I’ve decided to temporarily deactivate my social media accounts. If you’re reading this blog post because you couldn’t find me on Twitter, I am sorry about that.
I made this decision because the spring term for my university starts Monday and I am having a hard time tearing my eyes away from the constant cycle of news appearing on my phone via social media. It’s hard to want to try to go back to school and work when I am overwhelmed with worry for my partner, who doesn’t have health insurance, and how we will get through this difficult time financially. It’s also frustrating to feel helpless. But my anxiety about the coronavirus is only exasperated by the underlying conditions I’ve been dealing with for the past six months.
I’ve struggled with anxiety disorders my entire life, most of it stemming from a dysfunctional childhood and some traumatic experiences. If you’ve followed me on Twitter for a while, you know how hard it has been putting myself through university and trying to succeed when it feels as though the entire higher education system is built to keep students like me from getting through it. I’ve received an enormous amount of support, encouragement, and kindness from strangers via the internet in my pursuit of a degree. I don’t feel as though I deserve it, but it does make me work harder.
This first year at university, since I transferred, has been miserable. There have been moments of joy — working in a laboratory, connecting with new people, writing articles — but school itself has turned into an awful and never-ending experience for me. There were days during the fall term I honestly could not leave my bedroom. I still have two years left, and I am hoping that things change and get better during the spring term. But it’s hard to imagine that things will improve in the near future when the United States has just surpassed every other country in its number of COVID-19 cases. Being stuck at home during a pandemic is one thing; being stuck at home while struggling to get through every day, with or without there being a pandemic going on, is quite another.
I have a support system set up at my school — a counselor and a doctor, anxiety medications, financial support. I have the resources to get through this and I’m grateful for that. But it also requires action on my part, action I haven’t been willing to take yet: stepping back from social media in order to focus better at school, and to work through my own feelings. Especially now that I am confined to an apartment with two rooms, social media has been a form of escape, as well as a way to grow my career as a science writer and make new friends. But at times it has come at the expense of my academics, when I use it to distract myself. It’s hard to feel like college is worthwhile when my greatest opportunities and connections have come through Twitter.
And yet, it was hard not to recognize how intangible, and perhaps even arbitrary, a following on social media is when my entire presence on the internet can evaporate with a few clicks. It sparked a strong desire to do something more with myself, to make a mark at my school, to really buckle down and work on the writing projects I’ve been neglecting. To produce and create and leave something lasting.
I plan to be back in a week or so, once I’ve figured out a way to stay focused on school and continue managing my anxiety. My websites are also temporarily set to private while I revamp them — I’ve been working on updating and changing them, and will roll them back out when I’m ready. I plan to write some short and lighthearted science articles for The Particle even if I am on hiatus. I know we can all use a break from COVID-19 news now and then.
There are other things going on, things I don’t need to air out to the internet, but I hope this brief explanation suffices. I am going to try to spend my last couple days of spring break focused on relaxing, reading, and spending time with my partner. I am also reading the two books pictured below; you’re welcome to read along with me. I talked about doing a book club on Twitter but wasn’t able to figure out the best video chatting format for everyone to meet. For now, just enjoy reading them while I work on reviews and getting Read More Science updated — when I’m back we can all convene for a social distancing science book club chat.
Stay healthy, and stay inside!