My family had been practicing social or physical distancing for two months. My hobby of performing stand up comedy had come to a screeching halt and I found myself, as many other people did at this time, watering plants and trying to make the best of each day together nonstop with my kids and husband. But despite the “unprecedented times,” my anxiety was decreasing. Not about the global state of things, that anxiety was ever-present, but the anxiety that I had known most of my adult life was diminishing. I watched as everyone’s reality in dealing with the pandemic unfolded over social media, not realizing that that very platform was the key to helping to dissolve the remainder of my anxiety.
The anxiety I felt of not being good enough, of not being liked enough, of being a bad parent was decreasing.
It could be said that my brain was seeing that there were far bigger fish to fry as far as worries go, but I think it was something else. I think my forced stand up comedy vacation was the finger that pushed the first domino in the chain reaction which led me to a social media vacation and then to considering not returning to social media- or making big changes with how I interacted with the platform.
Before the huge Monty Python foot of COVID-19 stepped on our world, stand up comedy and performing had become a part of my second persona. I was taking care of my kids during the day and trying to figure out this strange puzzle of what makes people laugh at night. I met some of the greatest people in the state and truly got to step outside of my comfort zone. But comedy isn’t a hobby that you can tinker with here and there like a ship in a bottle and hope to get better at it. You have to be writing and coming up with new material, trying out jokes at open mics, trying old material in new ways at open mics, bombing and getting back up, doing great and not feeling overly confident, getting booked for shows and not getting booked for shows- and those things take time and a lot of mental energy.
So, when all of that suddenly went away, I was surprised how much I began to enjoy the vacation from the mental work of stand up. This was when I thought this would be over a lot sooner. Eye roll. But there was something in me that felt that I should keep trying to make comedy and social distancing work. I tried performing a weekly quarantine show on social media which lasted about a month and a half and virtual open mics. I loved seeing and hearing from my comedy friends. But something was missing, besides the audience. Social distancing was not only causing me to spend more time with my family but also more time with myself and I was beginning to learn HUGE things about myself.
I learned that I was a validation junkie!
Without the sound of the audience validating me and my material, my joy from performing was beginning to go away. I told myself I would take a break from trying to perform for a bit. Telling myself my mind just wasn’t in the right place for writing new material. I was shocked to see that some of the anxiety that always sat in my chest, dissipated after making this mental decision.
But, note how I said, SOME. I was still hooked on social media, big time! I posted constantly, did live streams, and talked about everything that I was thinking, feeling, doing. I wouldn’t feel good about myself unless I got “likes”.
My self-worth was tied to this thing, these images, these blips on the internet.
I was out for a run one day, something I have picked up again during quarantine and was thinking. How could I get this low-grade constant anxiety to go away? And as I ran and sweated and breathed, the answer came back to me.
I need to stop looking for CONSTANT validation on my parenting, my life choices, my flaws… me. When I got home, I wrote one last post on Facebook and walked away.
I had thought that I would take the break just for the summer. But as the summer goes on, my passion for getting back onto social media wanes.
What has life been like for me since I left? More productive. I’m reading so much more. Living in the moment more and not thinking how this would make a great post and wow, won’t they think I’m a great parent because I did this with my kids today, adding to the constant myth that social media pumps out, that everyone’s lives are incredible, making other people feel like they’re failing because every moment isn’t picture perfect. I don’t want to be a part of that or add to that.
During my social media vacation, I’ve really realized that, for me, validation is a drug. I needed it like any addict needs a fix.
Social media has made my self-confidence atrophy due to not ever developing it on my own through the hard mental work that it takes to be a truly confident person. I’ve been lazy and let other people decide for me whether I’m worthy or not with a thumb up emoji or a heart.
Even the hobby that I chose for myself was all about validation and having to be liked.
I have begun to realize that social media is not for me. Just as alcohol is not for an alcoholic. I have to do a lot of mental lifting and gaining muscle before stepping back into that ring again. When I chose to take a social media vacation, I watched a TEDTalk about leaving and the speaker had this great analogy about it. He said that social media is like a slot machine in Vegas. Sometimes you pull a handle and you get a jackpot and you feel great. But most of the time, you pull the handle and get nothing. The worst part is with social media, you don’t spend one weekend around it and head home with some mixed memories. The slot machine follows you around all day long, all week long, all year long.