This election season is like none other I can remember in my lifetime (though truthfully I wasn’t always paying attention!) It seems like everybody is at each other’s throats and there is so much volatility that it’s tempting to just stay off social media. But on the other hand, the concerns being raised are complex and worthy of thoughtful engagement and discussion.
How do you find a healthy balance?
You may have some very worthwhile talking points that you want to share. If it’s heavy on your heart, then you should do so. There are very important issues being discussed that affect women, minority groups, people of faith, first responders and the disability community right now (totally random order here.)
The old days when we got our news from the morning paper or evening news are over. Now we have a 24/7 news cycle. Blogging and social media give those with an inclination to write a natural outlet to express their thoughts. This is both good and bad. There are a lot of eloquent people out there worth following, while others are just spreading division.
There is a lot of anger and hurt out there on a number of issues. People who have been stuffing their thoughts and feelings for years are finding healing in coming out of the shadows and voicing what happened to them. Social media has given a voice to the formerly voiceless. This is good and helps to bring awareness to important issues particularly discrimination which has impacted many of us.
However, before you share that great article or post a political opinion on social media, give it some serious reflection and consider the following:
*Have you researched the information? Is it accurate?
*Can you effectively handle the disagreement and ugliness that your post might trigger, no matter how heartfelt your intentions were when you wrote it?
*Are you ready to spend a few days babysitting your Facebook thread so that it doesn’t get out of hand?
*How well do you handle online stress? (For me, it sets off my dystonia-induced head tremors so for the most part I try to avoid it unless I think it’s that important. And some things are.)
*Are you ready to potentially be unfriended by people you’ve been FB friends for years?
*Have you considered the ethnic and cultural diversity of your online friends who probably have had very different life experiences from you and are being triggered by the sensationalistic news headlines?
How to Survive on Social Media This Election Season
Many people wonder if they should just turn it all off until after Election Day. But social media has become an integral way that many of us communicate with each other. And for those of us who are homebound, bloggers or work virtually, getting online is essential. It really is quite possible to do this and preserve your sanity.
*Turn off all notifications.
*Consider removing the Facebook app from your phone.
*Set times to check Facebook and Twitter. Then stick with them.
*When on Facebook, learn to walk away. Scroll on by without reacting. Don’t read comment threads. You don’t have to respond to every crazy opinion that’s out there. If certain topics are triggering you, unfollow the people who are posting them.
*Don’t go online when you’re tired. Or if you’ve taken a muscle relaxer or any medications. (Ask me how I know.)
*If you feel you must reply to an opinion, think carefully about it. Consider the source. Remember that most people will probably skim threads and really not read through that thoughtful response you just spent 10 minutes or more crafting and then type something thoughtless.
*Filter your feed. I’ve found this to be a little harder on mobile but I’ve set notifications for bloggers and pages that I enjoy, read those first and try to resist random scrolling as much as possible. On my desktop, I can also just choose “Pages” feed.
*Spend more time on Instagram or Pinterest. They’re happier places.
*Stop scrolling period. Be intentional online and just check in with your close friends and favorite pages. And as much as you can, just turn everything off and go outside.
You know, all of us should make more of an effort to engage with people in person instead of only online. Online communication can just magnify our differences. Try to meet and start conversations with people from different backgrounds who live in different neighborhoods and don’t vote or look like you. We should break bread and engage in meaningful conversation with each other and share our stories. We’ll probably find that we have a lot more in common with each other than we thought.
I’ve also come to believe that sometimes we’re better off not knowing everyone’s political views. Online communication can put a strain or even destroy real life relationships. Those long, drawn out threads rarely change minds and often cause hard feelings. Think carefully before you post or reply.
For further reading:
What Do You Do When Someone is Wrong On the Internet?