Recently, I have gotten into the habit of spending time on social media every morning. I wake up, feed the cats, start making a cup of coffee, and start the social media binge.
This is a change for me, as I never really got into the groove of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.. But ever since I began writing, I have tried to increase my presence on these platforms. It’s been a great experience reconnecting with people and expanding my network, but I’ve started to notice another effect going on.
The Risk of Social Media
Whenever you open Facebook or Twitter, and you look at trending topics, it seems that the topics people are talking about have become increasingly negative. World politics, civil rights battles, school shootings, bombings, the list of negative talking points seems endless.
God forbid you dig into these topics and see what people are saying. Discussion points become attack positions. Rather than learning from each other’s experiences and wisdom, we hurl insults. All positivity goes out the window and people become more polarized than when they began.
My problem is that I get sucked up into this social media drama.
I read an article, come to my own conclusion about the contents, and then read through the comments; hoping that there are people discussing the article with maturity. Then, someone makes a snide remark and lights the powder keg.
The next thing you know, the comments section is a battlefield, and even the onlookers (myself included) are silently empowering the behavior. In these situations, we naturally begin to side with those making arguments congruent to our and roll our eyes at the opposing position.
After 20 or so minutes of reading these comments, I’ve burned through my quiet morning and have to rush off to work; the raging comments still swirling in my head. I think about how wrong those people are to be as angry as they are. I even imagine what I would say in response to them. Needless to say, I get myself fired up.
What Is This Helping?
Without knowing it, we are immersing ourselves in this negativity. We argue that we are trying to improve the world by joining the conversation, but is it really helping if the rest of your day is spent fuming about someone calling you school-yard names?
How we start our days sets the tone for everything we do that day. If we start by polarizing ourselves against half of the world population and get hung up on arguments that aren’t our own, then how are we going to be able to effectively and positively improve the circumstances of our immediate environment?
For me, it comes down to this:
The days I spend time in this swamp of negativity, I experience tension headaches, I’m more impatient, less empathetic, and more depressed. Because, really, if you place yourself around toxic people, you’ll start to think everyone is toxic. And how does that help anything?
From now on, this is my rule for social media. You are welcome to join me if you find you experience the same issues.
If I do not find joy in what I am doing – if I am not growing from the experience – then that experience is of no benefit to me.
Not everything we read, watch, or listen to needs to be substantive. Sometimes the best way to spend 5 minutes is watching funny cat videos instead of keeping up with current events.