Too much Facebook for the Migraine Girl

(Written on February 21, 2015.)

Today I turned thirty-five.

I wasn’t upset to turn thirty five years ago despite having been warned that that would be a tough age to face.   The entire year I spent as a thirty-three year-old, I repeatedly told people I was thirty-four. It wasn’t a purposeful fib, it was just that I had kind of stopped paying attention and answered using the wrong number on accident.  My older friends tell me that this habit gets even worse as one ages—we’ll see.  But for now I am thirty-five and I’ll do my best to remember that for the next 364.5 days.

Today I made a rather unpleasant discovery about myself: my birthday felt less exciting because I didn’t get very many birthday wishes on Facebook.  Ugh, just writing that feels so gross, but it’s true.  In my opinion, one of the best things Facebook can help do is make a birthday girl feel loved on her special day.  If a birthday message is from the childhood neighbor you haven’t hung out with since 1985 or the second cousin you wish you could see more of, it delivers a little burst of endorphins.  And since I’ve been happily spoiled by birthday greetings in the approximately 12 (!!) years I’ve been on Facebook, I expected to log in today and get that same flood of well-wishes and happiness.  But there were only a handful of messages, and I admit (with my tail between my legs) that I was bummed out that I wasn’t veritably sifting through the messages.

This is not to say I feel unloved in general or feel as if my friends (those I see mostly in real life and those I catch up with mostly online) don’t care about me.  The problem I detected here was that I (or my brain?) was deliberately going online today to seek out these little rewards, these little shots of endorphins.  (Google the words “Facebook,” “addiction,” and “endorphins” and you’ll find some studies—some verified, some more anecdotal, about this phenomenon.)

Due to a friend’s posting, “Happy (apparently secret) birthday, Janet!” I realized that my account settings must’ve changed since my last birthday.  And my first reaction was to feel flooded with relief:  That explains why literally just 1% of my Facebook friends have wished me happy birthday.

Let me establish something here:

  1. I realize that the number of Facebook friends or birthday wishes one has does not have anything to do with one’s worth.
  2. I understand that if I am deliberately seeking some kind of high or feelings of love from my damned Facebook account, there’s a problem.
  3. I am grossed out by this seeming need/desire I have to get this electronic love, when I am already so incredibly lucky to have close friends and family who make me feel special nearly every day.

I should also establish the fact that I don’t like admitting this about myself, but I have a feeling there are others out there who feel similarly about their relationship with Facebook (and their relationships with others as mediated by social media platforms).

This got me thinking yet again about all the time I spend online. How staring at a computer screen, absent-mindedly flipping through friends’ and acquaintances’ pictures depletes rather than replenishes my energy. How the times when I shut my computer and write a real letter or make a real phone call or compose a list of writing ideas or take a walk with my sister or have dinner with my fiance I feel so much more fulfilled and less down on myself.

How does this tie into migraine, you wonder?  Well, I think there are myriad connections, but I would like to just mention one: I so often feel as if migraine is stealing away my precious hours or days or weeks when I am unwell.  I so often feel frustrated and resentful when in the midst of a bad migraine: if I felt well, I tend think, I would go outside for a walk or write a letter to Grandma or see if HT wanted to meet for lunch.

Despite all those genuine feelings of wanting to use my healthy time wisely, I go right back to my old and perhaps addiction-fueled routine of checking social media sites multiple times a day when I could be engaged in an activity I find so much more fulfilling.

So, that being said, I am going to close Facebook for the rest of the day. Perhaps I’ll check in tonight after my birthday dinner and revel in my birthday wishes before shutting it down again.  And I’m also going to put a little note on my laptop reminding me to utilize my free time in ways that make me feel more happy and energetic.

Have you faced any similar issues with Facebook or other social media sites? Do you ever find yourself thinking of all the things you’d do if you were migraine-free only to spend some of that precious migraine-free time online instead of doing the things on your wish list? Please share your stories below!

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