We are in, what now, the millionth month of this pandemic? I assume at this stage in the game we’ve all gotten the hang of muting ourselves on Zoom, we’ve figured out which restaurants have the best delivery service, and I know our family has given up on all screen time regulations. It’s basically screen time anarchy in our household.
This new “normal” that we’ve adjusted to has increased screen time for all of us, kids and grown ups alike. While technology is a great thing and has kept us connected while social distancing, it also has created some problems.
We are using social media now more than ever and it is important to be aware of what we are taking in as we scroll through our news feed.
Friends and family have expressed to me that they are getting exhausted by their social media, but also feel like they need to hold onto it since the pandemic has limited our ability to connect in person. Since social media and virtual hang outs have largely replaced in-person relationships, it’s important to be mindful of what is working for you and what is not working for you.
If you’re finding that you need to *virtually* social distance from your social media here are some tips on how to keep yourself and well-being in check.
Mute Toxic People From Your Newsfeed
It took me way too long to learn that you can mute people in your newsfeed. There are people in my life who I love and care about, but who also constantly post toxic memes or share links and posts reinforcing messages that are toxic–posts that use negative humor, conspiracy theories, or in general slamming an individual or group of people.
And they post these things all the time. You know those people; we all know those people.
I started noticing it when I would mindlessly scroll through my news feed and when I came across their posts it would interrupt my actions and replace mindless scrolling with distress. My anxiety is already through the roof and honestly I’m not coping very well (something about raising small children during a global pandemic).
Perhaps at another phase in my life I could find humor in their posts or just keep scrolling, but right now at this phase in my life, I really need those messages to keep away from me without damaging the relationship I have with that person.
I fully realize that when this phase of my life passes, and I assure you it will pass, I’ll be able to handle this better. I imagine someday I will scroll through my newsfeed and read their “hilarious meme” and not feel hurt by it.
But for now I need to prioritize my own well being and mute this friend. Just for now. You should mute toxic messages from your life too.
Follow People Who Lift You Up
In addition to muting people who are toxic for you, it is also helpful to follow people who are inspiring to you.
I started following/liking pages that were motivational for me and helped me relate to others.
In following some of these pages I’ve connected with other parents who are in the same boat I am in and struggling with all the same things I am. We really are all in this together and it really is as hard as you think it is. Having a sense of community right now is critical, so find your people and hold onto them.
Keep people who make you feel good close to you. Whether they make you laugh, let you cry, inspire you, encourage you, or all of the above. I would also encourage all of you to share something positive or helpful to your own social media because the messages we take in will shape our mental well being.
Send A Direct Message/Personal Message (DM/PM)
If you’re using social media to fill the social hole in your life created by the pandemic, you definitely want to be messaging people directly more than scrolling through your newsfeed to fill that need for interaction. Initiate and reach out to someone directly for a change rather than only comment on a post.
Conversations work much better when you connect directly with someone. Even if it is a text message (or a DM) the connection made through a direct contact is infinitely more meaningful than anything people share in the comments section of posts. It also allows the conversation to get a little more personal without being open to comments from others.
Having a 2-3 minute back-and-forth with someone via text builds connection more than anything you can read about in your newsfeed.
Don’t Read The Comments Section. Ever.
No seriously–don’t ever read the comments section. For every witty or poignant comment I find in the comments section there are about a dozen or so comments that make me lose faith in humanity. Has anyone else become increasingly disappointed with humanity after reading the comments of a news article? Don’t engage in the comments. Don’t read the comments. Don’t try to understand why people would say X about Y topic. Learn to let it go.
Set Boundaries. If All Else Fails, Unfriend/Block People
Let your boundaries be known. Setting boundaries is a healthy way to let people know how you expect to be treated. Until you make those boundaries clear, people who care about you – even with the best of intentions – may not understand how you would like to be treated. And if people still prove they are unable to respect your boundaries, then take a break from that person.
Here are some examples of real boundaries I have had to set with people in my life:
- Back off on the racist comments around me.
- Stop mocking women (specifically postpartum moms) for their body around me.
- Do not make sexual comments about young girls, ever.
I have unfriended people on social media (and in real life, too) over these issues after repeatedly asking those individuals to respect my boundaries, and then being disregarded. If the relationship is emotionally taxing on you it might be time to end the friendship. Don’t just ghost them, get closure. Let them know what boundaries they’ve crossed with you and part ways.
It is one thing to have people you disagree with in your life–that’s a normal part of friendship. It is another thing to be treated poorly.
Honestly, not all people are worth being friends with and that’s okay.
I know it can be challenging, especially if it is a family member or a really close friend who is treating you this way. But also consider what lessons your children can learn by watching you navigate your own boundaries and asking others to respect you.
Take A Break
Sometimes the best thing you can do is unplug and get off the grid for a little bit to collect yourself. Whether that means deactivating your social media, removing the apps from your phone, or setting time limits on your app it is really important to create space to unplug. Being connected all the time can be exhausting.
I love that social media keeps me connected with friends, but if doing so is hurting my well-being then it is time to take a break. Your friends and family will understand if you need to step away from social media. They have your number, right? Have them call you. I promise it’ll be fine.
Ultimately how you manage your social media is up to you and I hope that all of you have found ways to stay connected in a way that is meaningful for you. With so much of our lives moved to the virtual world it’s important to take the time and make sure that we are managing our lives as best we can–both in person and virtually.