My problems with Facebook started after I reached an impasse in my career around 2016. I come from a family where most people held traditional jobs like in accounting. I too, under pressure, spent five years studying law to satisfy my father. Amidst this confusion and aimlessness, I realized that sometimes, I couldn’t remember where an entire year had gone.
But, I recall scrolling a lot. Later that turned into playing games like Farmville, where I was sending virtual sheep accessories to my real-life friends. Even haystacks, I think. Facebook gives you a sense of being busy. When I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do, when I didn’t have a purpose, Facebook sucked me in. But there, I would see everyone posting about their success, about new jobs and promotions. On the other hand, I was only using my law degree to ward off the traffic police. It sucked. And I was reliving this feeling of sucking all the time because I was on Facebook all day [looking at other people’s posts].
Throughout this time, my family figured that I was going through something. My mother would judge me, often asking, “What are you so depressed about?” So I blocked her on Facebook, and in hindsight, stopped communicating about my mental health [ever since].
Using Facebook slowly trickled down to other parts of my life. For instance, [I found myself being affected by] other people’s relationships. Like my ex, who had gotten into a long-distance relationship after we broke up, posted about how he sent his girlfriend Harry Potter merchandise a day before her birthday. I love Harry Potter, and when we dated, it wasn’t a long distance relationship. I was right there, but he didn’t make gestures like that for me. This upset me.
I understand that some people might feel these aren’t “real” problems. Like I can afford to take a break, while many can’t afford to live in Bombay [without a job] due to the city’s high cost of living. But it was real to me. I was having severe panic attacks, sometimes I would start crying uncontrollably and didn’t know how to physically stop. And no one [I knew] was speaking about anxiety and depression back then. Facebook made my issues worse. I even wrote a blog post once, about attending a fake Facebook addicts support group, but yeah, there isn’t anything like that here.
“I understand that some people might feel these aren’t ‘real’ problems.”
These circumstances made me feel like I’m alone [in this experience]. Even when I would actually meet my friends, I realized that I had seen everything about them online already — so I just had nothing to talk about. But I couldn’t just tell them, “No, please don’t tell me about this important thing in your life because I already saw it on Facebook.” I’m also an introvert. Small talk has always been difficult for me, so I just started losing interest in people.
When someone posted pictures on Saturday saying, “Friday night done right,” and it got so many likes, I felt like I did something wrong because I spent my Friday at home. I felt like I wasn’t deriving happiness from things that I was supposed to.
“I felt like I wasn’t deriving happiness from things that I was supposed to.”
Later, I met that person, and I had noticed that they would often get 450-500 likes on their pictures on Facebook. We spoke about feeling alone, and they too were lonely on the inside. They said that they added almost anyone and that’s probably how they got so many likes. From the outside, I had thought their life to be perfect: going out and seeming happy with their friends. I felt so stupid for having spent so much time pitying myself over not getting as many likes and not having that life, thinking I’m not cool enough to hang with some people.
Once I deleted Facebook in 2017, I started reading more, and consuming other forms of content, like television, more intently. Earlier, even if I was trying to focus on something else, I would have my phone in my hand, and would just keep scrolling absent-mindedly. I felt especially powerless when I received notifications; I would immediately open my phone when I’d receive one from Facebook. Later, I started dreading the sound of its notifications.
I started therapy some time after this. It helped me surrender and stop feeling scared of my own emotional intensity. People talk a lot about self-love, but I realized it’s more important to like yourself, rather than just saying, “I love how I am.” Because, what makes you who you are? Therapy has helped me embrace my vulnerability, my strong reactions to stimuli and even talking about how sad I am in social spaces. It helped me get past what I perceived to be my inadequacies, when earlier I thought I was just being weak. It shows that I have empathy, and I like that about myself now.
As told to Parthshri Arora