What's Fueling Your Negativity?

Things are getting really ugly in our society; I don't think anyone who pays any attention at all to the media would dispute that.

And I'm not just talking about politics, although certainly that is very much front and centre right now. But everyone seems to be divided these days, on a myriad of issues - pro mask vs. anti mask; pro vaccines vs. anti vaccines; send your kids back to school vs. keep them home; Carnivore Diet vs. Veganism; and on it goes.

We like to think that we are "above all of that". On Facebook, or whatever our preferred platform, we share memes filled with platitudes, and we pontificate about how nasty everyone else seems to be. But all too often, we catch ourselves getting sucked into it, too.

Has that happened to you? Have you ever wondered why? Have you been thinking to yourself lately that you're turning into someone you don't recognize, or don't want to become?

It certainly was true for me. So, I took a step back, and analyzed what was going on. I realized that I was spending an awful lot of time scrolling through social media. Like a sponge, I was soaking up a lot of negativity and bad news, simply by virtue of seeing it flash by on my timeline. Even if I didn't engage with the content, it still affected me.

Some years ago, I stopped watching the news on TV or listening to it on the radio. I did this because it felt like I was being bombarded with negativity, either before I started my day (and what a lousy way to begin your day!) or late at night, which then tended to disrupt my sleep.

I used to state, with actual pride, that I got my news selectively from the web. But if I was totally honest, there was nothing selective about it, apart form the fact that I had chosen my friends carefully on social media. The truth was, I was still getting bombarded, but the effect was arguably even worse, because it was all one-sided commentary about how awful everything and everyone is.

Don't get me wrong; I love my friends, but some of them had gotten sucked into the vortex, and were sharing every bit of negative news that came across their feeds, thus amplifying the noise. 

The negativity was one thing; what I also realized, when I took a good hard look at things, was how much time I was wasting in mindless consumption of social media. 

There's nothing inherently evil in social media, although certainly it can be used for nefarious purposes. But it ought to be thought of as a tool. Sadly, the Mark Zuckerbergs and Jack Dorseys of the world realized early on that the best way for them to make money with this tool was to turn it into a source of entertainment, and an addictive one at that. Every "like", "comment" and "share" of something we've posted gives us a little dopamine hit, and it makes us want more.

Here's a great exercise for you to try: assuming most of your social media consumption is via your smart phone, go to the phone's settings and check out how much time you've actually spend on each of those platforms in the past week. If you have an iPhone, go to "Screen Time" and click on "See All Activity". It will also tell you how many times you picked up your phone, and which app you used first after you picked it up.

It is truly illuminating data. 

Now, ask yourself - what could I do with an extra (fill in your number) hours in my day? 

If you could get back that much time, AND improve your mood by reducing your exposure to negative inputs, that would be a win-win, right? It certainly has been for me, over the past few days.

Now, make sure you hear me. I'm not telling you to stop using social media. I'm telling you to be conscious of HOW you use it. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Curate your feed so that negative posts don't invade your timeline. Most platforms allow you to mute people, pages or topics. If it's a family member or co-worker that you can't unfriend, you can simply unfollow them, and they'll never know.
  2. Set time limits for yourself, and put your social media activity in your calendar so it's actually a scheduled appointment. This makes you much more aware of what you're actually doing.
  3. Don't take your phone with you into the bathroom. Yes, sadly, I've been guilty of this myself. You can end up spending half an hour on the throne, and it's really not sanitary, either. Think about that...
  4. Don't use any device with a screen within 2 hours of bedtime. Not only will you feel more peaceful as you prepare to bed down for the night, but you'll also get a better, deeper sleep by not exposing yourself to all that blue light, which suppresses the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.

A great way to counteract the negativity when you're online is to seek out positive and inspirational content on social media, and to hang out in online communities designed to lift people up. I hope that I'm providing one of those safe spaces, and that you find what you're looking for both here on the blog, as well as on my various social channels.

If there's a topic you'd like me to cover, or you have any comments to share, I'd love to hear about it! Please drop me a line below, or you can email me at [email protected] . 

 

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