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Surviving Stressful Storms – Social Media

Updated: Oct 11, 2020

In this post, I examine a topic from my upcoming book, Surviving Stressful Storms

What are your stress triggers? I daresay that many of us would have a very lengthy catalog should we sit down and list them all. But doing that – listing those triggers – is a key step in getting a handle on our stress.

Human beings are prone to a phenomenon known as “desensitization.” In the process of desensitization, our responsiveness to (and awareness of the effects of) certain stimuli are diminished after repeated exposure. Therein lies the danger of repeated exposure to stressors – we become less aware of them, but they have negative effects on our mind, emotions, and body just the same.

There is a popular “frog fable” that states: If you put a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will leap out right away to escape the danger. But if you put a frog into a pot that is filled with cool and pleasant water, then gradually heat the pot until it starts boiling, the frog will not become aware of the threat until it is too late because the frog’s survival instincts are geared toward detecting sudden changes.

Though this is indeed a fable, it does have an important and practical lesson for us when it comes to managing our stress: becoming mindful of our stressors is an important step in managing them.

There is one very common stressor today that has become a virtual boiling pot for the frogs that frequent it: Social Media. I recall when I took my first foray into the virtual world of Facebook many years ago (so many, I have quite forgotten). Facebook was the first (and for many years only) Social Media platform I frequented. It was fun connecting with old friends, staying current with new friends, becoming better acquainted with colleagues and neighbors, reconnecting with family I don’t get to see often, and even making new friends through mutual acquaintances and common interests. Over time, I even branched out into Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. And all of these Social Medias were initially just that – social.

Over time, however, the “social” aspects of these Social Medias started changing. No longer was it just pics of the family, vacations, pets and kids; but it started becoming an outlet for soapboxing, politicizing, opinionating, and even cyber bullying (even among “friends”). Stress from Social Media is real – and it is often unrealized as we enter in expecting to connect with others instead of being stressed by or disconnected from them due to negativism or the sharing of controversial, stressful, depressing, or otherwise inappropriate posts.

It is important to be aware of “Social Media Stress” and if Social Media is a stressor for you, then Cut-R-Loose! Try some of the following techniques for ridding your Life Ship of this heavy cargo:

Limit Social Media Time: give yourself a time limit and stop scrolling when that time is up. Only view Social Media on certain days. Further limit your time on Social Media during stressful times in society (elections, hot button issues, protests, etc.) and do not look at Social Media just before bedtime.

Follows: Unfollow negative people (you don’t have to unfriend them if you want to stay in touch, just unfollow their feeds so you don’t see them every time you logon). Follow positive people – especially those who are encouraging and make you smile.

Unsubscribe: If you subscribe to new channels or special interest groups that cause you stress, unsubscribe.

Notifications: Turn off your Social Media notifications so you won’t be distracted by them or “trained” to swipe open every notification that comes across your phone.

Digital Self: Remind yourself that people tend to share what they want on Social Media – the “digital self” they want everyone to know. This digital self doesn’t usually line up with the full reality of their lives; but is instead the image they want to project to their followers.

Likes: Remind yourself that “likes” do not equate to “likes you as a person.” More likes doesn’t make you a more popular or likable person and fewer likes doesn’t make you a less desirable or likable person. People “like” based on their interests at that particular time and some people simply never “like” anything on their Social Medias.

Limit Social Medias: If you engage in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, or others, consider choosing one or two (preferably one) Social Medias and only viewing and posting to them. When it comes to distractions and pipelines of stress, the fewer the better.

Log Off and Engage: Make it a point to have meaningful personal “in-person” experiences in your life. Avoid living only in the digital world of Social Medias – for that world is, after all, virtual, to a great extent pretend, and ultimately impersonal.

I deal with this subject in more depth in my upcoming book Surviving Stressful Storms. But for now, look around the deck of your Life Ship and identify your Social Media Cargo and “Cut-R-Loose.” Use some of these tools to cut loose that heavy cargo so you can lighten your load and sail on through the stressful storms of your life.

© 2020 by J. David Chrisman

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