Yesterday, when the news came through that explosions had rocked the Boston Marathon, I immediately turned to Twitter to get updates. After all, if you want the news fast and often in first person, Twitter is where you need to be. I read and absorbed as much as I could emotionally handle, sent out a tweet of condolences in a sea of thousands, retweeted something Liz Gumbiner (@MOM101) said and then I got the hell away from social media.
Because I knew. I knew like every other time something tragic has happened that it would turn quickly from a wave of support to a sea of vehement discourse. Offer up your prayers and someone is questioning how prayers are going to help, had a tweet scheduled about Product XYZ but you hadn’t heard the news yet or didn’t shut them off, prepare to be vilified. I knew that nothing good would come of hanging out on Twitter or Facebook……for me it would only make matters worse.
After the birth of my daughters, I took a little trip on the Crazy Train. Okay, “crazy” is harsh, let’s say I was on the Emotionally Unstable Train. As in, I thought every muscle ache, every headache, every rash, every gas pain meant that I had one of two things, Cancer or Aids. At least that’s what WebMD told me. This is why self-diagnosis by internet is a bad idea.
Certain I was on death’s doorstep I booked an appointment with my family doctor to, you know, get a second opinion. Now, my doctor, God love her, was incredibly patient with me. She sent me for tests that were all returned negative and suggested kindly that maybe I needed to talk to someone. I dismissed her out of hand and went home, momentarily relieved that I wasn’t dying. A month later though I was back in her office because this time I was convinced I had lung cancer. I was having a hard time breathing, there were times I couldn’t catch my breath at all and I felt like I was being smothered. Obviously all those years I spent smoking caught up with me and I was going to die. My doctor once again agreed to take a look but this time she insisted that I also go talk to a psychologist.
I often relate the story of visiting the psychologist as a bit of a epiphany for me. As soon as I sat down in his office the first words out of his mouth were, “You’re not breathing.” I laughed. “Of course I am.” I said. “No, you’re breathing like your out of wind, like you just ran a race. You’re not stopping to catch your breath.”
And then we talked. Floodgates opened and I cried and cried and all my anxiety about bringing two beautiful little girls into the world came pouring out. What if something happened to me? What if something happened to them? Damnit, I can not control everything!
We also talked about my obsession with the news. Daily, I must have checked the news about 20 times. I didn’t listen to music stations, I listened to news radio and in my down time I was reading opinion column after opinion column. My need to control the uncontrollable also meant that I needed to know what was happening every single moment in the world. As my psychologist pointed out, I was living in a 911 world. Always waiting for the next disaster. Never catching my breath because I was always on guard.
Surprise, surprise, he was right. So I laid off the news, I started working out daily to increase my levels of serotonin and I became an expert filterer.
Which brings me back around to social media. Thankfully, for me anyway, social media wasn’t really huge at the time I was going through this. I can only surmise that if it was I may have had a full mental breakdown.
When I was first introduced to Twitter, I had already adjusted to my “new” way of life and immediately saw the pitfalls in a platform that allowed thousands upon thousands of people to share their opinions on absolutely everything.(yes, yes, there are many positives as well) Which is why, I walked away from it yesterday. I walked away from it after Newtown, and after the Aurora shooting and I will walk away from it during the next tragedy because more often than not the matter at hand becomes diluted with our own personal grievances about religion, politics, business or even someone’s poor spelling. We are silly creatures sometimes.
Having a filter is a good thing when tragedies like this happen.
Three people were killed yesterday and 140 injured. That’s all that matters. The rest is just noise. Sometimes the best way to deal with social media is to just walk away and catch your breath.