At risk of sounding cliché, social media can be a huge blessing, but it can be a monumental curse. It has brought long lost friends and relatives closer together and gives us a boost in self-confidence at times when other comment or like our content. It can also be an epic pain in the behind. In amongst keyboard warriors and opinions plastered everywhere on every conceivable topic you could think of, it sometimes feels a bit too much. Everyone seems to be the expert of everything these days, and sometimes I personally loathe getting online. For some, the opinions of strangers are like water off a duck’s back, but for others, it can feel personal. I know for me, I have been in both spaces, but lately, more so the former thankfully.
Only you can discern whether your social media accounts are damaging you or not. Just because you decide to fill your own page with the highlights doesn’t mean you have an unhealthy relationship with social media or have a ‘fake’ persona. Many people liken their Instagram page to a virtual photo album, selecting highlights only. I think this is an awesome way to look at it and this is the approach I tend to take. Others share their platform for raising awareness for particular issues and tend to have a more raw approach. Also, an awesome approach if that’s what you intend your page to be. This doesn’t make you dull or depressing – this makes your page relatable for those going through similar storms. Some do a combination. This is also great! You’ve gotta do you and not take personally what anyone else thinks – it’s not their account to control.
I reckon one of biggest traps of social media is the trap of letting others determine what you put on your page, and furthermore taking what others post personally (which isn’t the fault of the person who posted it). It is easier and healthier if we just don’t judge others or become bitter for what they publish. Don’t judge the woman who likes uploading make up tutorials. She is probably really passionate about it and who cares if you aren’t? Just unfollow her if it bothers you. Don’t judge the person using their platform to document their chronic disease. Maybe Instagram is a safe space for them to gather a village or learn more about their condition. If you find their content heavy on your heart, try supporting them in other ways separate to ‘following’ them. Don’t judge the mum who shares pic after pic of her newborn. Maybe she waited a long time to not only have that baby but share that baby with her family and friends. My advice is the same: if it triggers you to respond negatively, unfollow. I would even say dig deeper into why that is annoying to you. What emotions are coming up and why?
You are totally allowed to be triggered by things that pop up in your feed. Perhaps its the pesky pregnancy announcements. Maybe it’s a Keyboard Karen putting her 2 cents in yet another blog article. It could be all the pictures of couples after you’ve just been through the most awful break up ever. This is something you don’t have much control over, especially if it’s fresh. And it’s especially hard when it’s friends and family who you don’t want to stop hearing from. You’re allowed to find social media heart shattering. It’s one of the drawbacks of it. There are some great settings where if it is a few individuals in particular that’s you’re finding hard to find joy in what they are up to, you can hide them from your feed. That way, you take away the surprise of seeing their pregnancy updates, or engagement news and allows you to go and see what they are up to on your own terms. I find this a healthier approach than to be angry at the poster for living their life.
It’s up to the responder to check out of content that does trigger us when we can. For example, I used to follow a doula who was very pro home birth and was very anti birth in hospitals, intervention of drugs in labour, anti-caesarean etc. I followed her during pregnancy and beyond. I put up with her content for a while, read what she had to say as I like to keep an open mind, but after a while I was finding myself bitter at what she would be publishing. I agreed with her less and less, and at the end of the day I just had very different views when it came to childbirth and even felt attacked by what she was posting. I was complaining about her to myself one day in my head (I promise I’m not insane. Much) and I asked myself, ‘why don’t you just unfollow her?!?!?!’ It was so simple. So I did. And my headspace around childbirth has become so much more peaceful and calmer. I was triggered by her because I had an emergency Caesar and she was talking about how unnecessary they were. That was her view and even if I didn’t and will never agree, it’s not her fault I was triggered. She didn’t mean to. She was passionate about it and she has every right to post what she believes in. It was my responsibility to remove stuff that affected me negatively off my Instagram feed.
I don’t think Instagram, Facebook or Twitter is damaging if we stay away from what makes us feel crummy. There’s a difference between being educated, informed, intrigued or interested and feeling like crap because of what we are reading online every day. You have the control. I think it has less to do with what we post and more to do with what we are choosing to expose ourselves to. No one is forcing anyone to follow anything online. It’s about how we choose to spend our time on our platforms. I wouldn’t force my son to watch a tv show that made him upset or angry or scared, so why would I force myself to check into things online that evoke the same in me as an adult? Self-care includes simplifying what we expose ourselves to online just as much as what we are doing in other areas of life.