Column: Overcoming toxicity of social media and protecting mental health

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I don’t know about you, but lately within moments of opening up my Facebook, I have been feeling drained. For a while, all I seen was posts upon posts about COVID-19. People were for or against social distancing and they were doing a lot of yelling about it.

There were things people had been sharing that made me angry, and I couldn’t believe the stupidity of others. Well, what I concerned idiotic anyways.

Then, everything happened with the Black Lives Matter movement, and again I had an overwhelming fleet of emotions as I was reminded of how terrible human beings can be to each other.

It was like I was part of a record stuck on repeat, and life was like, “Don’t even try to forget about all the terrible things.”

It is so easy to fall victim of social media burnout at time when the world isn’t thrown upside down, but right now I’m sure I am not the only one who is feeling the affects of sad news and opposing views on repeat.

When the world isn’t in the middle of an upheaval, I find myself going through social media detoxes.

Some people might even call it a wellness break from social media.

Isn’t it wild that we live in a time where we need to take a break from social media in order to take care of our mental health? I find that overwhelming.

I picture platforms such as Facebook as huge tornadoes of bad feelings swirling around somewhere in the atmosphere and touching down in as many spots as possible, and right when you think that it missed you it turns out you are wrong and it strikes you at a different point.

Why do I feel like I am dodging some sort of negative blow on Facebook always? And these blows present themselves in so many dynamic ways.

It could be in the form of an ignorant comment made by an individual and there you had been, just scrolling through Facebook.

When you read it you are filled with rage and you have to stop yourself from typing frantically a reply to make sure that persons know how ignorant they are.

There is also a steady stream of tragic stories being shared every second, and they pop up on your feed.

It’s as though Facebook is feeding an already boisterous fire.

After I had graduated from high school, I had a sudden realization that social media me feel terrible about myself. I also I realized I was checking it an excessive amount of times in a day and that I was addicted to the validation of getting enough likes on a photo.

I attributed my own worth to a photo. So, I deleted my Facebook account. I can’t remember the exact reason that inspired me to do this, but it stands out to me the moment I hit “deactivate my account” in the settings menu.

It’s crazy, but I literally held my breath. For some reason, I was terrified to remove myself digitally from the universe. But I went ahead and forced myself to do it.

And the crazy thing that happened, was that nothing happened. I didn’t absorb into the atmosphere and disappear. I didn’t lose my job. I didn’t lose any friends. It was a lot quieter.

It was uncomfortable for a while, but it was liberating.

And it remained deleted for six years, and in that time, I felt like I had enough room to just be myself.

Since social media is everyone’s highlight reel, I had only myself to compare myself to. I had only my own progress to focus on and accomplishments.

Like I said, I had enough room for me to stretch out and figure it out.

About four years ago, I started an internship with an arts magazine which required me to be an admin for their Facebook page, which, of course, meant I had to reactivate my page. I felt like I had thrown in the towel, but I sort of needed to do it.

What I learned though over that time is that social media is not real life. It’s a great tool to share meaningful information and to take a stand against things that aren’t right. It’s also a great tool to be made aware of what is going on in the world. Those are, of course, things going on in real life.

I guess what I mean is that social media doesn’t have to define how you feel about yourself.

It takes a lot of effort to learn how to filter the information that is being directed at you and to remember that you can always step away and that people rarely post the negative things in their life.

You don’t have to be subjected to it. You have the power to refrain from logging in.

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