COLUMBUS — From a global pandemic to the movement to end racial inequality in our country, along with an endless amount of political issues and divisiveness, we’re living in a particularly contentious time in history. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by information, opinions and arguments, and nowhere is this more apparent than on social media. While it may seem impossible to disconnect and step away from the often toxic social media environment, a new national survey of 2,000 people by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center finds more Americans are making adjustments as national tensions rise. More than half say they’ve changed their social media habits this year, with one in five making a point to take breaks from these platforms altogether.
“Stepping away and reconnecting with reality offline is an important step to take for your mental health,” said Ken Yeager, Ph.D., director of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience (STAR) Program at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. “Being constantly immersed in this stressful environment and being overexposed to contentious or traumatic events can make you feel like the world is a less safe place to be. And because these stressors have persisted over a long period of time, it’s wearing on people’s ability to cope with that stress.”
Yeager says there has been an increase in cases of depression, anxiety, suicidality and substance abuse over the past several months. And though you can’t control what happens on social media, it’s important to recognize how it may affect you, and take steps to limit your exposure. You can start by closing your news feeds and reconnecting with friends and family on a personal level. You can also regain a sense of control and empowerment by taking actions like voting and volunteering with a cause you’re passionate about.
“Anything that you can do to make a contribution to our society is a very good thing to do right now because it helps to buffer the negative that we’re seeing on an ongoing basis,” Yeager said.
If you feel you’re regularly feeling panicked or having trouble controlling your mood or connecting with others, it’s a good idea to seek help from a mental health professional who can help you through this difficult time and help you find ways to cope.