How much time do you spend reacting to things you see on social media and the news, and feeling every bad emotion there is to go along with it? Anger, bitterness, sadness, shock, disgust.. the collective social media content and news headlines we read off our screens daily rarely evoke any positive feelings, while the negativity of what we have reacted to remains with us. If you spend time every day reacting to things, you are perpetuating a constant streak of negativity in your life, something you carry with you day after day, week after week. It’s no wonder so many of us attribute social media and news as triggers for our depression and anxiety. The misconception with “reacting” on social media, is that people assume “reacting” means “caring”. You might be afraid that not publicly “reacting” to the latest tragedy means you don’t care, so you acknowledge every awful thing that happens in the World. You get riled up, you get angry, you become bitter, and despondent. You doubt humanity a little. You spend so much time reacting to everything all of the time, because you think it’s what you “have to do”, that you’re too paralysed with a cocktail of negative emotions to actually work on anything else. Do you see how easy it is for us to loose ourselves in the midst of this endless cycle?
What if I told you that not reacting to something on social media doesn’t actually mean that you don’t care? What if I told you no one is really paying attention to see if you post a “thoughts and prayers” status or not? What if I told you reacting to things on social media carries with it a kind of pseudo activism where you think attesting to the awful thing that happened makes a difference, but it actually doesn’t?
The only thing that can help in a time of need is physical, practical action. If you can donate money, do that. If you can offer something to people in the wake of a terrorist attack, like shelter, lifts, etc, do that. If you can volunteer, do that. If you can arrange a protest, or petition, or come together in a vigil do that. But don’t, whatever you do, waste time and energy pointlessly reacting, getting angry, or posting tweets or Facebook statuses condemning what has happened like that’s actually the solution to the problem – because it doesn’t help anyone. You are just shouting in to the void of similar posts – along with those people who pretend they have lost family members in terrorist attacks for retweets and likes – and you will become bitter and angry soaking up the racist, ignorant, hateful opinions other people may also share. Terrorists literally rely on people to spread the fear in the wake of their attacks. Playing into that fear and anger is exactly what they need you to do.
In the wake of the Manchester attacks, the active stance the people of Manchester took to spread love, to help one another, to come up with ways to fundraise for those affected and the absolute refusal to react the way the terrorists wanted them to was inspiring and powerful. It was an amazing example of what can be accomplished when people realise their collective power instead of giving it away by reacting with fear and hatred. It is the active stance that helps, not the passive social media acknowledgement.
Tony Robbins has a quote that says “If you don’t make a conscious effort to control your focus – and decide in advance which things you’re going to focus on – you’ll be so pulled by the demands of the world that you will soon find yourself living in reaction rather than living a life plan you’ve designed for yourself” – and I couldn’t agree more. You need to know what is worth paying attention to and for how long. What good am I to mankind if I am too busy reacting to things with fear and anger on social media to ever accomplish anything that actually enables me to give back?
Trust me, I am not perfect. I have folded under the pressure many times in the past to post something acknowledging the latest terrorist attack, lest people think I’m out here not feeling what’s happening. I get it, people seek unity in feeling sad or scared, but collectively feeling fearful is not a good thing. Now if I find myself composing a reactionary tweet, I have to stop and think ‘What higher purpose is this actually serving?’ and if the answer is ‘nothing’, then I don’t post it and try to focus my energy on what I intended to achieve that day. It’s not easy, but the less you react and the more you stay focused, the closer you will get to being able to make a difference (if you’re not already in that position.) And for me personally, avoiding a constant reactionary stance on the state of the world is necessary to keep my anxiety at bay. I can’t be of help to anyone if I’m not helping myself.
The ability to fulfill a higher purpose of contributing back to humanity is one of the main reasons why I strive to be successful in life. Until then, all I can do is focus on being in a state of mind that enables me to work towards attaining my goals – so I am in a position to accommodate serving that higher purpose. Becoming an angry, sad reactionary is never going to facilitate that. When something bad happens, do I feel awful? Yes, of course I do. I get the same dull pang of disgust in my gut as everyone else – but I know If I were a victim I wouldn’t be thanking ‘Dave, 22, from Portsmouth‘ for posting that ‘This is an awful world we live in, Thinking of the victims’ tweet that fed me and my family and helped the relief effort (1 retweet = 1 meal) – I would be grateful for the people who physically contributed somehow, or used their minds to think of solutions; instead of using their minds to think of what they could write that would make the most people agree with them.
Don’t waste energy reacting to things, instead reflect on how you can practically help and continue to focus on your goals. Meditate on a better world. That is all you can do. Your reactionary posts on social media for the sake of it don’t do anything and indulging in the bubbling pot of negativity will only harden your soul and make you fearful. If reacting to the same things as everyone else is is harming your mental health, you don’t have to follow the status quo. It doesn’t mean you don’t care – if anything it means that you care more – and your sights are firmly set on what you can do to make the world a better place.
– Aisling Abbey