We see in real-time how social media has become the loudest microphone for exposing injustice and is quickly becoming an essential tool for many activists. Unfortunately, with all the positive impacts of social media, we often neglect how it can negatively affect our mental health.
With the deaths of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and many more, we are constantly reminded of how expendable people of color, particularly Black people, are in the United States. Social media often serves as a reminder of this, with hashtags calling for justice for someone who has experienced racial or gender-based violence. For the past few weeks, many of us have been preoccupied with spreading awareness, signing petitions, donating, and educating ourselves on the history of racial injustice in the United States, and many of us have neglected our mental health in the process.
As we protest injustice, we are also experiencing a global health pandemic. Instead of focusing on our health and spending time with our loved ones, many of us feel obligated to go out and march and spend hours on social media to stay updated.
One thing many of my friends and I can attest to during this time of protests and digital activism is the constant feeling of fatigue. Long hours spent staring at our screens, refreshing Instagram and Twitter, and constantly being exposed to bad news from different parts of the world regarding racial violence is exhausting. Our brains are constantly processing these traumatic posts and images, and they deserve a break.
When the COVID-19 lockdown was announced, social media became a way for us to connect with our friends and family that we were not in quarantine with, and it provided us with a sense of socialization through the quarantine period. But, what do you do when the thing you use as an escape becomes a constant reminder of the injustices in the world?
A lot of us struggle to stay informed, and yet it is okay to take a break from your phone and prioritize your mental health. For one's activism to be successful, you have to take care of yourself first.
While scrolling through social media and retweeting posts to raise awareness can seem harmless at first, constantly being exposed to traumatic information can have a negative impact on mental health. We have become so used to the feeling of constantly being on high alert, checking our phones, and discussing violence in a casual manner that—out of necessity—we have learned to normalize bearing the weight of our own trauma and the trauma of our communities on our shoulders.
Videos, images, and posts shared by well-meaning people can re-traumatize us. We often don’t even acknowledge how such re-traumatization is affecting us because we have become so used to the anxiety and weight that comes along with centuries of racial injustice in the U.S.
Completely deleting all your social media is one way to take a step back and recenter. However, deleting social media entirely may be hard during this time, and there are other ways you can set social media boundaries to help limit your exposure to distressing news content.
Stay up to date on WCI’s work and how your support makes a difference.