The other day on Facebook, a friend wrote a post reminding everyone that we can’t change minds with vitriol. If we want to change minds, we have to change the way we dialogue about issues we care about.
Here’s how I responded:
I’m not sure anyone is even trying to change minds. People on both sides are just using social media for their own personal pressure valves.
They want their pain and rage validated and social media makes that easier.
This crisis isn’t about not knowing how to talk. It’s about not knowing how to cope with fear, anxiety, rage, and grief.
Many are blaming social media for the negativity, divisive messaging, hate spreading and fear mongering. Of course, these are all things that are found in social media but that isn’t the problem we’re trying to solve.
People are raging. People are grieving.
Americans on both sides are being attacked. Yes, they are using social media to point fingers, name call, and end friendships but social media is only the mechanism, not the problem.
The real problem that no one is talking about is how to cope when you’re scared, raging, and grieving.
That’s the discussion we need to be having. Unless we set personal boundaries with how we are using, participating in, and absorbing social media, it will only fuel our rage and sorrow.
Some people are not ready to calm down.
This is the other thing that I wanted to say to my friend. Some people don’t want to be calm. They only feel heard when they yell. By raging, they believe in their core that they are putting themselves in some semblance of control. They are doing something about the thing that is causing them so much pain and strife.
They are advocating, educating, and informing. They are refusing to stay down.
Some people really will find peace and a sense of belonging and community by rallying with like- minded people on social media.
If you are finding a way through your rage and grief with this public processing, keep doing it. Keep taking care of yourself and doing what feels better. If you find your respite on social media, don’t try to change that.
You get to make that choice.
Every social media site has unblocking and unfollow features. Use them.
If social media isn’t helping you heal, it’s time to step away.
If it’s not working for you, that’s ok and understandable but you can’t expect other people to change.
I hate asking an already traumatized person to do more but unfortunately, that is what’s necessary here.
If social media is only fueling and expanding your upset, it might be time to step away.
If you’re stuck in grief, fear, and sadness, it is highly unlikely that social media is your friend right now. You will only be further triggered. It’s time to take a step back.
Social media is not intended to be an outlet or coping resource for grief and trauma.
That’s why it isn’t working for you.
- Reach out to a safe person who shares your worries and concerns and work on connecting with them in real life. Have a cup of coffee, chat on the phone, Facetime. Connect with people that care about your and care about your well-being.
- Drink plenty of water. I almost nauseate myself offering that advice but it’s true. Your system is literally and physically depressed. It’s being taxed by the weight of the world on your mind. Water hydrates you and will help your body function more optimally.
- Look for the entertainment that offers respite-an old favorite movie, your favorite song, a good book, an activity or hobby you enjoy.
- Work on getting your body out of fight or flight mode. Social media has a way of keeping us amped and our adrenaline is constantly on standby. In order to back down and away from that, it’s important that you secure your sense of safety in your physical environment. Give yourself permission to do whatever you need to do to feel safe.
- Be aware of re-traumatization. My clients who’ve suffered abuse, rape, molestation, bullying, or other forms of abuse are feeling greatly triggered. Some understand why but others are feeling like they took a gigantic step backwards. Recognize that even though something isn’t physically happening to you right now, you are being brought back to the emotional place of trauma. That is real. Respect it and take good care of yourself.
- Put time limits on new information. Not knowing can almost be scarier than knowing too much. It makes you feel out of control. Choose reliable and dependable sources for your news and schedule two twenty minute blocks in your day to check the news. Make sure one of those times is more than two hours before bedtime.
- Pay attention to the content and quality of your texting exchanges. If your text messaging represents your Facebook feed, you might need to back off and limit your participation with people who don’t build you up or make you stronger.
- Don’t be afraid or hesitant to seek professional help. My phone has been ringing off the hook for the past week and the precipitating factor has been the election. Don’t minimize your upset. Recognize it and take care of it.
- Set boundaries with people in your real life about how often or when you discuss distressing topics. Protect yourself from needless trauma.
- Find a healthy way to take control. Raging at the internet might feel helpful and like you are informing people and creating change and that is sometimes true. Often, though, it is not. Decide what your role is going to be in all of this. Withdrawing yourself completely and not doing anything is an acceptable answer.
- All of these complicated intense feelings create energy inside of you. It’s there and unavoidable. You can use energy to release some of that energy. You don’t have to do anything crazy or intense if that’s not your thing. A quick walk could do you some good.
- Use your words or images. Talk, journal, use an audio recorder, or escape into your art. Not everything needs to be problem solved. Some things just need to be expressed.
- Limit all of the ways you take yourself back to the scene of the crime. Any exposure that is going to amp you up again needs to be planned and monitored. You can’t avoid the news for four years but you can avoid looking for it, seeking it out, and involving yourself when it’s in front of you.
- Give yourself time. The election prompted this post but trauma is trauma. When a trauma happens, it is normal to have a reaction and for it to take some time to settle in and find your new normal or peace. Be patient with yourself.
- Look for the good. It’s normal when you are in pain to seek people and messages that resonate with pain. However, healing pain, working through grief, and calming rage is easier when you learn to hold both—the darkness and the light. Right now, it feels like the darkness is all around you. Look for the light, the helpers, the healers, and things that make you feel bigger instead of smaller.
- Have a re-entry plan. If you decide to go back to social media, go back with a plan. Tailor your feeds so you only see messages that support your healing, block people who don’t offer you light, put time limits on yourself, and always check in with yourself about whether or not social media participation is healing or hurting. Regulate accordingly.
Social media isn’t the real problem.
The real problem is more complicated. People are in agony. They are hurting, frightened, and scared. That’s real and it needs to be respected and attended to. No viral post is capable of doing that kind of heavy lifting.