SOCIAL MEDIA AND MENTAL HEALTH
Are You OK? Or Are you Drowning?
— By Lauren Trend
Last week social media felt like a mine field.
Between the remarkably disappointing election results here in Australia, and the heartbreak felt across the US and the rest of the world with Alabama’s recent bill to ban abortion - we were all, and rightly so, in devastation and hurt.
Just yesterday I was in conversation with my friend Paige about how traumatising the past week had been, and how challenging it was to be on social media. We both, along with many of other brilliant and brave people I know, were quite vocal on our own respective platforms about our thoughts on the current state of affairs. It is unquestionably imperative that those who can ( and feel safe enough to) should speak up and out.
But where do we draw the line? How do we create healthy boundaries between keeping a finger on the online pulse and making sure that we aren’t suffering, emotionally, whilst we partake in an online-world. I personally am struggling. I obtain my news from social media, I have friends and family located across the world in different timezones and somehow instagram has taken place of WhatsApp as our go-to channel of communication. I also use the platform, daily, to connect with you all, for work, to grow my businesses. It creatively fuels me, but at present, is emotionally depleting. And at times, an utterly infuriating place to be.
There’s a saying thrown around time and time again on the social-media-political landscape and it’s known by the phrase: If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.
I couldn’t agree more. There is so much to be furious about. So much. And instagram feels like a merry-go-round filled with constant reminders. But how can we find hope amidst fury? How can we use the platform safely to create and consume? And how can we stay informed whilst taking care of our mental health, so we can carry on without as much weight, and do what we need to do?
For my own sake, after feeling strung out and deflated from the emotional tornado that was last week, I started writing notes in my SP WORKBOOK that I thought I’d expand upon and digitise here for you all. They might be helpful. They might not. The questions above are ones I am sure so many of us are swirling with. And in positions of privilege (which we all are in, if you’re reading this on a screen with a wifi connection) where do we begin to act when feeling hopeless or too far away from, or small in comparison, to certain issues?
It’s ok to switch off. Put aside feelings of guilt for not staying online and in the loop 24/7.
Limit your news consumption to perhaps two or three credible sources. When you feel mentally strong enough, challenge that and expand upon some alternate views. ie. Try not to read or consume right-wing propaganda if you’re energy is better spent learning about ways to actionably aid that which you believe in.
You don’t have to make yourself available for discussion always. Tell your friends you’re happy to talk about x, y or z at a later time. Set yourself timed boundaries and focussed attention on the (hard) things you want to and can muster the energy to talk about, so it doesn’t feel like it’s consuming your whole day.
Remind yourself of your privilege without guilt. Use your power, voice and resources constructively instead of harbouring self-resentment for a life you have that is in contrast to the less fortunate.
Give back, offline. As powerful as voice can be, we know that actions speak louder than words. Identify one organisation, foundation or charity that you could work or volunteer with and begin, now.
Forgive people for only knowing what they know. In matters of politics and ethics, there will always be a divide in public opinion. The world exists in contrasts. Another’s contrasting belief is not a personal attack on your own. Another’s contrasting belief does not grant your experience/s invalid. This is often so hard to remember in the heat of things. If a conversation (or comment thread) is affecting you and you aren’t being spoken to, or speaking, with respect and understanding - walk away.
Unfollow anyone and everyone that is clogging up your feed or having a negative impact on your mental health.
Tell your friends and loved ones to contact you using other channels of communication. Set your own rules around DM’s on Instagram. You are not obliged to answer every single one. Tell people how you would best like to communicate, and the best place to reach you. (Tip. turn all push notifications off!)
Take these conversations offline, if that helps. Social media is a remarkable thing for affording us the ability to connect and share and consume information so readily. But to truly digest and integrate information - take ideas and discussions outside of yourself and your phone. Talk to your friends, your community, your family, your colleagues. Ask them if they’re ok, check in on one another. People are mirrors and in-person connection in the digital age is medicine.