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Tell Me About It: Is staying off social media the right thing to do?
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Tell Me About It

Tell Me About It: Is staying off social media the right thing to do?

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(Adapted from an online discussion.)

Hi, Carolyn:

My New Year’s resolution was to take a break from social media, which I found was making me feel insecure and competitive. I’ve made it this far, but I miss, of all things, torturing myself with pictures of people’s cute babies and fancy date nights.

Staying off is the right thing to do, right? The bad feelings it gives me aren’t worth keeping marginally in touch with old acquaintances from high school?

— Embargoed

Right.

So, good stuff, recognizing something isn’t good for you and taking action to cut the supply.

But what are you doing on the other end, to increase your access to things that help you feel good about yourself?

Think of this as withdrawal, like it would be for any addiction. You run the risk of relapse if you lose focus or if you don’t build up alternative, productive, more fulfilling ways to use your time.

Re: Social media:

This happened to me, too. I used to read parenting stuff online, compare myself with others and beat myself up for not matching them. It felt good to feel like I was not measuring it up. It felt good to feel like a failure.

I can’t explain why it did, but that was how I felt. It was very, very unhealthy and a terrible example to set for my kids.

I quit social media, and eventually I stopped wanting to make myself feel bad. Keep going with the embargo. You can do it.

— Feeling Better

Like picking a scab. Good for you for breaking the habit.

Hi, Carolyn:

Long story short, my elderly dad has been cheating on my elderly mom for years. Decades, actually. She knows this, cries when she finds out about a new tryst, threatens divorce and goes through the motions of separating.

At first my dad denies it and gaslights her, then angrily admits it and blames her, and then finally cries and apologizes to her. She accepts the apology, there’s a brief honeymoon period, and the cycle repeats.

This is exhausting for us adult children. The last time it happened, I kept my distance from both of them for a few months because I was so emotionally drained by it all, but I understand these are their lives and their choices.

Of course, he’s now cheated again, and now I learned details about this affair that just make me angry at both. How do I deal with this? I want to shut them out at this point.

— Cheat Repeat

Certainly that’s your prerogative. It seems you were on to something effective enough, though, in ducking out only during the worst months of the cycle. Maybe try that again? Since it’s less drastic?

As long as you’re getting news about the infidelity cycle from the family grapevine, you’ll never be entirely free of it, not during your parents’ lifetimes.

So you might as well view your choice now in terms of detaching from the dysfunction by opting out whenever you feel yourself getting sucked in — and maybe (when you’re ready) thinking about this cycle’s longer-term, less obvious impact on you.

You can reach Carolyn Hax at tellme@washpost.com. You can chat with her at noon Fridays at WashingtonPost.com.

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