Social media is everywhere today, and it is rare to find a person who does not have an account on one or more of the platforms. While it has been a wonderful way to stay connected, social media has also become a primary source of news for many people.
It has become a bubble of breaking news, opinions, and lots and lots of politics–especially this year. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information that is thrown at us on a continuous basis.
This might leave you feeling angry, upset, or jaded to the world around you. Social media can certainly take a toll on your mental health, but there are ways for you to keep calm and collected in this age of information overload.
The 24-Hour Social Media News Cycle
Many news stations and programs are turning to social media to pump out stories ranging from happy fluff pieces to more serious news reports concerning politics, war, and pandemics. And just like in the televised news, the same sentiment of “If it bleeds, it leads” also applies to social media sites, with the more salacious pieces getting the most attention on those platforms.
However, social media is not regulated by the FCC like radio and television, but relies only on users of the platforms to report problematic stories and posts. And many times action is not taken in response to those reports. This results in social media being fertile ground for instigators of discord to prey on those who are looking for “proof” to substantiate their preconceived biases.
And add to that the fact that the default for most social media platforms is to present “Top News” first. Social media users are presented with content based on which previous posts and stories they have reacted to or commented on. This further feeds each user’s existing biases and leads them to be more confident in their opinions or “facts.”
To make matters worse, social media also acts as a hotbed for commentary from people all over the world. There are few things more frustrating than reading a news story and seeing thousands of comments that oftentimes are a heated back and forth discussion. It can really make you feel like we are living in a very hostile time in history, but we aren’t. Conversations are simply out in the open now because of social media.
Stepping Away for Your Mental Health
So what are we to do when the constant barrage of news, information, and debates become too much? You might think that unfollowing news channels and blocking annoying friends and family members might be your answer to this problem, but unfortunately, hot topics are hard to avoid.
If you want to continue to engage with others on social media you could make a concerted effort to only react to or comment on positive or inspirational stories or posts. You could unfollow news sources and organizations that tend to post biased content (even if you agree with the bias). And of course you could resolve to reduce the amount of your time spent on social media.
In turn, start following groups and organizations that are working to make a positive impact on the world. Over time you will likely find that your newsfeed becomes less stress-inducing and that your mental wellbeing improves. However, you will need to be diligent in your effort to reset the algorithm.
Or perhaps you will just need to take a solid break from social media, and find more rewarding activities to occupy your time. Resolve to read more. Start a new hobby, or return to one you used to enjoy. Or, with the great weather of the summer spend more time outside gardening, golfing, or simply taking daily walks.
Do something that will help you unplug from social media, and take time for yourself away from the constant news and opinions. It is important to stay informed of current events, but it is more important to take care of your mental health.