Unsolicited Advice: Social Media & News
3 things you can do if social media and the news have got you feeling down
I’ve seen so many articles lately about how news and social media are negatively affecting people’s sense of well-being. I know that I’m not the only one feeling anxious and stressed out about the current state of our country, and our world for that matter. What passes for news in the world of social media feels a lot like informational waterboarding.
Exactly 18 days ago, I decided to take a break from social media. The main impetus, for me, was the Kavanaugh hearing, though that wasn’t the only factor. I wrote about it here, but the TL:DR is that I was feeling overwhelmed and found myself in a place, mentally and emotionally, where I couldn’t handle all of the negative things I was seeing on social media. I decided that, for an indefinite amount of time, I needed to be away from the world of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
What started as an escape from the non-stop news cycle, and the ensuing social media posts and commentary, has turned out to be the single best act of self-care I’ve undertaken in as long as I can remember.
Here is my unsolicited advice: three changes I’ve made that have helped me. Maybe they can help you, or even just inspire you to find something that will work for you.
1) Stop Looking at Social Media
My plan was simple: I would not log into any of my social media accounts for the foreseeable future. Instead, I would use the time I’d previously spent either mindlessly scrolling or obsessively refreshing to do more positive and productive activities.
The first few days of my social media blackout were tough. I hadn’t expected it to be easy, but I definitely had not expected to find myself feeling symptoms of withdrawal. I had to research whether I was going crazy or whether “social media withdrawal” was a real thing. While it sounds like a super lame First World Problem, sadly it’s a real thing.
But soon, I stopped mindlessly reaching for my phone every few minutes. I stopped wondering what I might be missing on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I stopped having thoughts such as “I should take a picture of this thing so I can post it” and then trying to think up a clever caption to go with it.
The most difficult aspect of giving up social media was not being privy to everything that my family and friends were posting. Especially since one of my brothers recently began a year of traveling around the world and I want to keep up with his adventures. So to be 100% honest, I do get on Instagram every few days and, without scrolling through any stories, I search for his account to see his pictures and updates. Other than that, though, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. The people who are close to me know how to reach me, and there are ways besides Facebook to find out what’s going on in people’s lives.
I’m not saying that I’ll never use social media again. To be perfectly honest, I’ll check Facebook on my birthday because I love seeing messages from friends and family. What I’m saying is that I’m not going to allow it to become something that I obsess over.
2) Find New Sources of News and Entertainment
I still wanted to know what was happening in the news, but I’d gotten lazy because news stories would just show up in my feed. Now, instead of relying on social media or email to deliver notifications and links to stories about what’s going on in the world, I use a few select websites that I trust for daily news. No more personal opinions from people I may or may not agree with politically, no more reading comments, and no more memes. I stay informed without feeling bombarded.
Since I have extra time now that I’m not constantly checking Facebook or Instagram, I’ve been reading more books. I’ve been to the library twice in the last two weeks which is two times more than I’d been so far this year.
My job requires me to spend several hours a day outside and normally I’d listen almost exclusively to podcasts or audiobooks about true crime, unsolved murders, cults, and other crimes (no really, that was 98% of my listening library). Lately, I’ve started listening to music instead. I’d mainly been listening to music at home while making dinner or cleaning up. I also downloaded a few self-help audiobooks, and I found some podcasts that had to do with my newest business interests. I surrounded myself with as much positivity as possible and, almost immediately, I could feel a difference in my state of mind.
3) Add a Healthy Habit to Your Daily Routine
I started meditating and doing yoga every morning. My mind and my body feel better, and that makes me want to keep doing it. If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be meditating and doing yoga daily, I wouldn’t have believed you. Heck, I wouldn’t have believed it just 3 months ago. I consider myself a fairly healthy person, but yoga and meditation? That’s, like, earthy-crunchy and I am not earthy-crunchy. But at this rate, I could be making my own granola next week, who knows.
One of my favorite aspects of this social media break is how different my mornings are now. Whatever might be going on in the world, either politically or socially or whatever, doesn’t affect how I start my day. I don’t reach for my phone to check Facebook and Instagram to see what’s new since I went to bed last night. I allow myself to wake up first. I have my coffee (definitely first on the agenda). I spend time with my kid, make his lunch and get him ready for school. Then I do yoga, and then I meditate. Only then do I check the news.
None of these changes have been major in and of themselves. But the overall effect of them has felt like a kind of vacation for my soul. A retreat for my mental health. A break for my brain.
I’ve come to realize how much the things we surround ourselves with can influence our mental health and emotional well-being. If we’re surrounding ourselves with negativity, then we’re going to feel that negativity in our lives. It seems obvious when stated so simply, but when we’re in the middle of it — well, you can’t see the proverbial forest for the trees. Or, maybe in this case, the problem was that I couldn’t see the trees for the forest? I’ll have to meditate on that.
originally published on Medium.com