Anxiety & Social Media: How to turn social media into a tool to combat anxiety instead of fueling it
So far, 2020 has been something that we would have only expected to see in a movie. Irrespective of the opinion we hold about the series of events that have characterized this year, all of us have had to bear the consequences in our day to day reality.
Some of us have lost jobs or had to work the longest of days, suffered the loss of relatives and dear ones, got separated from family and friends, etc., all due to a pandemic of a scale unseen in a century.
We have been stripped of our day to day activities and everything that was important to us. We started referring to a ‘new normal’.
We were told this is temporary but how long is temporary? The uncertainty of tomorrow means something different depending on our situation, but it has had an impact on all of us equally.
If this pandemic were not enough to test us, we were confronted with a moment that perhaps will change history: the killing of George Floyd. This has sparked protests, and at times riots that have and continue to mobilize people around the world.
Despite the pain caused by such events, we have also had to experience the divide. In the past few months, social media has played a bigger role than ever in our lives. For most of us, it used to be a place where we would post pictures of our travels, outings, friends and family, favorite foods, etc. It served as a distraction and it was mostly used in a way to keep in touch with those family and friends we do not see very often.
This has significantly changed in the past few months.
Those same platforms have been used more than ever as a tool to express our rawest emotions and opinions. It did not take long until we started realizing that some people in our network, dear friends even, might not share our views, including what just seemed common sense to us. In addition to what the current events stirred within us, for those of us who have shared those opinions we do now seem to find ourselves to staunchly have to defend our points of view against the one of family and friends. For those among us who have decided not to use social media to share those views, we get inundated by information that we might not even want to see and feeling as if we do not have a choice.
Accessing our devices has truly turned into a battle ground of opinions, leaving some of us more alone and unheard than ever instead of providing us with a tool to come together and feel connected during these tough times.
Anxiety, anger, hurt and depression have been the common emotions some of us have started experiencing in the past few months and we have started dreading those same platforms that once upon a time provided some relief and distraction.
So, what is the alternative? Is there an alternative?
We often hear the advice: “stay off social media”, “get a break”, “it will be good for you”. I have come across people who had to even resort to ‘clean up’ their account of those friends who can no longer be called friends.
So, how can we change this? We can flip the narrative around and use those same platforms we believe are causing us anxiety into tools designed to combat it, enrich us, boost our spirits and connect us more than ever, without having to delete those life long friends, or taking a break.
Here is how:
1. Assess how you are currently using your platforms and what you are currently seeing that you are not happy with;
2. Now ask yourself what are the 2-3 main things that spark an interest, or you are passionate about or that perhaps always wanted to try;
3. Create completely new accounts where you only follow and befriend people with those similar interests; There is something for everyone out there, whether you are into fitness, baking, interior design, poetry, learning a new skill, hacks for students prepping for exams, there is a parallel world out there where some have decided to share their skills and passions to connect at a different level.
4. Join groups where there is a code of conduct where people only post about the topic that interests you; and the most important thing of it all,
5. Enjoy and have fun.
With these steps, you will still use social media but with a twist, it will transform your feeds and it will actually fill your everyday life with something that you are passionate about and/or it will teach you more about what you are interested in and give you the opportunity to make new and unexpected connections. It will provide you with a constructive distraction which will leave you motivated to try something new as opposed to feeling drained.