Handling Social Media Posts You HateMay 17, 2016
It sucks to get slapped by social media. I don’t mean targeted personal attacks (although I know about those, too) — I’m talking about what happens when you’re scrolling through Facebook just to decompress and see a post that challenges your worldview, and not in a good way. Maybe it’s a pro-Donald Trump post when you’re … well, you don’t know what you are, but you’re definitely anti-Trump. Maybe you wish you had a family, and it hurts to see all those “I never knew love before I had children” posts from moms with pretty babies. Maybe you’re a blogger who dedicated a lot of effort and time to championing local shops, but your friends still post about stuff they bought on Amazon like it’s no big deal (cough-cough).
It’s always hard to defend against your triggers, but sometimes the social media jabs can hurt more than anything — because they come when we least expect them, and because they’re coming from people who are supposed to be our friends.
I’m certainly not an expert at defusing social media rage, but I do have a lot of practice. (You try having Amazon as an arch enemy and see how well that works out for you.) And considering we’re heading into an election season that’s already defined by bullying, I thought it might be nice to share the strategies that help keep my blood pressure low and my mumbling of mean-spirited comebacks to a minimum.
Engage with Intention
Most of us check our social networks habitually, whenever we have a few spare moments; those moments also tend to be when we’re annoyed, when we’ve just finished a big task, or when we’re procrastinating something. In other words, our defenses are down. At that point, what I want is to scroll through a few pretty pictures and read something funny, and what I get is an emotional barb that goes straight to the heart.
One solution that’s helped me is to stop grabbing my phone thoughtlessly. I try hard not to check social when I’m just bored or tired; I do it when I genuinely want five minutes of entertainment. Is it still annoying when someone sullies my mini-break with a pro-Trump rant? Sure. But at least my attention is focused enough to handle it. (I stole this intentionality thing from the book Manage Your Day-to-Day where it was presented as a time-management tool to prevent losing hours of the day to mindless browsing. It totally works for that, too.)
Have a Social Media Mantra
I know this seems silly, but audibly reminding yourself of your real priorities can be helpful, especially when your high school BFF doesn’t understand that she’s ripping your guts out when she says life was meaningless before she was a mommy. My mantra is more of a guideline: “Don’t get real-life offended by something that happens on the Internet.” Chances are, these posts are written and posted when people are busy and emotional, and they’re probably not meant as personal attacks — it helps not to take them that way. If my friend really thinks my life is meaningless because I don’t have kids, she’ll probably find ways to tell me in person. Until then, I’ll do my best to roll my eyes and blow it off.
Handle It Personally; Don’t Take It Personally.
Most of the time, our friends and family probably don’t mean to hurt us when they post thoughtless or volatile things online. But when we’re seriously hurt anyway, sometimes the right thing to do is approach them about it — but entering into the fray on social media usually does more harm than good. If you find that engaging in a comment battle is productive, by all means, go for it. But I can’t do it without getting too wrapped up, being too mean, or getting too hurt. If something online upsets me terribly, I try hard to find a way to approach the person. Is that really, really hard? Yeah. But if someone you love is hurting you consistently, it might be a good idea. Or not …
Disengage from Social Media If You Can/Want to
If the person who’s making you angry is, say, your grandpa, and if what he’s doing is, say, voting for Trump, this may not be a battle you want to fight. If your relationship would be better if the problem just went away, you can make that happen: I’m a big fan of the unfollow. On Facebook, this is easy, because you can do it without the person knowing (to unfollow on Facebook, click the little arrow next to their name and select from the drop-down choices). Instagram and Twitter are a little trickier; the person will probably know if you unfollow, but in my opinion, it’s worth it not to have the stress of seeing posts that make your blood boil.
Of course, you can always disengage completely. If your business allows you to get off social media totally, and you really feel like that’s best, by all means do it. But if you don’t want to be that extreme, you can always avoid times that will be a specific trigger for you. As my friend Jenn says, “I always know to avoid Facebook during holidays and SEC football games.” If a holiday (or a football game) is particularly difficult for you, it’s okay to take a social media fast for a couple of days until the moment has passed. It’s tough, but taking a break from social media every so often is probably good for us, anyway.
Carrie Rollwagen reviews books for Southern Living; she’s the Communications Director at Infomedia and author of the buy-local book The Localist. Find her on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter @crollwagen.