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  • sheridanearle

Social Distance and Social Media - My Life Behind Screens

(as first published on

I stare at Facebook all day like it's my job. Probably because it is my job. I work for a large hospital management company, overseeing the social media presences for over 150 psychiatric facilities. To say the past month has kept us busy would be an understatement and my usual screen overload is definitely compounded now, as I'm relying on every digital method to stay connected for both personal and professional reasons. In any given day I'm talking with people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Zoom, Linked In, iMessage, Gmail, Outlook, Slack and Skype. I share files through Google Drive, DropBox, WeTransfer and all of the previously mentioned conversation platforms. And no, I'm not getting any ad dollars from all those heady name drops, but I'm open to brand partnerships if any of your reps are reading this. 

Besides keeping up with an unusually busy workload, I'm also human and can't always tear myself away from the constantly changing news on the only topic that anyone cares about right now, coronavirus. Fortunately, I'm an old soul at heart and enjoy my morning dose of NPR (WHYY for the local Philly folks), so I get some of that news without screens, but who can resist checking the headlines online throughout the day since everything is constantly changing every minute of every day and what do we really know about any of this besides did you see in New York they were singing Biggie out their windows and over a thousand people died in Spain this week? And I work in healthcare, which doesn't give me much more insight into it than you may have access to, but it does mean I'm talking about this subject literally sun up to sun down and beyond. I'm honestly a little exhausted even thinking about it, or rather, typing about it on my screen. 

But, exhausting as all the screen time is, I love my job. I'm super fortunate to be able to work at all, to be able to do my job from the comfort and safety of my home, and to feel like I'm contributing in a positive way to all this uncertainty. Social media is a powerful tool, as we see in times like these where we have many questions and not enough answers. We can turn there for information, for connection, for comfort, for reprieve from reality. By day I'm helping to create and share informational graphics and videos to encourage safe social distancing practices, to remind people not to neglect their recovery while in isolation, or to find healthy coping mechanisms for their anxiety, in addition to important updates on what mental health programs are open for patients. By night, I'm leading Facebook Live yoga classes, Skyping with family, sharing Tiger King memes and talking to my friends about healthy coping mechanisms for our collective anxieties. 

Social media is not without its caveats, of course. Right now, you might see people that are just being SO FUCKING PRODUCTIVE during a global pandemic. They're flexing their side hustle and getting their beach body on and channeling Julia Childs and setting up educational and engaging school day schedules for their preciouses and writing the next great American novel, all while pumping out tons of social media content that might be making you feel like plowing through your Netflix Watch List isn't enough of an accomplishment today. 

So as someone you don't know who works in social media AND behavioral health, I'm going to tell you (with absolutely no actual expertise in clinical healthcare) that it's OK if you come out of this pandemic having done nothing but survived and watched Netflix and not gone crazy. It's ALSO ok if you feel better staying super busy! Like, I'm going to be quietly jealous of your fire Insta story that shows how you perfected your sourdough recipe and learned a new language in these last three weeks, but I'm still going to send you a heart eyes emoji and tell you how awesome you are. And I'm really happy for anyone who can decompress and disconnect from all of this without a phone in your hand 24/7 because I'm sure failing at that one. 

Look, we're all doing the best we can. And even if I spend more time behind a screen than I'd like and haven't produced a killer Tik Tok video yet, I'm being nice to myself because some days, this is really hard and scary. And sometimes I'm bored and I clean when I know I could be doing something more meaningful or lasting. And sometimes (all the time, really) I feel like I'm not doing enough, and with so many people having so much time on their hands right now doing so many cool things (at least it looks pretty cool on my screens), it's tough to let Netflix be enough, but is. 

So please, if you like being on social media, have a blast! Stay connected with friends, join groups of people with similar interests, laugh at funny memes, make Instagram stories about your cat, or follow some inspirational quote accounts for a pick-me-up. And if you don't like it, that's cool, too, because you're your own person and you're allowed to not enjoy things. There are many things I don't enjoy and I try not to judge myself for it, even when others do (cough, cough, GoT). I also follow an Instagram account that literally posts the same picture of a kiwi bird every single day for over a year now, proving 1. that there is something for everyone out there and 2. you should take my advice with a grain of salt. 

Now I guess I need to take my own advice and go spend a little screen-free time on what is actually a pretty lovely spring day. Funny how in the midst of this dark time in our global history, spring still comes. Whoa, maybe I should start an inspirational quote account... 

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