Overwhelmed by social media? Here are some tips

Having 24/7 access to troubling news can feed your anxiety. Dr. Colleen Cira explains how to determine whether you need a break.

While social media sites have been a great way to reconnect with old friends or family, the sites have also become a dumping ground of sorts for news articles and opinions. 

There are benefits to scrolling through your feed, but psychologist Dr. Colleen Cira said to beware of some of the negative impacts. 

“Most of us struggle to watch or read about real-life atrocities and may have some mild anxiety symptoms as a result. We may avoid the content entirely, experience intrusive and/or ruminating thoughts about the disaster, feel inclined to research it more, or talk about it excessively,” Cira said. “When we witness or read about something incredibly disturbing, these are all commonplace and should fade in a matter of days.” 

Cira shared three red flags that should warn you that you need a break: 

Anxiety Doesn’t Fade Quickly

Cira: “If the anxiety about the disaster doesn’t fade in a couple of days OR the symptoms are really intense (the symptoms make it difficult to function), that’s a different thing. It’s a good general rule of thumb that whenever your reaction is way bigger or way more intense than the situation itself, there’s something else going on. Now, of course, a mass shooting or disaster of any kind is going to be incredibly disturbing for those involved or directly affected. And any compassionate human being is going to feel some level of disturbance when hearing about something as awful as this. 

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However, if you are NOT directly affected by the tragedy and it’s still interfering with your ability to function in your life, it’s fair to assume that it’s not JUST the tragedy you are reacting to.”

The Story Triggers Intense Emotions or Symptoms

Cira: “Perhaps the tragedy reminds you of your own tragedy or engenders feelings of horror and helplessness which remind you of a terrible time in your own life. Regardless, if the symptoms are really intense and/or last more than a couple of weeks, it’s time to get some professional help.”

Experiencing Upset Feelings Regularly

Cira: “Whether or not your symptoms are intense or mild, last a day or two or a couple of weeks, if you are feeling upset on a regular basis by all of the scary things happening in the world, it’s probably helpful to explore your boundaries about keeping up with current events. It’s one thing to have an idea of what’s going on in the world—it’s an entirely different thing to ingest current events constantly throughout your day.

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Aside from those red flags, Cira said it’s important to set healthy boundaries. Set limits about when, where, and how often you read or listen to the news or scroll through social media. It’s okay to tell your friends or family that you’re not up for talking about whatever the recent tragedy is. Cira said you should also give yourself permission to not read clickbait stories.

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