The holidays are often a time for retrospection. While we engage with our friends and families, we often disengage from social media. Being plugged in 24/7 via our smartphones, tablets, and laptops can take its toll. It’s no wonder many of us decide to unplug this time of year and be in the moment. After all, many say that “the most wonderful time of the year” can be their worst, especially online.
I, however, will be one of those that opt to continue to stay plugged in.
Holidays, especially those that take place during the winter months, can be detrimental for those with mental illness, chronic illnesses, the LGBTQ+ community, and many others. For so many of those people, their social isolation can escalate this time of year.
Nearly 40% of LGBTQ+ individuals say that they are rejected or estranged from friends and family. Holidays are a notorious time for family togetherness, which already faces the added stress of the perfect Hallmark card fantasy. Scrolling through the idealistic pictures of drinking hot cocoa in front of the Christmas tree could exacerbate their existing anxiety of rejection. After all, nothing makes us think of what we don’t have more than seeing what everyone else does. I’m staying online for my LGBTQ+ peers who feel alone and need a friend to talk to.
45% of Americans suffer from a chronic illness. Chronic illnesses and their severity vary, but many leave their sufferers unable to perform even the most basic tasks. Opening Facebook and seeing all the beautiful decor and elaborate meals is hard when you barely have the energy to take a shower, much less go all out with garland and tinsel. I’m staying online for my fellow spoonies who need to reach out during a flare.
Social media can be a life preserve for those of us who feel like we are existing on the fringes.
Over 19% of Americans suffered from a mental illness in 2018, and suicide is the 2nd leading cause of preventable death in individuals 15-34. Mental illness is a very serious business. When you’re suffering from a monster like depression or anxiety, it’s all consuming. Medical assistance and treatment are often life saving. That, however, does not lessen any of the stigma and isolation we feel. It’s hard to get excited about baking cookies when you can’t even muster up the energy to get out of bed. As a moderator for a Facebook group aimed at offering fellowship for these very issues, I’ll stay logged in.
The bottom line is that social media can have a dark side. Seeing everything the Joneses ordered from Amazon Prime can inspire jealousy, envy, and discontent. It’s only human for us to want what we don’t have, whatever that may be. But social media can be a life preserve for those of us who feel like we are existing on the fringes. It offers platform communities to reach out to the like-minded. It affords us the opportunities to get to know others who are just like us.
I’ll be staying online this holiday season, so that no matter what they’re facing, nobody has to feel like they’re alone.
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