I love social media. I really do, and I'm not ashamed to admit the fact that I spend most of my spare time, whether I'm at home or out and about, flicking through my Facebook and Twitter feeds, instant messaging my friends, tweeting celebrities in the vain hope that someone will reply (Zedd, Neon Jungle and Jenna Marbles have interacted with me on Twitter. Keep trying, it does eventually work) or simply browsing people's snaps of their lunch on Instagram.
However, when you're getting no activity on your various websites, feelings of depression can begin to set in. Why did that girl get 10 likes for saying she's looking forward to going out tonight, but my witty status seems to have been ignored? Why do some people get to travel to Australia, New Zealand and go backpacking across multiple countries? (I have three Facebook friends blogging about these experiences at the moment, it's a source of extreme envy). Your own life begins to look dull, grey and boring in comparison. "What did you do today?" "Woke up, went to a seminar, worked on an essay, watched Vampire Diaries reruns on Netflix." (True story).
When you're surrounded by people living seemingly amazing lives, it's hard to look forward and realise that there are loads of similar opportunities waiting for you in the future. I recently read an article about how loads of students feel lonely in a world where we're engulfed by virtual social activity. Is there such a thing as too much social interaction? I think so, because, as with all things, there are good times and bad times. Sometimes you're talking to three or four people at once on Facebook, someone retweeted your Tweet, you've just taken a really cool picture and posted it to Instagram, and life feels great. However, during periods where all your friends are busy, or it's peak essay-writing and revision time (just gone through the essay one, give it two weeks and it'll be the revision one), you can have vast amounts of time with no social contact at all, and this comes as a sudden and unwelcome change. Our feelings of depression and isolation can become heightened, and negative thoughts begin to creep in. "Why is no one talking to me?" "Everyone is busier than me." "I obviously don't have a life." "I'm so lonely." And once these feelings set in, they're hard to shake off.
In the real world, talking to people involves a pretty continuous flow of conversation, and interactions are easy. However, while we're incredibly socially connected online, this can actually make it easier to feel offended at little things. "She's seen my message on Facebook. Why hasn't she replied? Maybe I'm not worth replying to." This person could simply be busy. As one of my friends told me the other day, "Just because I saw your message doesn't always mean I can reply. I was driving home yesterday and then I was so knackered I went to bed." It isn't a personal affront, but it's easy to feel that way. The same goes for things such as tweets. If no one listens to what you see as a mildly entertaining tale of your day, spread out in multiple well-worded tweets, you can begin to think that your day didn't really matter. That you don't matter. And then you can fall into a pit of depression.
What would I recommend in order to eradicate these feelings of depression and isolation? For one thing, we spend so much time online that I think some of the time we forget that the real world exists. Use the Internet to plan a meeting in the "Outernet" (as one Tumblr user so aptly named it). Get some perspective - people don't notice your activity all the time because so much actually goes on, especially on sites like Twitter, that it's hard to keep up. Instant replies aren't always to be expected - and this doesn't necessarily mean they're off living an "amazing" life - they could be busy watching reruns of Vampire Diaries, too.