Social Media and Dyspraxia
Social media is a huge part in people’s lives, sometimes indirectly, or in my case more directly by working as a social media manager for several years. Because of my roles, social media and dyspraxia have been forced to collaborate. I have spent a lot of time creating content for social media and spent time reading or sending messages, scheduling posts or checking social media insights, becoming borderline obsessed with the number of likes and comments.
I have met people with similar jobs and many also become similarly obsessed with certain aspects of their roles, but if someone has a neurological disorder such as dyspraxia, ADHD or OCD, the use of social media will affect them differently.
What is Social Media?
This might seem obvious but social media in its most basic form is about connecting and keeping in contact with people. But with the emergence of different social media platforms such as Instagram, launched in 2012, and more recently TikTok, social media has taken on new forms. We live in the age of instant throwaway content, under pressure to create a show-reel of our in-depth and complex lives and now more than ever, because of lockdowns, people are driven further down the rabbit holes of social media and handheld devices forever connected to everything and everyone.
This connectedness has helped keep people connected during an unprecedented time in living memory, so this is not a call to abolish social media or to burn your smartphones.
Neurodiversity and social media
I can only speak about my neurodiversity experience of how I am affected by the use of social media.
I was not a massive user of social media and pursued jobs in social media marketing because I had studied International Journalism and was living abroad; social media jobs were relevant to my skill set. The more I used social media platforms for work, the more I used them personally, struggling at times to separate the two. I understand that like dyspraxia, people with OCD can become fixated on single actions, like playing a video game. I became fixated on checking the performance of the content I created. I focused intensely on insight numbers and used my personal social media to promote my professional work, I was and still do, flicking from account to account.
Taking it personally
Everybody on social media can take things personally, but I struggle to let go of interactions and can dwell on them for days. This might be the effect of another neurological disorder and not dyspraxia, but I think many dyspraxics will relate to feeling intense stress and anxiety from interactions neurotypical people might easily brush off.
A particular interaction might not be overly negative, but it still causes anxiety that is unwarranted, borderline unhealthy. I am affected differently depending on the subject matter, but if it is a subject I care strongly about like dyspraxia, the impact can be massively negative. I think a lot of issues stem from taking comments literally, misinterpreting, and worrying that I have not expressed my point well.
Despite the positive of being able to keep in contact with those important to me, the negatives of the contact I have with people I don’t know can cause me an intense period of anxiety. I also become quite obsessed with the interaction, and it consumes a lot of my time, losing out on more productive things.
Types of Content
It is well documented that what you see on Instagram is not the reality of what it is. Even if your social media feeds are populated with cat videos and self-esteem posts, too much is not good.
On Facebook, some communities are positive, such as several Dyspraxia support groups that work well. However, in most cases, peoples mental wellbeing is in the digital hands of strangers, a responsibility most strangers will be unaware of. I could give a few examples of when I misinterpreted someone’s comments on a post, slightly overreacted and then felt guilty once I’d considered the person is most likely living with similar disorders to myself.
There are positives to social media. It connects people in times of joy and in times of despair, it is used to raise awareness and fight injustices, without it; so many lives would be different.
My point is if there is one, is when you interact with someone online, take a deep breath and try to understand the human you’re interacting with.