Brain Health

Has ADHD Made Me Too Thin-Skinned for Social Media?

I’m hurt by Facebook, demoralized by Twitter, and envious on Instagram. Is social media making me feel bad about myself — or is a lifetime of ADHD-related hypersensitivity to blame for these daily blows to my self-esteem?

Neon thumbs up and thumbs down sign, similar to social media "like" buttons; social media can make people feel bad
Vector realistic isolated neon signs of thumbs up and down on the wall background. Concept of rating, network and social media.

I once thought that the biggest problem with losing myself online is that I’m wasting time and procrastinating my life away. I now know that there is deeper harm lurking on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media: the negative emotional effects and myriad of bad feelings brought on by a lifetime of attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), hypersensitivity, and interpersonal slip-ups.

Every time I log in to Facebook and there’s no personal message, I die a little. If my thoughtful post isn’t noticed, it’s a letdown. If other people hijack a comment stream, I feel steamrollered. There’s also worry about privacy, even if it’s not me doing the worrying. Who can avoid noticing the anxious words of others?

As a child, before I was diagnosed with ADHD, I was humiliated by one social gaffe after another. My pre-diagnosis years might have been called 50 Shades of Red. Losing friends without knowing why, feeling like the family pariah — I thought that was behind me.

[Self-Test: Could You Have Emotional Hyperarousal?]

Not really. Facebook gives me a glut of opportunities to again live through those social disasters. Who will flame me? Who will call me out? Who will prove me wrong? Who will misinterpret my message? Whom will I offend? The countless complaints about updates, being unfriended by real friends, and the wonderful photos of everyone else leading charmed lives are all demoralizing to my self-esteem.

I have been logging in with not just a password, but with memories from a hypersensitive past. I need a psychological firewall to keep me from going down in flames.

I have ADHD and I am a highly sensitive person, so I need to rethink my relationship with social media, or any place online where I feel judged and measured. I have to tell myself that the only approval that counts is my own.

[It’s OK to Cry — and Other Lessons from a Sensitive Mom with ADHD]

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