by Chloe Henderson

A life hooked on ‘likes’: looking at the world through the glaring screen of anxiety.

My name is Chloe and I’m a social media addict. I last checked Twitter 30 seconds ago, and in a minute I’ll probably check it again. I confess on average I spend more than three hours a day browsing social media.

Before my head has left the pillow I’m on my phone checking Facebook. The harsh, blue glare of the screen half-blinds me in my dark room as I scroll through every post that’s been made since logging off at 3am. I look to see whether my friend has responded to that  funny meme I tagged her in. She hasn’t yet.

So begins my morning routine. I brush my teeth with my right hand and re-read Facebook with my left. A minute on the toilet is stretched into two as I stalk the profile of the girl my boyfriend used to like. She’s posted some photos of her night out, which I analyse with the intensity of a forensic scientist. Has she lost weight? Are those new trainers? Does she have a new boyfriend?

On the bus I wish happy birthday to a friend I never speak to, posting on her wall the same faux-sincere message I use for everyone: “Happy Birthday! Hope you have a fabulous day, and miss you lots!” I also check to see if my friend has acknowl- edged my tag yet, feeling a knot of anxiety when she hasn’t. Is she mad at me?

During class I pour through the Facebook profile of that girl I’ve never met, who’s life I treat like a soap opera. She’s pregnant and I’m excited, but I can’t tell her this because she has no idea who I am.

At lunch I balance my phone in one hand and my fork in the other. I’m having a proper meal for once, after last weeks phase of eating nothing but apples. I’d followed a bunch of healthy eating blogs on Instagram, and still feel a pang of self-loathing as I tuck into a carb-filled sandwich whilst my feed is full of unhealthily thin, bikini-clad girls.

At home I’m straight on my computer, crawling through my timelines instead of working. Every task takes double-time as I’m distracted by a funny cat video, still low-key bothered that my friend hasn’t acknowledged that meme. It’s been 24 hours since I tagged her, so clearly I’ve upset her, or she secretly hates me.

I’m hunched over my computer until late into the night, alternating between refreshing Reddit and posting in the group chat. It tricks me into feeling sociable, though I actually haven’t seen these people in weeks.

I’m exhausted. It’s 3am and I’m still on Facebook, scrolling through my cousin’s boy- friend’s sister’s holiday snaps from 2012. I briefly reflect on how I’ve let myself get to this point, before I’m distracted by a ‘ping’ .

My friend has finally ‘liked’ the meme I tagged her in, and now I can sleep.