Confession: Somedays I scroll through my Facebook feed and feel completely overwhelmed by the sheer volume of “noise” – information, opinions, causes and advertising.
There is something incredibly humbling, and a little demoralising, about reading real-time human atrocities such as acts of terrorism and war, directly followed by a detailed summary of what your second cousin had for breakfast and pictures from a co-worker’s hen’s party.
This mish mash of information overload is unique to social media. Unique to this generation. No longer do we peruse a broadsheet over our breakfast or tune into the radio on the way to work to get drip-fed news worthy material. In reality, many of us now plug in to the news of the world before our feet even touch the floor in the morning.
It makes me ponder what impact this deluge of information has on our mental state. Take for example, the disaster of flight MH17. I knew about this horrific incident before I had uttered a single word to my children that day. I hadn’t had a shower or a coffee, heck I hadn’t even looked out the window. Yet there I was snuggled in the warm comfort of my feather doona, contemplating the deaths of 290+ innocent people on the other side of the world. It made me want to grab the kids and pull the covers over our heads, never to step foot outside again!
Social media is not all doom and gloom, of course. Plenty of good news stories are shared and social media is a fantastic mechanism for getting the word out about the amazing things people are doing to make the world a better place. However, this can take it’s own kind of mental and emotional toll as we are inundated with appeals for countless worthy causes. It’s hard not to feel guilty for not following, donating or otherwise supporting all the charities and fundraisers for various chronic diseases, community initiatives, not to mention the orphanage the Angelina Jolie runs. It takes all my will power not to rescue every puppy the animal welfare page posts. If it wasn’t for the threat of divorce, I’d be the crazy dog lady in no time.
Oh, and while we are at it, I’d have more cushions too. Lots and lots of cushions. It’s not quite the salvation of humanity but Facebook has really honed in on my latest obsession with homewares. Then there’s all the adorable baby items. My sidebar and suggested pages to follow are full of gorgeous things I lust after. Pinterest and Instagram are just as bad at tempting my inner consumer. So many things I
want want WANT need. Maybe. Just a little?
While I’m contemplating the sales at Temple & Webster, I read all the posts by friends, family and random acquaintances. Some are happy, some are sad. Everyone experiences life out loud, vividly and quite often in picture form. I know the planned colour of Sally’s bedroom feature wall, that John is looking forward to days off and that Mary’s kid got selected for the state soccer team.
Would I know this information otherwise? Probably not. Does it change my world? No. Is it adding to the “noise” in my head? Most definitely!
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE social media. I love connecting with like-minded people, I love
oversharing and I love learning new, interesting things every single day. I am also acutely aware that as a blogger/social media bar fly I contribute more than my fair share.
However, I am starting to realise that some days the “noise” of social media gets to much. The information overload takes it’s toll.
We really need to be conscious of our personal goals, needs and limitations when looking through the kaleidoscope that is today’s social media arena.
We cannot fix all the world’s problems, buy all the things or always keep up with the Jones’s.
Feelings of despair, guilt, envy, inadequacy or overwhelming social awareness are not constructive or healthy.
If you are like me and find it impossible to avoid social media all together, even when you aren’t at your most resilient, here are some tips to avoid falling victim to the social media mind trap:
1. Skim over posts and avoid clicking on links to articles that appear to contain distressing or “heavy” content.
2. Avoid reading the comments attached to posts in relation to issues you feel strongly about, chances are opinions and beliefs that are contrary or degrading to yours will offend and upset. Reading or engaging with the conversation will drag you deeper into the mind trap.
3. Hide or Unlike/Unfriend pages or friends that continual post material you find emotionally taxing.
4. Pick two or three causes/charities/organisations that you feel passionately about to follow on social media and keep it to that.
5. Avoid checking social media immediately prior to bed and when you wake up. Start and finish your day with a clear, relaxed mind.
6. Step away from your device! Allocate a set amount of time each day where your computer/tablet/smart phone is out of reach or switched off to help you resist the temptation of checking in with social media.
These few small logical steps can help us maintain a sense of perspective in relation to our own locus of control and establish a healthy ongoing relationship with social media.
Do you ever experience information overload from social media? What do you do to avoid the social media mind trap?