First off, welcome to all of my new readers! I’m so excited that the #SMCleanse is bringing a bunch of new people this-a-way… hopefully I’m living up to your expectations thus far! Secondly, I hope everyone had a relaxing weekend, and that you spent far less time on social media than I did (whoops), which leads me to a confession and the topic of today’s post.
Confession: probably the biggest trigger that makes me Stabby McStabberson and can potentially send me down the social media rabbithole for hours is any particularly emotion-laden event, be it political, social, or even totally personal.
I had intended to talk about how Rep. Akin’s comment on “legitimate rape” (oh yeah, he went there) yesterday led me down the social media reactionary spiral for hours. But in a totally ironic twist of fate, as I was drafting this post last night, I got an email from LinkedIn saying that my ex had requested to add me as a connection. Whabam- the universe not only helped me to avoid a political debate in the comment section, but also reminded me of one of the biggest social media triggers I’ve ever had, my last breakup.
These either situations sound familiar to anyone? Triggering can happen with politics, religion, world events (I observed this happening with the most recent shootings), or even a super personal event like a breakup- but often a situation where people have strong emotional reactions and then react to others’ emotional reactions. When people are triggered in those situations, it can definitely quickly a downward spiral, or as I like to call it, falling down the black hole/ rabbit hole (think: Alice in Wonderland).
Step 1. Identify Your Emotional Social Media Triggers
When you look at your top social media triggers, how many of them are strongly connected to emotional events (either on a larger scale, like politics, or something more personal, like a breakup, or a cause that’s very personal to you)? For the ones that are more tied to your emotions, how do you find yourself acting and reacting when you see posts about those topics on social media?
Some examples of “emotional” triggers might include:
- seeing your ex talk to other girls (I was very guilty of reacting to this, back in the day)
- pro- or anti- breastfeeding/cloth-diapering/vaccinating/cosleeping posts
- political pieces on why ___ is wrong/right
- religious pieces on why ___ is wrong/right
See where I’m going with this? Do you feel your blood pressure starting to rise already? When you see these triggers on your social media channels, try to make a conscious note of them. Tell yourself, “Oh hey, that’s one of those nastyass emotional triggers that blogger Linz was talking about.”
Note: before I go any further, I want to be super duper clear that I’m not discouraging activism. I think it’s amazing, and I love and admire my friends who are involved in activism. However, for me, it’s not the best way to live my life, and I think that I’ve come up with some “middle ground” solutions that other people may appreciate as well.
Step 2. React One Time and Then Walk Away
For me, this is the biggest challenge and yet one of the best things I can do for myself. It’s a daily battle! Especially on social media, where the crazies love to come out just to engage with those of us of sane(er) minds, it becomes so easy to react, react, react all of the time. There’s never any shortage of sites to go on to see the latest updates, the most recent trolls, the 10 newest posts. The problem is, while you’re allowing yourself to get spun into a frenzy over it all, the world around you keeps on turning too. I’ve found that it affects me not only mentally — an increase in anxiety for sure– but also physically, as my blood pressure increases, I get more antsy, less focused, more agitated, shorter temper, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has this kind of reaction to emotional triggers like this. Particularly as we’re coming into an incredibly nasty political season and we’re already neck-deep in social media, we have to make sure to take care of ourselves too! It’s amazing, how regardless of what the situation is (breakup, political gaffe, world event), the physical and emotional toll these triggers can take on us are pretty equal across the board.
The best solution I’ve found so far is what I wrote for step 2: “React one time and then walk away.” It’s like what you’d tell a kid dealing with a playground bully (or maybe you’d tell them not to react at all?) But in this case, when it’s something you/I feel so passionate about, it’s really hard not to respond at all. So I’d say if you feel so strongly, write a post, a blog, a tweet. Make it count, make it smart. Share it. And then do yourself a favor. Allow yourself to shut the computer, and step away for a while. We all know instinctively when things will start to go apeshit over the latest scandal- that’s the best time to take a self-care break so that you don’t fall down the rabbit hole. At the risk of sounding like Berkeley rubbed off on me too much, do some yoga. Get out of the house. Read a book (gasp!) Just don’t engage for a while. You’ll come back with a new perspective and feel a lot more relaxed, physically and mentally, than you would if you just dove right into the fray.
So that’s my social media cleanse tip for day 2. Find your emotionally charged triggers. Make a conscious effort to notice them as they occur, react if you feel it’s necessary one time and then walk away to live your life away from the negativity for a while. See how you feel for a while before you return to the insanity. I would love to hear how you try to put this into practice, and if you find that it works; or if it’s simply too hard for you to walk away and feel like you’re leaving the battling to others!