By: Jackie Shelton-Espinosa, MSW, LCSW
With the advent of the Internet and subsequently social media, information about all aspects of people’s lives is at the click of a button. Of course, most things in moderation are not harmful. And one could list all of the benefits of increased access and information to the masses. However, if not careful, you can quickly find yourself in the upside down.
Information on the Internet is not always accurate. When information is accurate (i.e. medical diagnoses), it does not necessarily apply to you, and last but not least, things are not always what they seem. Just like the show, the upside down is a space where monsters and darkness dwell.
In the infinite abyss of the world wide web, one can find themselves experiencing the following:
These feelings are prompted by misinformation or misinterpretation of information. They are also fueled by social media’s most powerful weapon, fake news. The term fake news is not just associated with jokes aimed at our current administration. It can be applied to anything and anyone that claims to be something or live in a way that is not true.
Feelings of worthlessness and discontent from constant exposure to social media impacts the “average” person, and sometimes, has a significant impact on individuals living with mental illness. Comparisons, shaming, bullying, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and many other forms of toxic energy permeate the space that so many of us now spend most of our time.
Social justice warriors keeping abreast of the latest fight and advocating for the rights of others experience immense compassion fatigue the more they are active on social media. Although staying current in and of itself is not bad, consistent exposure to trauma and negative images takes its toll.
It is important to keep things in perspective when thinking about interfacing on social media. Here are some things that can help you navigate this process while protecting your mental health:
Do not believe everything you see or read (This might seem like common sense, however, far too often people do not question the content on the Internet and/or social media)
Understand that people reveal what they want you to see. (Just like in real life, people put their best foot forward, and many times, hide what is beneath the surface)
Remove or unfollow negative and toxic sources and replace them with positive and uplifting ones.
Make a plan to take scheduled breaks from social media and engage in some good old fashioned human interaction.
At the end of the day, the Internet and social media are powerful tools that create space for people to have a voice and be heard. However, falling into the upside down is a process that can happen without warning.
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