“The deepest fear we have, ‘the fear beneath all fears’, is the fear of not measuring up, the fear of judgment. It is this fear that creates the stress and depression of everyday life” – Tullian Tchividjian
“Our generation has had no Great War, no Great Depression. Our war is spiritual. Our depression is our lives” – Chuck Palahniuk
Keys…CHECK! Phones…CHECK! Bags…CHECK! Books and Pen…CHECK! Medications…CHECK! Breakfast…well well well, CHECK! Afterwards, I helped her to the car.
A couple of minutes after we left the compound, I realized I didn’t brush my teeth before leaving. Holy Phuck! Gadddammm! I stopped by the roadside and called out to an aboki to bring 50 naira worth of chewing gums. At least, it would help conceal this dreadful smell oozing out of my mouth. I asked if she wanted some. She didn’t reply. Her long hair was dark and the spectacles she wore couldn’t conceal her dejection. She stared blankly into the distance lost in her thoughts; the world around her was filled with reverberating echoes. Echoes that told her nothing…these echoes meant nothing to her. Her fortress was gradually crashing and the ground beneath her feet would cave in…soon, there would be nothing left of her. But thanks to the Almighty, help was on the way. Alhamdulillah!
When we arrived at the venue, we proceeded to the car park to dump the rickety car we came in. I told her everything would be OK. She kept staring into the distance as Justin Timberlake’s Strawberry Bubblegum oozed softly from the stereo. The car engine was still running. As I watched her stare into the distance, I spent a couple more minutes arguing with the voice in my head, whether the escapade I was about to embark on was worthwhile. As usual, the voice opposed it, citing different reasons why I shouldn’t walk through the brown mahogany door.
“Baruu, dis’ gonna be the end o’yo life…nigguurr. You know dem’ psychos and depressed folks are gonna be there?” the freaking voice said. “What you wanna do to ya life? Soon, they’d tell you to give up on your vices? What about the weed you smoke? And all dem’ vodka? Ya azz iz gonna have bouts of withdrawal syndromes. You’z helping a psycho…iz you sure dat’s what you wanna do? Nigguurr…that shiznit iz phucked up. You need ya head to be smacked…nigguurr. You walk thru’ dat door…you’z gone forever nigguurr…you’d come out no longer the same. Ya home boiz iz gonna neglect you. Ya azz iz gonna turn to a Ju-man…nigguurr. You’z gonna be a …”
“Shut da phuck up…you sick crazy phucking voice. I gotta go…I just gotta go. I need to help her”, I screamed out loudly at the car park. She turned abruptly as I screamed. Clearly, it was time to go.
For the past couple of months, the demons in her head were growing in numbers. The voices kept screaming at will…random thoughts kept crashing within her cranium. What’s wrong with them? Don’t they have time to rest…or time for siesta? After I pressurized her, she eventually talked to a shrink who diagnosed her with Social Media Depression – SMD. Ookie Dookie! She was encouraged to attend the evening sessions, where she’d get to meet other people with similar issues. She would listen intently while they told stories of how they overcame their respective problems. And so today was her first session! I had to accompany her to the venue.
Social Media Depression! This is an informal term used to describe the depressive thoughts that arise as a result of using social media. In all honesty, most times, our emotions transcend the keyboards we press and we get to compare ourselves to the virtual friends that litter social media.
The advent of social media has brought with it a lot of benefits such as enhancing our communication skills, improved social connections and technical skills, getting to know about people/places we never knew about, amongst others. On the flip side, it has also brought about depression, poor self-esteem, social isolation and feelings of envy and lack of self-confidence. Some medical experts believe that social media is a tool; therefore, it cannot in and of itself cause a medical illness. Some are also of the opinion that some forms of social media may contribute to feelings of depression for those who are already depressed.
Nowadays, it is not uncommon for a struggling artiste to wake up in a dilapidated building somewhere in Obalende, dejected and asking God why his case is different. He has gone from one record company to another in search of a record deal only to be turned down. The only gigs he gets to perform at are children’s parties in the neighborhood. And at such occasions, the kids and the parents get bored halfway into his dreary performance. He decides to log onto Twitter (just to pass time) only for him to be besieged with the news making the rounds – Burna Boy has struck a new deal with Universal Records. Deep down within his inner man, he knows he is better than Burna Boy with his ogogoro voice. He plunges further into depression and hopes to end it all by snuffing the miserable life out of his body. TRAGIC!
Let me repeat for the umpteenth time; Social Media is not a phuck-worthy issue. It usually gives a false perception of happiness and bliss. Sometimes I cringe in awe and baffle at folks that take stuffs on social media seriously. While attending a colleague’s get-together sometime ago, she kept ranting about how one of her old classmates was doing well in London and she wasn’t. The friend had left the shores of the country after Medical School and was seemingly living a good life. She kept lamenting that she should have followed suit. By now, my life would have been in a better shape than it is, she lamented. I asked her how she knew her friend was doing great for herself, and she replied thus: “Baruu, just visit her Instagram page and you’d see for yourself”.
Smfh…Instagram? For phuck’s sake, anyone could take time out to package and arrange him/herself before taking a picture. It beats my imagination why someone would judge another person’s success, welfare and progress in life by the pictures on Instagram. Social media has inured us to project only our best, although unrealistic, as a new way of virtually keeping up with the contemporary trend. This ultimately affects our mental well-being. The pressure of taking the right picture, with the right filter, wearing the right outfit, at the right place, with the right people is too much pressure already. We are spending a great deal of time in creating our digital identify, an alternate self. What then happens to the real you? What happens to the ideal self we aspire to become? Do we really need the opinion of our virtual friends on social media to determine how we live our lives? Online friends’ posts and updates make your life seem boring in comparison with theirs…who says they’re even telling the truth.
Depression and bullying were in existence long before the advent of social media. But social media has made it possible for people (especially kids and teens) not to escape it easily. In a new study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, it was discovered that people who used Facebook more tended to have more depressive symptoms but social comparison was a mediating factor only for men. It didn’t matter whether a person was making upward, downward or neutral social comparison – they were all linked to a greater likelihood for depressive symptoms. Smiling depression is a term used to describe people who are depressed but do not appear so.
We are often fooled into believing other people’s lives are much better than ours. But you gotta understand that every freaking soul on social media is also wearing a virtual mask, just like others do. A lotta things are unreal on social media; it is not an important issue to bother yourself with. Give it the middle finger, unplug yourself from its shackles, confront your fears and negative thoughts and question its genuineness and realism. Don’t get sucked into the tornado of updates on social media because most of them are unreal and false.
So for the unmarried pretty lady in her mid 30s, who gets depressed after watching Facebook updates of her friends in joyous modes with their husbands and lovely kids…take heart. She has spent endless hours fasting and praying for the right man to come along. The church has become her second home; the altar her second room. She has lost 20kg from fasting every month. Don’t worry…your own time would come. Beneath all those smiles and laughter your Facebook friends exhibit, lie cocoons of self-pity and grief.
Or the young intelligent graduate that has walked the streets of Lagos in search of a job…Don’t worry; your God is on the throne. Never make the mistake of comparing yourself to others because beneath all the Instagram pictures and Facebook posts, lie craters of unhappiness and dejection.
Everyone has battles they fight secretly and thorns that make them grow weary…they simply cover them up with lovely updates on social media. Therefore, it is pertinent to strike a balance between real-time relationships and virtual connections. Capisce!
PS: No formal definition or diagnosis of Social Media Depression (SMD) exists at the time of writing this article. The concept also doesn’t appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But it is a real issue affecting a lot of folks!