This week’s comic dealt with what I discovered to be an entirely irrational fear of the Internet. It started when I first started using the internet a lot when I got my first computer. This was much later than many others as my dad had an aversion to them at first. Most kids had a computer in the house through most of their high school lives; we got our first when one was given to us as a perk through one of our installation renovation jobs when I was twenty. My main interest in computers was for my art, I had used really early versions of Photoshop in school and knew it would be a benefit for me to try and learn to use the program, especially as I hadn’t really found a colour medium that worked for me.
Of course with the discovery of my new computer came the Internet, unfortunately I missed the glory days of “all your base are belong to us.” and entered as the Internet was fast becoming “the new media” and a viable source of revenue. It was the dawn of what we now call social media, with a variety of websites providing a virtual space for people to share of themselves with the world…sometimes truths, sometimes fiction, mostly anonymous. Myspace, Live Journal, Deviant Art were some of the most popular. Being that I was an artist I only ended up joining Deviant Art, because an odd obstacle would be there to challenge me.
Where even something as simple as signing up for a website causes me unnatural and irrational amounts of anxiety. To the point where I would start to sign up for a website and stop several times, because the fear was so overwhelming. Even with the sites I managed to make accounts for, just having and interacting with the account would cause me a variety of anxieties as well. Before and after posting irrational doubts or concerns would occupy my mind. But if I didn’t post frequently enough I would get anxious I wasn’t posting enough. I’d stew over the time I felt I maybe wasted interacting with these strangers online, but would also feel guilty if I didn’t reciprocate. Fears my work and ideas would be stolen, just an irrational fear of the Internet having record of something as intimate to me as my art. It just got to the point where even just using a DA account became unbearable, but at that point it was easy to just stop using it.
For a few years I danced and avoided the social media revolution, with friends pestering me to join Facebook. Finally I did, just before I started school at Max the Mutt. It became most apparent that social media promotions were going to be vital to my future career when signing up for a variety of social media sites and creating a portfolio was assigned as homework, but that prospect meant using more of these sites at one time. At this point in time I had not yet come to understand or accept this part of my anxiety.
It was only after a few years of using it unaware of the effect it had on me emotionally, that I started to realize what was going on. The ebb and flow of my emotions became directly affected by my social media posting. Didn’t really matter what was going on in the real world, a post that didn’t get the attention I felt it deserved could ruin my day, and even the positive returns were diminishing. Someone unfollowing an account of mine could make me really sad, especially if it could be linked to a specific post, what about it made them want to stop seeing my work? It would consume me, unnecessarily. Seeing highlights from others’ lives would make me question my own happiness. Those people are happy traveling, should I want to travel? Those people are happy with their work, is my work really fulfilling enough? When really I never wanted much, and I have all I dreamed of and more. It got to the point I needed to consciously disconnect from the unhealthy emotional attachment I formed with social media.
I still experience some anxiety over posting online, this comic today was a particularly tough one, but because of my practiced detachment now, I try to put it out, and once it’s out let it go. It is no longer mine to control others reactions will be what they are. No longer will I let it control my happiness, or self-worth.
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On Fire for Anxiety 4