I want to begin this article by reminding anyone who reads this that I am by no means an “open” person – probably a huge understatement. I don’t think I ever have been but as I grew up to face more challenges I became increasingly secretive. Often I’ve noticed that I think I have poured my heart out to someone when in reality I’ve given them the tiniest slither of information. In “real” life I have spent years trying to convince people that I am okay. Everything is fine don’t be silly! Catching up with old friends I tell stories about my travels and my adventures in life, not the days I spend on the bathroom floor. Anytime I’m posed with the dreaded question of “How are you?” , or even worse, “Are you okay?”, I automatically insist that I’m fine, in fact I’m great!
So why online do I overshare? Why do I find it incredibly difficult to even say “ I’m struggling” to the people I know would care and could help, but I don’t mind broadcasting it to empty space?
I suppose we’re all guilty of it. Oversharing doesn’t always have to be negative. We post photos of our daily activity on Snapchat (even just our lunch), we check-in on Facebook when we’re heading on a plane and upload a selfie from the latest party to Instagram (to prove we were there?) I like to post my photos online but it’s a personal thing. I like to track how my year has gone by seeing the “best bits” in an album, because you wouldn’t post anything less than perfect of course. On a practical note, it helps me clear phone storage. That kind of oversharing I believe is okay. People may get sick of seeing your latest uploads on their timeline but at the end of the day it is overall harmless. You’ve also got to keep in mind that 99% of people don’t care and will just continue scrolling anyway. It’s increasingly easier to overshare our lives. There is so many apps and so much pressure to share that this is unsurprising.
As I’ve grown up however, I recognise that I overshare the “negatives” too. It’s something I don’t fully understand yet but I think for someone who feels uncomfortable talking about their emotions and is as tight lipped as I am when it comes to how I feel, online is just easier. As I write this I’m not talking to anyone. I’m not writing it with the consideration that people might take the time to read it. I am simply writing. In a sense I believe it’s great. Being creative has always helped me to cope with my emotions. When I was younger I used to journal if I was upset. On the flip side I cannot bear to read them now. I was 11 years old and filling pages upon pages of a journal with self-hatred and torment. Online can also allow you to connect with others who feel the same way as you. I found a wonderful support group filled with other teenagers going through the same difficulties and it allowed people to advise me on the best next step to take. It let me see I wasn’t alone and that it genuinely can get better. On the other hand, it was a rather toxic environment. It felt like a competition to see who was “sick” enough.
I think I find it easier to talk to this “device without a pulse” because I don’t have to worry about the immediate reaction. My laptop isn’t going to shake it’s head and tell me I should just grow up. My phone isn’t going to turn it’s back in anger and disgust. Just like we’re taught that a laptop is a screen for bullies to hide behind, it is also a shield between my brain and reality. It is always easier to text how you feel and still get the message out that you are hurting.
For the people on the receiving end it can be so much harder. To receive a text that screams out for help but knowing you can do nothing to help is incredibly difficult. It hurts. That was never my intention. Anytime I reach out to my friends for help I never ever want to upset them or cause them distress. I know sometimes they struggle to hear it or rather read it. It’s tricky to see someone you love rely on the vacant space of social media rather than real people. I think I’m fearful I’ll be judged. Logically I know I won’t, I know my friends are completely willing to support me as well as they can but the nagging voice at the back of my head convinces me otherwise. When the people who are meant to love and care for you unconditionally don’t want to know and don’t want to support you, it’s easier to find comfort online. Protected by a screen. I know that sharing the darker moments can cause distress but simultaneously if I don’t share it in a method I’m comfortable with, will I ever share it at all?
I know people who can experience tragic events and nobody will ever find out except an extremely tight circle of friends/family. That’s how I wish I was but I struggle so much to chat to those people. So instead I rant to a screen. I just find it so perplexing that getting information out of me in reality is like drawing blood yet I’d spill my guts online. Why?
I think a small part of me hopes someone will notice and ask if I’m okay. I think when I’m really, really struggling, when I’m having a really dark day I don’t know how to make it better and how to help myself back out the massive pit I’m in. So I hope someone else will. I am not delusional enough to believe that they can “cure” me because at the end of the day the cliche saying that “only you can save yourself” is completely true. I don’t think I can do it on my own yet though and I believe that’s the main reason I turn to social media. Is that attention seeking? Is it a cry for help?
Maybe. I think it’s a form of attention seeking. I don’t do it for “attention” in the stereotypical sense. I think I do it in the sense that I feel completely lost and I just want someone to read my text/tweet whatever and say “I know how to fix this”. I’m seeking a solution. When I was slightly younger that’s what people labelled me and I didn’t know how to explain that that wasn’t my intention. I don’t want pity or sympathy. I just want to know how to get better. Online isn’t the way to do this and I know that but I don’t know where else to turn. It definitely is a form of a cry for help.
Ironically maybe, when people follow up on these posts and ask me if I’m okay I’ll tell them I’m fine. I cannot bring myself to answer that question with no. I’m working on it and I’m trying to rely on social media less. Writing helps. Writing lets me turn it into something creative and makes me consider how I feel before I put it out to the world. Writing also helps me document how I feel and reflect on the harder days.
I think what I’ve learned is most important, no matter how much you rely on social media as an outlet or an escape or just a void to scream into, it’s important to take a step back and reflect. Before you send that passive aggressive tweet at 3am or text a ramble of nonsensical, concerning thoughts to a friend, step away and think. I’m not saying not to share it, just consider before you do.
Most importantly reach out to real people. Spend time with your friends and family. Find a hobby, read a book, go on a day trip. Do little things that make the hard days easier. Talk. Talk to people. Anyone. No matter how isolated you feel someone will care.
Start talking, stop sharing.
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers worldwide with an online platform to share their own experiences to be able to help, inform and educate others on a variety of different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all young people. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.