Weary. That’s how I was feeling up until about a couple of days ago. With everything that’s been happening in our country (and in the world) these last few weeks, you cannot help but be affected. I need not enumerate all the things that have made us all so angry, sad and disappointed. This collective grief cuts across classes, gender, age, social status and sometimes, even political lines. The energies have been predominantly negative. It’s there, like a pall of gloom.
These experiences resonate with each of us differently. We witness, on a daily basis, the tragedies that plague our communities and our country over and over again, online or on television. A lot of the times, we feel helpless.
When some breaking news appears in our feeds, we find ourselves glued to our screens watching events unfold, alternately ranting, cheering, cursing and searching for some reassurance that somehow, some way, justice will be served. And unfortunately, when the wait is interminable, or when there seems to be no glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, we become despondent.
Some people have described symptoms that sound like some form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Psychiatrists are busier than ever.
How then does one manage social media usage and self-care in the age of fake news, EJKs, rampant corruption?
1. Take a break from social media when possible or set a daily time limit. Social media can be a black hole for so many (this author included). Set goals for how long you will stay on, and what time of the day you will go and check your accounts. The lofty ideal is to only be on it for two to three hours a day maximum. Pay attention to the emotions and feelings that may arise from content (or people) you engage with online.
2. Clean out your social media accounts. In a time of toxicity, house cleaning is necessary. You may have contacts you used to see socially, but no longer do because of the great political divide created by the May 2016 elections. If you don’t want to deal with them because of their beliefs and values, you may opt to remove them (too harsh?) or hide them from your feed so you can no longer see their rants.
I have done this a few times over the last few months, and my life has become so much more peaceful. After all, it’s a free country (at least when I last checked) and people are entitled to their opinions. However, it’s also my choice not to listen to them, more so if their opinions stress me out. Delete or block anyone who might be emotionally harming you.
3. Stop reading and take a break when you notice your emotions running high. There’s already too much drama in the world. Comment if you must, rant (on your own wall, please) but refrain from engaging in an unwinnable online discourse, such as battling with trolls. What for? What kind of joy or satisfaction can be derived from such an engagement? Now, if you find that you are constantly being sucked into online fights and your day isn’t complete without getting into an argument with someone online, then it’s time to do a major digital detox.
4. Take a break! My favorite writer Anne Lamott said, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including yourself.” That’s a good rule to remember when you find yourself heating up on social media. It’s a good rule to follow, period. When you’ve been working too hard, or if you’ve been obsessing about someone or wrestling with an issue. Simply unplug. Clarity comes when we are still.
5. Reconnect with your physical self. Reconnect with your body and get out of your head. Physical activity does wonders for the anxious psyche. Take a walk. Run, bike, dance, swim. Find what you enjoy doing and do it, at least five times a week if possible. Physical activity is always an excellent outlet for stress.
6. Feed your spirit. Do something that makes you happy that doesn’t involve your gadgets. Watch a play or a show. Read a real book that inspires you or makes you laugh. Spend time in meditation or prayer at the start and end of each day. What you do at the start of each day sets the tone for the rest of the day.
7. Ditch the gadget use an hour before bedtime. Studies have shown that the best sleep happens when we unplug an hour before sleep. And we all know that a good night’s sleep is always crucial to how we function the next day.
8. Eat well and hydrate. This is a no-brainer but it is paramount to self-care and overall wellness.
9. Spend time in the real world connecting with friends who share your passions and beliefs, people who are supportive and empathetic.
If you want to keep your head above water, and still be able to care for others, make sure to get off the digital world and focus on caring for yourself. You won’t be able to contribute to the discussion or bring your best self to the table if you allow yourself to be constantly bombarded by negativity.
Get off the grid every now and then. You’ll be so happy and grateful that you did.