Chris Jones wrote a piece on Rebecca Marino, the 22-year-old tennis player who, in leaving the tour to deal with her depression, deleted her Facebook and Twitter accounts. Her explanation: ""Social media has taken its toll on me."
It is probably a very, very good idea for someone dealing with serious depression to get offline, particularly if that person is a professional athlete with a ton of uninformed, unconnected inputs plugged into her social feedback machine. (I.e. not a true social network, but the hundreds of thousands of random followers that blip into someone's life with a terrifying, artificial familiarity granted thanks to social media.)
It is not a good idea, or even a particularly accurate one, to suggest that social media would force you to be anything but what you have to be in the rest of your life: careful, vigilant, and selective of what you listen to and consider to be of value. It's filtering, something your brain does naturally and Twitter and Facebook allow you to do specifically.
If Chris Jones feels "flatlined" by the internet, then I don't think he really understands it. He's a magazine writer, and a very good one. (Here, read this, and behold said talent.) He is not what I would call an "internet-first writer," meaning I don't know if he understands this salient point: the internet is not this separate, walled-off segment of your life, nor a rude bag of rabid bats thrown into your face every morning. It's exactly like life, but accelerated and with a weird emphasis on cat pictures.*
*Don't think life doesn't do this. One word: beetles. Way too many of them IRL, disproportionately absent online.
And here's the icky, horrid, and needlessly personal part : I am, and have, for the better part of my life in tidy five year-ish cycles, dealt with depression. Dealing is the right term. You don't fight it, because if you are the kind of person who suffers from depression, then you know you surrender the minute it shows up, and simply send distress signals to the appropriate people. They send meds, changes of routine, and patience. Then you wait for it to blow over, and just pardon yourself for the crying jags, long walks, and repeated listens of George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" over your headphones.
I'm just one data point, but the internet has never, ever exacerbated any of that for me, particularly regarding depression. If anything, it helped by giving the best data set in the world on the universal crap-to-gold ratio, i.e. that 90% of everything is crap, and that the 10% worth keeping is a matter of editing and careful curation.
That is something that from the start of this website, and further on into whatever it is I do now, has helped. It's not like I hear one asshole talking, because ten thousand of them at once are merely a statistic. If someone told me to stop writing--which three people, full-stop, in no uncertain terms, have done over the past eight years--then I disregarded it, since there are at any given time three people on the internet who believe anything. I've also disregarded compliments and praise, because that's just as misleading and poisonous in its own way.
(NOTE: This is excepting the time I got retweeted by Jackeé, because holy shit I want that on my tombstone. I am AWESOME for having that happen to me.)
If anything, being on the internet for 12 hours a day for the better part of three Presidential terms has made me way healthier mentally than at any point in my adult life thanks to that: filtering, and learning to deal with the constant river of shit flowing through your existence. You learn to auto-sift, to see a horrendous argument coming a mile away, and to quickly figure out who to deal with and who, in one sense or another, to block. To paraphrase C.T. Fletcher, your ability to shunt incoming traffic onto the onramp for Snap City gets very efficient.
That's not the case for Rebecca Marino, who learned the necessity of the block button the hard way, mostly because she is twenty-two and very depressed, and learning to deal with the biochemical hand she's been given. When she comes back--and she will, if it all works out--she won't have to be less sensitive. She will have to be more selective, something that only comes with time and experience, and that life would have taught her anyway. She'll have to value the voices and people she trusts more, and others less.
That, if done right, won't be a bad thing for her or anyone else. I hope she learns to do that, because when she's depressed and weak it could help save her life. I really, really hope she does, because not giving up entirely is so worth the payoff. I think that every time my children poop on something, or I get to cackle my ass off for an entire night of people I don't know making me laugh while I watch sports. Those would be people online, who, after all, are just people--bad, good, indifferent, sometimes too broken to fix, and sometimes too dull to give anything the courtesy of a gesture towards the door.
P.S. I didn't originally learn this from the internet. I learned it from one of the best movies about mental illness ever. If you pick up the phone and someone tells you to put a shotgun in your mouth, that line is out of order, and you'll just try it later, especially if you happen to be depressed, and out of order yourself.
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