3 Tips for Keeping Your Peace of Mind on Social Media

June 9, 2020

The last few months have stirred up a great deal of mental and emotional turbulence, especially on social media. It’s not an exaggeration to say that social media platforms have become battlefields of polarized perspectives and competing ideologies.

For many of us, the strain of endless negativity and hostility is not worth signing on. But there are options. You don’t have to be at the mercy of every post, comment, or meme that hits your wall. You have a choice in how you can deal with the stream of information.

In my experience, there are 3 things you can do right now to cultivate more peace on social media. They are:

1. Always Consider the Source. Before you click, read, or fall down an emotionally reactive rabbit hole, take a moment to consider the source of the information you’re about to put in your head. Who’s saying it, who wrote it, what news source or basement blogger published the content you’re choosing to consume? Experience matters…it matters a lot. The thing about the internet is that it makes everyone seem reputable, but that’s not always the case. Social media has given everyone and their brother the ability to publicly opine on any topic, and while we each have some area of expertise in a few areas, very few of us are professional scientists, politicians, or lawyers and without the data that comes as a byproduct of years of training and research, for most of us, our strongly held belief is just an opinion. We all have them…

Also remember to consider the news sources your consume. Everyone likes to believe their news sources are neutral and right down the middle, or in a word, absolutely true. Chances are, they’re more in the realm of relative truth. Know the difference between an overview story of largely facts versus an opinion piece that’s based upon a particular interpretation of the facts. It takes work to vigilantly seek out the truth in everything you read, but it will save you a lot of angst later when you find out what you read (or worse yet, chose to believe) was dead wrong.

2. Skip the comments. Granted, there’s a certain temptation in opening the comment string of a highly controversial post or article to confirm or argue for your beliefs. Or better yet, just to watch a squad of like-minded others pile-on a troll. While it can be a fun spectator sport, the comment section is ultimately nothing more than a minefield of other people’s raw unfiltered options. It’s like wandering through the subtext swamp of hundreds of strangers….yuck. From what I understand, psychologists have discovered that the lack of eye contact and increased anonymity of the internet emboldens people to be orders of magnitude meaner online than they would ever be in person. In the blink of an eye, a nice discussion can turn into fight club.

Plus, there’s that whole expertise thing again. Having an opinion doesn’t make it true. But people will fight vehemently for those opinions garnished with loads of expletives…it’s really a pointless place to be most times. If you are going to comment, remember what your mother hopefully taught you, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything.” Hurlings insults all ad-hominem-style gets you nowhere and adds more hostility and negativity to the world. Most times people don’t go to a comment string to change their minds. They go there to prove a point, pro or con. So knowing that in advance, you can make the choice to deprive potential combatants of an opponent.

“How beautiful it is to stay silent when someone expects you to be enraged.” – Unknown 

3. Lastly, see memes for what they are. Memes have become the quickest way to make a point on the internet. Find an image, sprinkle it with a quote, an inspiring passage, or some sarcastic snark, and viola, you’ve got a guaranteed attention-grabber. I’m not against memes – they can often be spot-on, funny ways to capture a sentiment ala “a picture is worth a thousand words.” However, because of their potency, they are often used as a substitute for an actual discussion or discourse, kind of a poor-man’s debating tool. Especially when it comes to political or highly incendiary topics. When used in this way, memes get dropped on you like a debator’s “dirty bomb”.

It’s important to understand what’s happening here. That image coupled with a phrase or quote has one purpose. It’s not to further the discourse, not to help you better understand another point of view. No, when used this way, a meme’s purpose is to piss you off. It’s meant to trigger an emotional reaction. It’s a cheap shot used by someone who is either incapable or unwilling of having a healthy discussion or debate. When you see this, you can avoid the temptation to get pulled into a pointless meme salvo with some stranger in the comment section. Say to yourself, “I see what you’re doing there, and I’m not going to take the bait.”

So those are my 3 tips to staying sane on social media. They’re not a cure all, but they can help. Give ‘em a try and be a nice human online.

Thanks for reading, 

Adam

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