Ignoring The Comment Section On Social Media
A quick observation on how the comment section on social media affected my mental, emotional, and physical health, and what I did to change it for the better.
It’s 3am. My boyfriend is fast asleep. Our Golden Retriever is fast asleep. And me… I’ve turned to my side with my mobile phone brightness turned right down low. I’m careful not to make sudden movements as I scroll… and scroll… and scroll.
Ah - “Boris Johnson’s Leaked Lockdown Exit Plan” - this seems like a good read. Except, I don’t read the article, at least not immediately. I go straight to the comment section, for it is in the comment section that I will get a truer scope of what’s happening in an age of online misinformation - is what I’d like to think at least. The comment section as usual is a battleground of compliments and complaints, of one polarising view or another, advice and lies, encouragement and sarcasm (you get the idea).
For YEARS I'd been an advocate for social media, and more recently so, as my career stepped into the Information Technology domain (I'm an IT Business Analyst by trade). I've always supported the idea of utilising technology to share factual and fascinating information, events, good times, bad times, and ultimately, to stay in close communication with my loved ones. I don’t know when it happened however, I simply found myself one day going on social media just for the public comment sections.
At first it was all a bit of fun. I’d log on to Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn; watch or read a post and swiftly study a few opinions. Some were very insightful; most were simply witty nothingness that made my belly hurt in laughter. Everyone however seemed to be having a good time and after a short stint I’d continue with my day unscathed. However, that all started to go a bit west - it must have been gradual because for the longest while I did not make the association between the change of general tone in the comment section and the anxiety induced bags under my eyes.
I noticed that men, women, and even children began to say horrible things to each other in the comment section. It didn’t matter if it was political, celebrity, lifestyle, academic, or even memes, someone had something headstrong to say about the post, and the people that opposed their views had something to say too. My blood boiled when I found a likeminded individual defending the castle from a band of keyboard warriors, thirsty for forfeit. I knew what I had to do, I too had to become a keyboard warrior, for the greater good, to defend the little guy, and the big guy, for all the ladies, the gentlemen - for anyone and everyone who stood up for the good of mankind.
My nights became longer, and my sleep became shorter as I entered the wrestling ring daily, commenting, and responding to the baddies that sat on the other side of the screen. I would wait patiently for their rhetoric. My heartbeat rose several times over when I noticed a notification flash on my screen. I won some battles, lost many, but ultimately the war was ongoing. I began spending my days reading and re-reading my well-constructed opinions, suggestions, championships and downright unhelpful paragraphs, ensuring there were no spelling mistakes and my information aligned with facts.
I started to forget that I was talking to real people like you and me, who had their own beliefs, experiences, and passions, and instead simply saw words on a screen. Words that I sometimes disagreed with. News articles were my worst temptation.
I became distracted at work - I'd find any moment to steal myself away and respond to some ongoing thread. I'd lose hours of my day searching for comments designed to shock you and bored my boyfriend to death with highlights of some of the more dramatic back and forth I had experienced. Logging into social media became less about reading verified articles, entertaining content and connecting with family and friends, and more about defending my corner amongst strangers. I started to suspect everyone in the social media world, thinking that their views were somehow unfounded or just plain wrong. It wasn't a good frame of mind to be in.
It took me several months to notice that my once vibrant energy began to drain, my mind cloudy with chattering opposing opinions, and my anxiety rising as I wondered: “What do people think about this? What do people think about me?” Outside of social media I became more irritable, less patient, and quick to talk over anyone. I became discouraged to read books, practise yoga, or even take the time out to cook a decent meal as all I wanted to do was finish what I started - the never ending conversation in the comment section. It took me a long time to recognise the correlation between this and my declining mental, emotional, and physical health.
Recently I made a conscious decision to politely bow out of the comment section from all of my social media choices. This is not to say that I ignored personal birthday comments or the occasional tags and conversations from people I knew, but rather, I decided to exclude myself from the public chatter; I was curious if this would have a positive affect on my very being.
The short answer - it did! So far at least... I'm only a couple of weeks into my comment section abstinence however, I can already see positive results. I've started to read and write again (as a result I'm writing this article lol). I'm eating better, sleeping soundly, go on walks, and my concentration is climbing. I have rediscovered empathy and take my time to listen to others instead of just waiting for my turn to speak.
As a knock-on effect, my social media screen time as gone WAY down. I now log into social media in favour of light-hearted updates from friends and families, life-hack videos, gaming and anime reviews, playful memes and music updates. It happens in quick burst and I logout as quickly as I logged in. I no longer feel anxiety or lingering guilt from some comment or another. While I do still read the odd news article on social media platforms, for the sake of not falling into old habits, I try to go to the news websites directly for my dose of world happenings.
If you're in a similar situation as I was please know you're not alone. Whether it be the comment section or social media as a whole, it is totally okay to take a break from it. It may be hard at first; it takes a lot of conscious work to break away from these behaviours but if it's something you would like to try, do give it a go. I promise you will not regret it.
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Have a wonderful day. Fiona x