We are very lucky to live in a time where modern technology is readily available to us.
Within seconds, we can share with our friends, family, and even strangers what we ate for lunch, what we’re watching on TV, or the next crafty project we’ve been working on. But social media can be dangerous for our mental health and well-being if used incorrectly.
Finding a balance between the positive and negative features of social media on an ordinary day is challenging, let alone while we’re facing a global pandemic – one that implements physical social distancing. As social creatures, it is important to continue communication with one another and stay in touch. Social media platforms allow us to do this in many creative ways. However, they may also open a door to constant COVID-19 coverage which can be incorrect, outdated, or twisted to fit a specific narrative. While it is responsible to stay informed, an excess of media can lead to overwhelming negative feelings, including fear, paranoia and anxiety.
Below, we have gathered some tips and tricks on how to help filter out unwanted content:
We’ve all heard the saying ‘sharing is caring’ but this is not always the case.
Sharing information, especially a post that you think could benefit and inform the people you care about, is not inherently a bad thing. However, with clickbait and politically motivated bias, spreading misinformation has become all too easy.
If you are thinking about sharing a post or article related to COVID-19, take a moment to consider why you want to share it.
- Are you trying to scare people into taking precautionary measures seriously?
- Are you intending to help inform your friends and family?
Whatever the reason may be, come up with a list of consequences that may occur as a result of your decision. Then, brainstorm alternative ways you can get your message across (tell your friends and family you care about them and want them to stay safe).
If you’d still like to go forward with your post, check the validity of the source.
- Are they reputable?
- Are there additional articles published that support similar facts or messages?
- When was the article created?
- Does the author personally benefit from conveying this message?
- Is there evidence provided or is it speculation?
Purpose/point of view?
For example, this article from The Onion, a parody news site, has often been mistaken at first glance as a genuine news source. Those who do not know anything about the topic could see this article and assume it is truth:
LOS ANGELES—In a rare public appearance from the reclusive artist, Billie Eilish, 73, broke her silence Friday to discuss the ravages of fame in an interview from her hermetically sealed mansion. “The musician lifestyle is pretty rough, and it can take one hell of a toll on your body,” the septuagenarian singer and songwriter told reporters from her completely sterilized and germ-free home, as her gnarled fingers trembled while reaching for a container of glaucoma medication. “Yes, I got to be a superstar, but when you get to my age, you begin to wonder if it was worth all the pain and agony. Seems like only yesterday I was a carefree 16-year-old, but look at me now—I’m half-blind, I can barely stand, and my bones are as fragile as peanut brittle.” At press time, the 98-year-old Eilish had passed away quietly in her sleep.
Photo: Getty Images
This article is entirely fiction. It’s very important to fact check the information you read, even from local newspapers or news stations, to ensure that the content you add to social media informs and does not contribute to the circulation of misinformation.
CONTROL YOUR INFORMATION
Out of sight, out of mind…
Many social media networks allow you to control what you see to an extent.
These 3 popular platforms can help minimize your COVID-19 exposure:
- Click Settings
- Click News Feed Preferences
You can prioritize the pages and friends you would like to see come up on your news feed before anything else.
If you see an advertisement you found to be triggering or did not like, click the 3 horizontal dots on the top right of the post and click “Hide ad”- you will never see this advertisement again.
If you see a video you found to be triggering or did not like, click the 3 horizontal dots on the top right of the post and click “Hide post”- you will see fewer posts like this in the future, or “Snooze for 30 days”- it will give you a break from this page or person’s posts, or “Hide all” and you will stop seeing posts from this page or person.
- Click Settings and privacy from your profile image drop-down.
- Click Muted words.
- Click Add.
- Enter the word or hashtag you’d like to mute. Entries can only be added one a time.
- Select Home timeline if you wish to mute the word or phrase from your Home timeline.
- Select Notifications if you wish to mute the word or phrase from your Notifications.
- Specify From anyone or From only people I don’t follow.
- Under For how long? choose between Forever, 24 hours from now, 7 days from now, or 30 days from now.)
- Click Add.
- You will see the mute time period indicated next to each entered word or hashtag.
This will filter out any unwanted or triggering words and tweets associated with them.
On your news feed, if you see an advertisement you find to be triggering or did not like, click the 3 top horizontal dots on the top right of the post and click “Hide ad”- you will not see it again.
On your explore feed, if you see a post you find to be triggering or did not like, click the top 3 horizontal dots on the top right of the post and click “Not interested”- this will let them know you don’t want to see similar posts in the future.
While we can filter out some COVID-19 content, it is not completely avoidable so long as we continue to use the networks. Below are some other technologies you can use to connect with loved ones:
MANAGE YOUR INTAKE
How much is enough?
Ask yourself how often you are on the internet or watching the news, seeking updates on COVID-19.
Most devices have a feature that allows you to monitor and restrict your screen time. You can customize how much time you allow yourself to spend on any given application throughout the day.
To manage screen time on:
Most of the time, a daily check-in is more than enough. If you are checking hourly, perhaps try distracting yourself by catching up on some reading, doing art, reorganizing your house, playing with pets or kids or siblings.
In this time of uncertainty, it’s important to keep yourself and the people you love healthy – both physically and mentally. It’s also an opportunity to really appreciate and nurture the relationships we have.
We know that technology at the moment is the best way to do that but we hope you’ve found these tips on how to manage and control your social media intake helpful.