What is social media drain and how do I deal with it?

Being on social media in 2020 is an extreme sport

2020 has seen a lot of unexpected tragedy and scandal on a global scale. These events have been difficult enough. On top of everything, everyone on social media space seems obsessed with highlighting everything wrong with the world.

If social media is making you anxious, you may be experiencing compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is defined by Psychology Today as the “strain of feeling another’s pain.” It’s basically feeling exhausted from empathetic responses to bad things happening globally.

It’s easier than ever to stay informed, but this endless stream of upsetting information can take a toll. And it’s not just because we’re aware of terrible things. Sometimes it can be even harder to find solutions amongst all the doom and gloom.

The thing is, we need solutions more than ever right now. The world is so much worse when we can’t see a way for things to be better. This ideal media landscape will take time to cultivate, so in the meantime, there are a few things you can do to prioritise your wellbeing.

Schedule talks with your friends

Checking in with others is so important. It’s always worse to go through a hard time if you feel like you’re the only one experiencing suffering. Sometimes I’m feeling a bit stressed and upset, but the chance to speak to someone who cares for me can give me the extra boost I need to get through the day. This could be friends, family and any loved one you trust.

Even virtual checkups can make a difference despite the physical distance. If someone isn’t free, chances are they’ll get back to me later or someone else will be available.

If you’d rather talk to someone who is detached from your life, helplines like Samaritans can be rung at 116 123.

Try not to go on social media when you feel vulnerable

Avoiding social media when vulnerable is hard to do. It can be a source of validation or approval. That said, when I’m burnt out from working, social media just makes me more stressed from seeing the picture perfect images and oversimplified stories of success.

I’ve had to recognise when I have urges to check apps and where those urges are coming from. If they come from an anxious or distraction-seeking space then I try to do something else, turn off notifications or just switch off my phone.

Look for the content you enjoy

It’s always easier said than done to set limits on how much you look at the news and social media apps. But I think finding information I’m interested in or makes me happy is more important (and easier) than cutting down on the triggering stuff.

Watch that show or movie you’ve been putting off or listen to that conversational podcast or album that cheers you up. There is a lot of content out there beyond doom and gloom.

Overall, being more conscious of how I use social media has helped me stay aware of my wellbeing and stress. Different things work for everyone but it’s important to recognise that social media is something that affects most of us today, and we can share ways that we cope to empower and help one another.

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