How to Survive on Social Media Post Election
As the dust settles on social media from our recent elections, we may find that the landscape of our online network has changed. My own newsfeed has seemed clogged with voices on both sides expressing anger, fear, frustration, and sweeping declarations meant to, if nothing else, help them feel better. Some posts are respectful, some passive-aggressive, a few pointed and attacking, and sadly, a few are so mean spirited and hate fueled that I am shocked. Perhaps you are also sifting through this open mic night that has a spotlight on the elections and feeling confused, hurt, angered, or even isolated.
Here are a few tips to guide us all through this maze of media overload and hopefully help us begin to rebuild the encouraging network we previously enjoyed.
- Reevaluate what social media means to you: One reason why it may feel so difficult to take these comments in stride is the meaning you are putting towards your relationships that exist primarily via the net. Had you been considering this group to be your “tribe,” your trusted few with whom you share openly? If so the shock of opposing opinions may feel extremely painful for you, and viewing FaceBook friends as acquaintances or an online community as a starting point to a relationship might be healthier.
- Establish Boundaries on your Social Media: We all have the right to our personal boundaries, and that extends into our newsfeed. What comments are the most harming to you? Is it name calling, vulgar language, specific subject matter? Determine what your okay with and what you are not. Then establish those boundaries with the people around you (or in this case in your network). Let them know that this type of content is unwelcome in your newsfeed; you would like to keep in touch with them via social media but you may have to limit your access to their comments as they are difficult for you. This is not an invitation for you to devalue them or their own opinions. On the contrary, you are letting them know that you value the relationship and are caring for it by limiting your exposure to those comments that may come between you.
- Use Your Favorites List: This is another way you can set boundaries within your network. Most social media has a “favorites” function. This allows you to create a list of those people with whom you feel safe and supported. This does not mean that you create a list of people who agree with your every word, but rather, you can cultivate greater relationships with those who respect you and treat you as you want to be treated online. These should be the people that you are not afraid to disagree with: people with whom you know that your disagreement will be responded to respectfully. Limit the time spent on your un-curated boards and focus on those groups that lift you up.
- Be Mindful That These Are Real People and Relationships: It can be easy to forget that there are real people behind every status update. While anonymous postings on comment boards are done without recourse, that is not the case on your more personal pages such as Facebook and Instagram. You may likely see these people at the gym, your child’s school, or the family dinner table. We feel removed from such interactions when posting from our computer late at night, but we are not removed from these people on a day to day basis. Just as we would in person, we must prioritize what battles we choose to fight and why. Ask yourself, “why is this point important for me to make to this person.” There may be a more diplomatic way to help them understand where you are coming from than a Facebook posting.
- Get off the grid: I suggest this to people so often. It is incredibly freeing to take yourself offline for periods of time. Maybe you drop off for a day or a weekend, maybe just a few hours, but whatever the time span there is a peacefulness that comes with purposely unplugging. You can gain perspective and feel more in control of the world around you. You have a greater likelihood of only allowing in what you choose and to design the world around you rather than having it forced upon you. If you feel smothered by the opinions of others and are feeling a divide growing between you and those you care for, my greatest advice is to get offline. You can always re-engage when you are refueled and focused on what is important to you, rather than what is important to others. Trust me…Facebook will be there when you return.
This election season was different from anything our country has ever experienced, in part because of social media and our access to the candidates. We were inundated with more information and ideas than we ever have been before. No election in my lifetime has seen this type of rhetoric on such a moment to moment basis. Previous generations engaged in politics primarily through the nightly news or daily paper. We engaged 24/7 through hundreds of media outlets brought right to our smart phones every second of the day. That may be why the contention feels overwhelming for so many. You are not alone in those feelings, and the experts at Noyau can help you sift through them in the safe and nonjudgmental environment many Americans are craving right now.