In a previous post I wrote about loneliness I almost sang the praises of social media and technology in helping to prevent loneliness setting in; all the positives that can come with it and how it can help me to feel less lonely (You can read that post about loneliness here). However, that’s not to say there isn’t drawbacks. In that previous post I mentioned there are days I’m simply not well enough to manage screens, or need a break from the online world. But there are others.
Now, before you read any further I want to stress that what I am about to write isn’t meant to discourage anyone from posting what they want to on social media, after all it is your social media page and you can post what you like. This is just something I’ve become aware of feeling myself, and I’m sure others with chronic illnesses probably feel the same at some time or another.
It’s often said that social media is a highlight reel of your life, and lets face it, that is pretty much the truth of the matter. The focus is very much on the things you do, the achievements you complete and the things which make you smile and feel good. And why not? Because sharing your happiness with your friends is what life is all about is it not?
I do the same. If you look through my social media accounts you will often find it’s notes of positive things; little trips out, the things I haven’t been able to manage for a while and have now done again, things I’m proud of.
But there are times when scrolling through social media and looking at what friends, family and even complete strangers are posting about doing, only serves to highlight how restricted my life is in comparison, and how lonely it is too. As a rule, I try not to compare my life to others, as the only thing it serves to do is drain the enjoyment out of my life.
However, it’s impossible to live by that rule all of the time. When all you see when you log in to social media is people getting engaged, married, having babies, new jobs, new houses, going out for drinks with friends etc. I can’t help but look at my life and realise how small and restricted it is.
The truth is, over the years of illness, the number of friends and family I have who visit in person has dwindled to just a couple. Yes, I have some amazing friends made through charities and social media, but they all live quite a distance away and often neither of us is well enough to travel to meet.
And it’s not just about the number; as the years have passed and they’ve got on with their lives, as I would have done if I wasn’t so unwell, I feel like a gulf has opened up between us. With some friends and family I simply don’t know what to talk about any more; we don’t have a lot in common and I can no longer relate to what is going on in there lives, and they can’t relate to what mine is like either. All those experiences which come with age; getting your first job, working, having a partner, moving out, having kids… none of that applies to me yet. My full time job right now is managing my health and hospital appointments, relying on my parents to cook dinner, get me to appointments and more. Not something a lot of healthy people can relate to!
I can’t do a lot of the things I see posts about, even the seemingly ‘normal’ things of meeting friends for drinks or a meal, this has to be arranged at a time that will be manageable for me, and sometimes will have to be at my parents house, in their living room because I’m not well enough to leave the house. Otherwise it’s a case of a friend, mastering the art of loading a wheelchair into the boot of their car, and unloading it at the other end. Sometimes pushing me, other times I’ll self-propel, that all depends on the distance needing to be covered and how I am on the day.
Sitting alone, at home scrolling through social media, sometimes that reality hits me like a ton of bricks, and I realise just how restricted, and yes, lonely, my life is. It sometimes feels like I’m the only one going through this, even though I now there are many in a similar boat. And I also know that my social media posts, my highlight reel, could be causing someone to feel the same way I do sometimes. I try to be open and share the not-so-good times on my social media too, but somehow it’s more difficult to share those moments than it is to share the good bits.
So if you ever feel lonely scrolling through, please remember that it is a highlight reel, and that you are not alone in feeling this way. If you’re like me, you’ll probably feel reluctant to do what I’m about to suggest because you don’t want to bother them, but drop a friend a message, even if it’s just to say “Hi” and see where the conversation goes. Or if you’ve noticed someone hasn’t posted anything for a while, or you haven’t heard from them do the same.
Just a single conversation can alleviate the loneliness, no matter how short that conversation might be.