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!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (13)
  • Hope and a Prayer
    3 years ago

    I always feel that I’m losing time, helplessly watching the grains of sand slip through the neck of the hourglass while I am waiting for another migraine to fade. And, when it does, I’m in catch-up mode, trying to attend to the to-do list and unfinished projects. The momentum is sometimes lost though; living a life interrupted is not easy.
    My time on social media has dwindled to the point where my son asked my yesterday why I was no longer on Instagram. I love photography and love seeing the pictures he posts of my grand-daughter, but I can’t seem to find the time and the energy or muster the interest in things virtual.
    But today, I felt the need to visit migraine.com and post my first comment. I read the Frontpage stories on the app, but have never interacted. This is one place where my virtual focus needs to be. It is one thing worth my limited time.

  • Sandy
    4 years ago

    fb has become connections to the outside world bc I don’t get to get out a lot, but I have to know my limits. And yes, when in company of others or with my husband, phone (fb) in the purse. Something I have struggled with social media as people don’t understand my illness. If I post that I am having dinner out with my husband or something else, friends and family don’t understand why I can do that but not something else. they don’t understand all the meds I had to take to get there, sunglasses I had to wear, earplugs I had to wear (I just took them off to look nice for the picture) or all the laying around before and after I have to do to b able to accomplish something such as going out to dinner or going to church. I know they mean well but I have to protect myself so I limit what my husband and I post about my coming and going.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    4 years ago

    Sandy,

    I totally hear you about not wanting to post about any activities for fear that family and friends will question your health status and wonder why you said no to them when *they* wanted to socialize. I think about that every single day.

    I hope you’re feeling good today. Thanks (very belatedly) for your thoughtful comment.

    -Janet G.

  • Shinetrue
    4 years ago

    Cute post. My opinion is that it’s sort of lazy to wish people happy birthday on Facebook. Not that I mind it if it’s someone I normally wouldn’t hear from, but if it’s a close friend or relative it’s nicer to get a call. A couple years ago one of my best friends called me and told me she was bummed because no one seemed to notice it was her birthday. I asked her if she had checked her Facebook – she hadn’t and when she saw the 30+ happy birthday wishes on there it made her feel tons better – she didn’t know that happy birthday messages had become a thing to do.
    Personally I have resolved to stay off Facebook – at least in front of my kids – especially this summer. Every once in awhile I just delete it off my phone and that helps a lot.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    4 years ago

    Shinetrue,

    A very belated thanks for your comment. I definitely agree with you about how much nicer it is to get a call from close friends or relatives! Way to go, by the way, as far as not checking Facebook in front of your kids. That behavior modeling is going to affect them in such positive ways.

    Take care; I hope you’re feeling good today.

    -Janet G.

  • MigraineSal
    4 years ago

    I had started to get obsessed with Facebook and it was becoming the third person in my relationship to the point that my husband hated my iPad and glared at it everytime I picked it up ! This being the case I decided to give up Facebook for February and am proud ( and probably relieved . . . well I know my husband is anyway ! ) that I have not reactivated my account as yet.

    Facebook has lots of positives in that it gets people you haven’t seen together for years and it is a great way to casually keep in touch but it can also lead to lots of disappointments / upsetments . . . like Birthday wishes, or comments (or lack of them) on what you post. We tend to take these things personally, rather than looking at it from a different perspective and considering that our friends may just not be looking at Facebook as much as they used to and this could be why we didn’t get the usual birthday wishes/comments on our posts. I only kept my Facebook community to people I knew ( or friends / relations of theirs I was happy to get to know ) and whilst part of me misses some elements of Facebook I certainly don’t miss others. I also think Facebook has a lot to answer for as far as younger peoples perception of life is concerned as they see “others” having this fabulous time they keep posting about on Facebook and benchmark their lives against this when in actual point of fact it can often be the posters way of making it look that they have a better life than they actually have.

    After that rant I would say that Facebook was good in its day but I think the good has sometimes been overtaken by the obsessive and you have to remember that what is posted on social media can never be totally removed and can always come back to haunt you . . . especially as a lot of employers check social media before shortlisting potential candidates these days !

    I must admit not checking Facebook when I wake up at silly o’clock every morning has certainly improved my sleeping patern, which will probably have improved my migraines as the bright light and over stimulation when I should have been sleeping would no doubt have been a migraine trigger !

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    4 years ago

    MigraineSal,

    As always, I appreciate your comments and point of view so much. I apologize for taking such a long time to acknowledge your comment–I’m always catching up on something. 🙂 Have you re-activated your account yet? Inquiring minds want to know!

    Take care; I hope you’re feeling good today.

    -Janet G.

  • Piglet
    4 years ago

    For years I ignored facebook and never checked messages when I did finally sign up. Since the migraines became chronic a few years ago and my “outside life” continues to shrink, facebook actually helps me feel connected to my friends and family, even though I see them less. I am on the sofa now with an 8/10 but still communicating. It’s especially nice on birthdays that I don’t feel up to a party or even dinner. And a side benefit is that I can scroll through other people’s vacation photos … or not.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    4 years ago

    Piglet,

    You make some salient points for sure. For many people, Facebook is an amazing way to stay in touch when you couldn’t do so otherwise. I definitely abuse it and waste time, though. 🙂

    I appreciate your point of view. Here’s a belated thanks for your comment–sorry it’s taken me a while to respond.

    -Janet G.

  • 4 years ago

    Interesting how differently some people see it. I’ve always hated the slew of incoming BDays wish on Facebook. I always think that many of these people are only posting a Happy Birthday because Facebook reminded them that it was my Birthday. Don’t get me wrong, I have some close and wonderful people in my life, but those people will call me, text me, or see me in person on my BDay to tell me. These are the people I want to share my BDay with. I use to try to change my Bday date 1 month before my birthday so that the reminder wouldn’t go out, but them some close friends/family caught me and felt I was trying to exclude them from sharing in my day. So now I just deal with it and try to smile (like) and thank people for taking the time (regardless of their motives). After all, they could just not care at all, so that should say something for them.

    As for the wasting time, I was so there! The social games on Facebook were the worst. Games such as Farmville, Castleville, etc… During migraines I would turn the brightness down on my monitor and spend the time playing these games. Then I found myself waste HOURS of my healthy time going back to play these games because “my crops would rot” or I would “miss this special item”. It became ridiculous. I finally made the issue to shut down all games from my account. I have 1 or 2 I play when waiting at the doctors office, but I keep them to puzzle games that don’t involve follow up. My healthy time is so precious to be wasted on stupid things.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    4 years ago

    Sara,

    I definitely see your point regarding birthday wishes! 😉 I appreciate the Facebook comments but definitely feel disappointed if close friends and family don’t reach out via phone or even at least text as well. Perhaps I expect too much. 🙂

    I took Facebook off my phone and check it maybe once a day now. I’m happy to report I spend a lot less time on there already!

    Take care; I hope you’re feeling well today.

    -Janet G.

  • CarrieSchuessler
    4 years ago

    I’ve totally been there! I still got great love for my birthday this year but it was not as many “notifications” as last year, and it affected me way too much. I think it had definitely led me to let go of expecting that affirmation from there–makes it much more easy to appreciate when it does come. 🙂

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    4 years ago

    CarrieSchuessler,

    Well said! Thanks for your comment–sorry I’m just now getting around to reading your feedback. 🙂

    -Janet G.

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