I remember the exact moment I knew Facebook was making me depressed.
It was 3 am. It had taken me at least an hour to fall asleep not even three hours before. I was stressed and had been feeling sad lately, though I couldn't really say why. The first thing I did when I woke up, when it was still dark out and this whole side of the globe was still sleeping, was check my phone.
I checked Facebook, to be exact. The first thing I saw was a post from someone I hadn't spoken to in over a year. She complained about something that had happened to her that was supposedly someone else's fault. Her language was derogatory in a way that makes you clench your fists and grind your teeth. I was embarrassed for her because she was being so unprofessional and childish.
But, I kept scrolling. Yes, I kept scrolling at 3 in the morning.
Next, I saw an article from some news outlet talking about a little boy and the alligator that had swept him off a beach on his Disney vacation. I went straight to the comments.
It was the parents' fault. Everyone knows there are alligators in Florida. Tragedy. Prayers for the family. *Spam comment about free HD movies.*
I remember thinking, "Why is there so much hate? Where is it all coming from? And what right do strangers have to comment on the life of someone they have never even met?"
I knew throughout that day I would also see articles about Kylie Jenner doing this or Demi Lovato posting that. There were articles that promoted fad diets I didn't approve of. All these things made me so frustrated and upset about the state of internet madness that I almost felt... hopeless.
It wasn't because of anything going on in my life or the lives of the people I loved and cared about. It was because of the toxicity of social media. It's a virtual world in which I don't personally know anyone, yet stand on the sidelines and watch them argue about the fastest way to lose weight or how they're better parents than so-and-so.
I wanted so much to be able to change the way things were. But no matter how hard I tried, I never could.
It was in that moment I knew the only thing to do to change how I had been feeling was to change my behavior.
Realizing no one else using the internet to spread misery and hate was going to stop what they were doing, I deleted the Facebook app off my phone. I started unfollowing pages that posted gossip and misleading information and news stories that, deep down, were really only there for people to smear their opinions onto.
I stopped trying to be a clickbait defense agent. I stopped letting "curiosity" about people's opinions be my excuse for diving into the comments I never should have been reading.
Over the past few weeks, I have managed to stop listening to what other people have to say about current events altogether. There's curiosity, and then there's compulsion. I knew it had to stop. So, I made it stop. Well, I made it stop for me, at least.
I know this negativity and the never-ending need for people to plaster their uninformed opinions all over the internet would not go away. In fact, I'm not sure it ever will.
We can't let it keep bringing us down, though. We just need to walk away from it. Find better online communities that are filled with people who want to discuss and learn, instead of criticize and tear other people down.
Reading comments on social media — sometimes even firing back with your own unsolicited opinions — doesn't change the fact people are going to be ignorant and rude. Following former friends who feel the need to share their misery with everyone else in the world will not make you any better of a person.
Ignoring toxic social commentary and unfollowing people and pages that only seek to destroy your happiness, however, will.
I don't think the answer is to quit social media completely. I use Facebook and Twitter now primarily for personal branding and keeping up with friends from college who have since dispersed all over the world. Sometimes, I wonder if that's really all we need it for.
I can get my news somewhere — anywhere — else. And clicking on the occasional LOL-worthy listicle doesn't hurt, as long as I steer clear of the comments.