• Dr. Abby Brown

A guide to engaging and/or disengaging with social media in today’s political and social climate

Now more than ever, we are seeing an increase in social and political discord, animosity, and toxicity in our news media, most specifically on social media. While many of us rely on social media to inform us of what is happening in the world today, having constant access means we are more often than not, exposed to a constant influx of heart wrenching news stories. Each one of us has our own personal stories, and certain news stories can impact us in both predictable and unpredictable ways. As we learn about violence, shootings, stories of assault, to name a few, we must find balance between being informed citizens and recognizing our limits in the moment in order to preserve our own mental wellness.

Here are some ideas to think about...

Check in with yourself before you check your social media. Are you particularly more vulnerable right now? Think about your vulnerability factors (e.g. how much sleep have you had? Are you sick? Did you take your meds? Did you get in a fight with a loved one recently? Have you been feeling more depressed or anxious lately?) Use this to gauge whether checking social media needs to happen right now. Ask yourself- can it wait?

Limit your time on social media. Maybe give yourself a few minutes to catch up on what’s happening with your friends and see a few headlines. Then move on to the next part of your day. It’s very easy to get sucked into the rabbit hole of reading stories and comments and before you know it, you’ve lost two hours to social media. Also consider what time of day you check your social media. For example, if seeing upsetting news stories right before bed is likely to keep you from falling asleep, maybe wait until the morning.

Pick your battles. It is also very easy to get pulled into social media debates on topics that matter to you. Sometimes we put so much energy into attempting to change the minds of others that we end up getting more frustrated and discouraged than anything. Think about how you want to advocate for your cause and beliefs and through what platforms would be most effective. Doing so will help you preserve your values and issues that are important to you while also preserving your mental health.

Use your supports. Check in with your therapist, friends, parents, partners, and colleagues. Sometimes it feels comforting to know that we are not in this alone.

One last thought. It is important to be informed citizens and to be involved to the extent you choose to be. However, it is also critical to recognize that overexposure to these stories without awareness to the impact it may have on your mental health may do more harm than good. So before checking social media, just take a second to pause, and ask yourself- can it wait?

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