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How To Cope With Social Media Anxiety

It's OK to disengage.

Seen on Twitter this week: "It's less of a 'news cycle' these days and more of that BSG episode where the Cylons attack every 33 minutes.” We’re less than two months into 2017 and the pace of terrible breaking news updates has become unrelenting.

For many, sites like Facebook have morphed from being a place you go to look at photos of babies and dogs to one where you get into arguments with otherwise-beloved family and friends. It's exhausting.

And for some people, it's frustrating. Seeing updates on Twitter about the recent shooting in a Quebec City mosque takes on a much different tone when you're wearing a hijab, for example. Many people feel bogged down not just by the weight of the news about other people’s lives but about the weight of news about their own.

While it’s important to be informed and educated about what’s happening in the world, it’s also important to give yourself a breather so you don’t become overwhelmed to the point of inaction and despair. Here are seven tips for dealing with frightening news on social media, from absorbing it as necessary to looking away when you need to.

Plan Ahead

There are times when you know the news is going to be upsetting — for example, when you are opening up the paper the morning after a violent incident. "Sometimes we intentionally seek out information and know that we might find disturbing images and read upsetting news,” says Dessa Bergen-Cico of Syracuse University in New York. "In such cases you can prepare yourself for what you may find and plan how you intend to respond.” Think about how the news might affect you before you read it, and steel yourself for the response as necessary.

Avoid As Necessary

Do you have a relative who is constantly posting inaccurate articles or prejudiced memes on Facebook? If pointing them towards reliable sources or countering the discriminatory language their sharing isn’t getting through, feel free to disengage. Facebook’s hide function exists for a very good reason, and protecting your sanity is one of them. It’s important to speak up when you see discrimination happening — but if history tells you that this particular person isn’t listening then you can save your energy for someone who might.

Get Your News In Print

Checking the news online or on television is convenient, but it also means you can’t control the speed at which you receive the information. It also means you have a lot less control over what you are seeing when. Subscribe to a local or national newspaper or news magazine, Bergen-Cico suggests, and spend some time with that each day. You’ll absorb the information better than if you were just scanning online, and you’ll be supporting the institutions that help ensure quality news coverage.

Choose Reliable Sources

The real news is upsetting enough — you don’t need to add potentially exaggerated or straight-up fake news to the mix. Learn how to evaluate news sources and rely on those that have a solid record of accuracy and strong reporting. "Stick to mainstream reputable news sources because they generally have policies and practices that will warn people prior to exposing them to disturbing content or they will avoid posting such content altogether,” Bergen-Cico says.

Let Yourself Reset

If the news has been particularly hard, it’s OK to take a break. Make an evening news-free, or even a weekend if you can do that in your line of work. "If something is important enough you will learn about it,” says Bergen-Cico. “Meanwhile, by staying away from it you can give yourself a chance to reset yourself emotionally."


Political news may be dominating right now but those stories aren’t the only ones worth reading. Look for well-written stories about non-political topics at sites like BuzzFeed Reader, Longreads, Racked, Hazlitt, and The Root.

Work On Disengaging

"If you have recurrent intrusive thoughts and imagery from what you have seen, try to engage in mindful strategies to interrupt the thoughts so that you do not ruminate on them,” says Bergen-Cico. Listen to a meditation app on your phone, play with your pet, watch ASMR videos or Bob Ross on Netflix — things that help you relax and clear your head.

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