We live in a world where information is nothing more than a simple click away; within seconds we have the technology at our fingertips to acquire a vast supply of knowledge. Even as I sit here and type this, the thought still blows my mind. I love the Internet. I love it when my daughter asks me about Monarch butterflies and their journey from Canada to Mexico; we Google it and find out about their internal compass and their mountain pass adventures. (In case you’re wondering about the butterflies, here it is.)
Today I’d like to address the other issues that come up when we are easily inundated with massive amounts of information that aren’t always pleasant or positive, and the harmful effects that this overload can leave us with.
I dig social media, and I use it every single day. I have “met” some of my dearest friends through Facebook and Twitter. I also have a responsibility as the founder of a support page and support groups on Facebook to maintain those platforms. I can’t leave 26,000+ people that have found their support through that page hanging, and I wouldn’t. But, what I have done is made sure that I have trusted people to step up and fill in for me if for any reason I get triggered and need to disconnect for a bit.
You see the thing about social media is that it is filled with media, and we all know how media works; sensationalize the biggest stories, and unfortunately the biggest stories are usually tragic and full of horrific details. These are the stories that sell, and when they are laid out in front of you, without you even going looking for it, it’s that much easier to click and read.
Let me take you back to August 11, 2014, a day that is forever engraved into people’s hearts and minds. That was the day that Robin Williams took his own life. I was just one of millions of people that was deeply saddened by his death. In the days following I was horrified by how the media made a despicable circus of the tragic loss of this iconic and pained soul. There were media reports stating, “The Williams family have asked for privacy” and as they were saying this there was a huge red banner on the top of the screen that read “Watch Live: Aerials Of Williams’ Home” This was from a reputable news source too, not some sleazy tabloid. It’s in your face, and when you are a highly sensitive person, it’s going to effect you.
The point that I’m getting to is that every single social media platform was flooded with posts and updates and details about this. The choice to search was not there, it was right in front of your face. Yes, we had a choice on whether or not to click on the link, but at times like those, sometimes those headlines reel us in (just like they are designed to do.) I actually put out a status on my Facebook page telling everyone that it was completely ok to disconnect, and they thanked me for that. Some people needed that little bit of advice to shut down. It’s ok to disengage. It’s healthy.
Bad things happen in our world, on a global scale, that is what it is, and it’s completely ok to stay informed on what’s going on. But, if you find yourself constantly clicking on every tragic event that has occurred and consuming yourself with nothing but negative information, how do you think this affects your life and your health? It actually causes stress. You need to be able to disengage for a bit. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is this going to be harmful to my mental health?
- Is this causing me anxiety or triggering me?
- Am I becoming overwhelmed or obsessive with this story?
- Can I shut these feelings off once I shut the computer off?
Look at the answers to those questions that you’ve just answered and evaluate them accordingly. I’m not telling you to become ignorant; I would never do that. I’m telling you to become familiar with your triggers, what you can handle, and that it’s completely ok to shut down, unplug, and do something that does not require you spending a single second thinking about everything that is wrong with this world.
I have a really big problem when it comes to addressing what I think are asinine comments that people leave on certain news stories, I’ve had to take my own advice on many different occasions. It works. If you really have a problem unplugging all together, Google the lifespan of a sea turtle, amateur photography, or the Guinness World Record for most people to fit into a phone booth. Look at something healthy and useful. Even better, spend some time here, at PsychCentral. You’ll keep your balance in check, and nothing feels better than that.