the desire for authenticity and connection with the pressure to maintain a consistent virtual presence. Let’s face it, most of us are not social media influencers who can make social media engagement a full-time priority. On top of time, navigating mental health needs can make it hard to show up consistently and interact with others meaningfully. Too often, we allow how we engage with social media to determine relationships. An unliked comment can easily fuel assumptions and fear or even create challenges that devolve one side of a relationship without both parties being aware of what is happening. All that loss when it may have simply been too overwhelming for one person to maintain.
Many people began contacting me on social media a few years ago with suicide-related questions and needs. They found me because of my speaking engagements, content, and networking. A lot of the time, these needs were crisis-related. Which means they were anxiety-filled and oftentimes overwhelming. I found myself “working” during my downtime, breaks, and chances to escape the serious suicide-focused work that takes up much of my life. My social media and virtual connections became energy sucks that required me to be a helper no matter what I had going on in my real-world life. People didn’t even think to ask me how I was doing before they asked me to take on the burden of helping a stranger find their way out of the depths of despair.
Virtual interactions can require more energy and time for some of us than others. We all draw from these interactions in different ways. While some find connection and engagement, others may walk away feeling drained. We aren’t all operating in real or virtual spaces in the same ways. I’ve learned we don’t always consider this as we interact, either.
Online introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts are real!
Like in every other space, we vary in how and what we gain from social media. As someone who battles anxiety and depression and juggles nonstop work and personal life, I never feel I have enough time to focus on social media or virtual connections as relationship-building tools. I will always have more unread messages and unliked comments than I can ever give the time and attention they deserve. While I know this, it hasn’t changed that it’s a constant source of anxiety and guilt.
I have learned the hard way how important it is to recognize what we assume and require of others when we reach out to them. Especially when that reaching out is “out of the blue” and coupled with heavy needs. A basic tip here is to communicate clearly and understand how best to express our issues so that when we ask for help, we aren’t requiring more of a person by needing them first to educate us. If we need to learn how to clearly say what we need while in the process of asking for help, getting help takes that much longer. Not to mention, this added emotional labor adds up so fast for helpers and requires more of them than we often pause to realize.
I’ve wanted to scroll, laugh, and have moments where meaningless memes lightened my mood, only to find I was needed. Rather my skills and knowledge were needed. The needs of others weighed more than my needs and the needs of those who personally know and love me.
I mean, how could you turn someone who is in crisis away?
I have helped repeatedly and walked away wondering what it might have meant because once the help is done, that person has often left without letting me know what happened or if they got the care they needed. I have helped knowing my life was being put on pause in the hopes another’s would go on playing.
Helping requires us to be selfless and less than ourselves in many ways.
That’s why I want to remind you all that you matter, whether or not you maintain a perfect online presence. I know I will never be able to maintain one or interact with you all in the ways I would like. And that’s okay. My priorities are real-world interactions and meaningful work that I pray makes a difference.
It’s okay to take breaks and prioritize self-care, and it’s okay if you can’t always keep up with the demands of social media. But we must recognize that social media and virtual interactions can be another demand for many of us. One that drains energy and exacts a toll.
Let’s commit to being more intentional about our online and virtual time and how we prioritize genuine connection over surface-level engagement. Remember, the most meaningful connections are those where both people are valued as their full selves and can contribute equally to a relationship.
If you struggle with managing your mental health and online presence, know you’re not alone. I struggle, too. I can only hope I’ll become more at ease with balancing my virtual presence in ways that fit my needs and never leave me feeling like I’m not meeting some arbitrary expectation I’ve put on myself.
Remember, You deserve to prioritize your well-being, both online and offline – in whatever ways that need to look for you.
#mentalhealthmatters #authenticity #selfcare #onlinelives #virtualreality
If you’re struggling and unsure how to make it through, connect with a trusted friend or a mental health professional for support.