Social media is a pandemic

Struggling to find work brought a new level of depression and isolation to the game for me. In previous posts here I’ve acknowledged that I have lots to work on with regards to detaching my self-worth from being employed and not having much money. However, the pandemic converted what was once just a platform for interaction, business and creative expression, and turned it into something much more negative. Social media became a minute-by-minute, play-by-play reminder of the financial stability I didn’t have and the inner-child falling into the pit of despair that I was becoming.

There are countless discussions about the effects of social media on those struggling with depression and isolation, especially for those individuals dealing with a heavier dose of diagnosed clinical depression, addiction and other mental health challenges. Social media and depression, especially amongst teenagers, are a couple of the coziest bedfellows that this decade has to offer. In 2020 when the pandemic joined the party, it created the perfect ménage à trois of doom and despair.

My Facebook news feed and other social media alerts became a relentless hammer beating me in the head all day every day, filled with other people’s life highlights, good times, tropical blue waters, boat trips, adventures in new places, relaxation, work/life balance and freedom. Every week at least 2-3 of my friends were going to Hawaii, or traveling abroad. Every week, all my safely employed friends who could work remotely were taking working vacations all over the world, happily enjoying new experiences in Europe, in a cabin in the woods by a lake, etc. while I sat there in our bedroom in my pajamas wondering what I was going to do about our house full of people that had depended on me for stability.

I sent out resume after resume, cover letter after cover letter and received zero responses (not even automated ones) from companies as we struggled to figure out what we were going to do. I had internal referrals and friends hand delivering my resume to people and just…..nothing. CRICKETS. The few calls I got were from very obviously exhausted and overwhelmed HR folks and recruiters bombarded with stacks of applicants. They were dizzy with their workload and I was just another desperate asshole looking for an offer letter and a paycheck every two weeks. It reminded me of the first DOT COM crash of ’98/’99..but worse.

We all know that, with the exception of a few folks that use Facebook as their dumping ground for personal negativity hoping to get some free “counseling” and validation from their friends about how miserable they choose to be (which was also irritating me because they were at least employed during the pandemic!), most folks are just posting all the highlights, so many highlights, all day long. When you are struggling, unemployed, feeling hopeless and depressed and you see the joy of others all fucking day, it can grind you down to such a low state of mind to the point where you just want to disappear and die. You might say, “well get off social media then..” – but social is how I find work, apply for jobs and do research on companies, manage my side business efforts, test out new ways of making money….so that is just not an option.

In reality, OF COURSE it’s ok to share happiness and positive life experiences on social media! We all do it. Who doesn’t like to share in their joy with family and friends online? What I wasn’t prepared for emotionally was what that would feel like when you are on the ass-end of the deal. My depression and feeling of isolation was hijacking all my zen ability, cutting off my normal innate eternal optimism of hope off at the knees. When I was supposed to be counting my blessings, instead I was counting every hour I wasn’t employed, watching my wife work a full time job and running a side business to make ends meet.

I had to finally admit to myself that I was feeling shittier than I had felt in many many years. My childhood trauma defense mechanisms were not working as well as they used to. I was trying to be light and creative on the internet and in my studio but on the inside I was depressed, bitter and angry at anyone experiencing success or stability…which is completely irrational…but I was feeling anything but rational. Every time I said something nice to someone online or congratulated them for something positive, on the inside I just wanted to puke. Expressions of happiness and positivity were nothing short of a giant fucking lie. I was an imposter of joy trapped inside my own dark cloud, being eaten from the inside out. FOMO went from meaning “Fear of Missing Out” to “FUCK OFF MISLEADING OPTIMISM!”

Still to this day, as I write this post, I’m struggling with this. While I have a legion of amazing people in my network looking out for me, friends and former colleagues trying to help me out (for which I’m constantly grateful), I can’t emphasize enough how many “shoe-ins” to multiple job opportunities I thought I had, all dissolving into “thanks for playing” emails, responses and letters or even more fun, just being straight up ghosted.

I always try to convert negative feelings and experiences into opportunities to learn and grow. However, while I’m certain those opportunities are right in front of my face, I often feel too blinded by the army of depressive emotional triggers to see them.

One day at a time…

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