I got my first smartphone about six years ago at the age of twenty four.
Whilst certainly some might find that strange, for me it felt perfectly normal. I never felt I needed one. Sure, I was on social media as a teenager (albeit not massively) - MSN, Myspace, Bebo and eventually Facebook, but made the decision to close all of my social accounts when I was about nineteen. Most of my time was spent outdoors with our horses or with Becky talking about life and topics that interested us. Nothing was missing from my life, and generally back then my mental health was pretty good.
Fast forwarding to more recent times, I decided to pick an iPhone up when learning how to code to start documenting my journey as well as using the internet when I had spare time to read up on technical subjects. I posted heavily on Instagram, my account eventually racked up about 12,000 followers. Focusing on my career, I created a LinkedIn account and eventually a Twitter account to connect with likeminded people and grow my network.
Whilst I am very conscious about my use of such platforms, and am really strict with the amount of accounts as well as the types of accounts I follow, I can directly relate all of my anxiety and negative thoughts back to those platforms. Just owning these accounts is in a way overwhelming, knowing they are there rumbling away in the background trying their best to tempt me into a painful loop of doom-scrolling.
I have spent some time writing down a little bit about each platform and exploring what causes me the anxiety.
LinkedIn is difficult because it is nearly impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff. For instance, the other day I posted that I was looking to hire a Frontend engineer for my team and would be open to speak to any people potentially interested in the role - within a matter of hours I had received 15 messages from recruitment agencies, 4 phone calls to my personal number (also recruitment agencies), and 3 emails to my work email (also recruitment agencies).
On top of the flood of cold-messages I receive on a daily basis, I just do not have the time to filter through the messages, let alone reply to everyone. The messages, emails and phone calls are still going on. It makes the platform unusable for me, which is such a shame because it is one of the best ways to directly contact folk and focus on professional networking.
My anxiety here stems from the fact I am letting people down. I am polite, and generally will make time for anyone. Consciously not replying to messages gives me a huge amount of guilt.
When I was learning to code, Instagram was a fantastic community. It was fairly tight-knit, most of the developers followed each other, and I made a lot of good friends. However since then it has grown into something completely different.
What was once a great platform for micro-blogging, turned into a slurry of bad content. Click bait titles, uncredited reposting, grifters and generally just shit advice from people pretending to be much more experienced than they are to get likes and followers is the new norm.
People expect information and help for free, and I have definitely fallen into the trap of being too eager to please people which has lead to a huge amount of wasted time on the app. Similarly to LinkedIn, I get anxious if I cannot reply to people. Sometimes the questions people, who I have never spoken to before, ask would take a particularly long time to answer, or someone wants something very specific that would me time to sort out. Again, I simply do not have enough hours in the day and this makes me feel guilty.
Twitter is possibly the worst one for me. One of my biggest anxieties is based on the fact I wasted much of my early twenties not focusing on my career, and Twitter really flairs up and destroys my feeling of self-worth. Looking at people much younger than me achieve the things I want to be achieving makes me feel low and yes I know that comparing yourself to others is lesson 101 in ensuring healthy social media activity, but it is something I cannot help. But Twitter is genuinely the one I find most useful and valuable, which is ironic, because for me it is easily the most toxic.
I have found that signing in first thing in the morning will skew my vision, and often it affects my focus or mood for the rest of the day. There have been numerous occasions where I have seen a ‘hot take’ that goes against something I have focusing or working on, which in turn often knocks my confidence and then I lose my flow.
Ok cool… Why don’t I just close them down?
Good question, and this is something that I consistently battle with.
Whilst it would be intensely liberating just to delete all of the apps from my phone, I feel as though my career is in part reliant on the networking and exposure that these platforms bring. Hell, I even talk about the importance of social networking in a talk I give to bootcamp students and recent graduates. Cutting ties with the digital world completely is just too much of a big thing for me, and I wish it didn’t have to be that way.
Instagram is definitely the one that has the least impact on my career, so for now, I am going to take a break from there. I have a harder time allowing myself to do that right now for Twitter or LinkedIn.
Maybe this is another demon I need to face, understanding that my career is not dependant on my presence on these applications. All I know is when I am not logged in, checking up on what has been going on, I am much happier and much more productive. But right now, deleting everything is just that one step too far.