Regardless of what’s going on in the world, social media is pretty much always a hotbed of controversy, hate speech and plain old ignorance. We’ve all had those days where we walk away from our Facebook feed feeling awful.
The fact is that social media is impacting your health and wellbeing. Studies have shown that social media is liable to cause depression, anxiety, inability to concentrate, lower levels of confidence / self esteem, and a whole host of other mental health related issues.
Lately, a lot of bad things have been happening in the world. (Well, a lot of bad things are always happening in the world, but at the moment our timelines are flooded with it.)
In times of tragedy, what we need as a people is support and love. But on social media, the potential for hurtful comments and nasty dialogue goes way up and the level of negativity that swarms our consciousness increases by a mile. It’s important to be aware of this and to make adjustments to your social media habits. These tweaks might just improve the health and happiness of you and your family.
I won’t recommend total abandonment of social media because that’s just not realistic and it’s also not what’s necessarily best for any of us. Social media can be a positive and impactful tool, especially for those of us who come from marginalized communities. I’m talking about people of color, LGTBQ people, women, and people whose religions are often discriminated against. With social media, the voices, opinions and interests of Natives and every other underrepresented group are finally being heard louder than ever. This is a good thing because it’s leading to increased real-world respect and creating a better future for our kids.
But as I mentioned before, even on no-news days or positive news days, social media has the power to hurt. The act of being hunched over on a computer looking at other people’s well curated lives and reading the news can literally make you depressed.
When tragedy does spark dialogue, it is good to engage with intent to resolve and to heal. It is also important to be on your toes and to think critically about your online reactions; how your posts and comments could impact others; and how time spent on these matters might impact your health.
Here are some tips for maintaining healthy social media habits in the wake of tragedy:
1. Be respectful. If you see that somebody says something heartfelt or posts something indicating that they are upset, offer a message of support and solidarity or don’t say anything at all. Even if you really disagree with their stance on an issue, remember that your comment in the vacuum of a news feed won’t spark productive dialogue but instead cause further hurt feelings. Let your kindness outweigh your pride.
2. Replace time online with real world action. With all the news of tragedy out there, we tend as humans to want to know every detail, to read every opinion, and to hear every perspective. Part of it is because we’re genuinely concerned but part of it is because we’re nosy and we want the scoop. Gossip actually releases endorphins. The desire to hear and be heard leads to people spending an average of 50 minutes per day on Facebook alone. That’s average: so, a lot of you are spending more like half of your waking hours online. The more time you spend here, the more time you are disengaged from the real world. Being present in reality is one of the key tenements to good health and happiness in general. It’s called mindfulness. So, limit your screen time to avoid depressive feelings. Also, more time on Facebook means less time in real life action. Replace your time on social media with more productive means to supporting the causes you care about like sitting down to talk with your children or friends about what’s happening in the world and how you can contribute to progressive causes on the ground.
3. Try as hard as you can to *not* watch or share violent videos. It’s a really good thing that in some cases, video recordings of horrible incidents have been useful in prosecuting bad people for committing hateful, unjust crimes. But do we, as a public, need to watch these videos? I remember as a kid in history class learning about the old pastime of public executions in Europe. Our teacher posed the question “can you imagine that being our form of modern entertainment?” Well, yes, I can imagine it, because people today are still intrigued by the same violent footage. Whether we’re watching it in a medieval arena or on our timeline, what’s the difference? And I’m not just talking about videos where people get killed, I’m talking about fights, too. Imagine being the parent of one of those young kids whose emotions and trauma got the best of them and ended up getting in a fight on a viral “worldstar” video. Show some respect and don’t engage with that type of footage. It’s not really funny or necessary for anybody to see, and it might actually traumatize you or others you share it with.
4. Do share educational, uplifting, creative, or otherwise productive pieces. There actually are a lot of things on the internet worth sharing. We have increased access to information that the government, the education system, and other forces have been actively trying to keep away from public consciousness for generations. Many folks out there are doing brilliant work to raise awareness of progressive ideas and historical facts that have been formerly suppressed. Many are also writing and creating inspiring works of art or poetry to uplift spirits and inform consciousness. Do seek and share these posts.
Chelsey Luger. Courtesy Eller Bonifacio.
Chelsey Luger is Anishinaabe and Lakota from North Dakota. She hopes to be a strong link in a long chain of ancestors and descendants by spreading ideas for health and wellness. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter. Ideas for articles? Email her: firstname.lastname@example.org.