We all know how important it is to give our bodies a break from toxic substances. The word ‘toxic’ by itself scares us and warns us to stay away. And for the most part, we do because we love our health and we want to stay alive.
So much has also been said about ‘toxic relationships and toxic friendships’ and how it’s important to identify them and avoid them for our mental health and emotional well-being.
We read those articles and probably hear those TED talks and sermons but we still expose ourselves to toxicity every day.
Through our social media feeds.
The rise and popularity of social media means that we are more connected than we have ever been in the history of time. This connection has blurred the line between what was once regarded as private space and what isn’t.
Through the people we ‘follow’ and ‘like’ and ‘friend’, we are exposed to personalities and thoughts and mental attitudes and we form relationships with the people we feel connected to.
But like physical relationships, online relationships can also become toxic for us. Through various social media platforms, mental attitudes and ideas are being peddled sometimes, deliberately and strategically through ‘influencers’ and ‘opinion leaders’.
There are so many issues being debated today on social media. From religion, to politics, feminism and even romantic relationships. Several times, I observed the discussion flow from a healthy debate and exchange of views to bloody arguments, online fisticuffs and extreme intolerance.
There are millions of humans on social media and each of these humans come online with their individual biases and prejudices based on their different backgrounds and experiences. Unfortunately, some of their internalized issues seep through their arguments and influences some of their opinions on issues. With millions of people like that, social media becomes a chaotic mess prone to intense toxicity and if care is not taken, you’ll start to absorb the toxin as you read and engage.
So how do you protect your soul? how do you protect your mental health? how do you not allow the bile get inside you?
The first step of getting rid of something toxic is recognizing the fact that it’s harming you.
I started to pay attention to how I consume social media content when I realized after reading certain ‘threads’ or following some ‘trending’ conversations on twitter, my mood changes and sometimes, I become quite angry.
It didn’t make any sense at first and I struggled with it. I wondered if it meant that the issues being discussed concerned me so much and I needed to get involved and make my own voice heard. Huge mistake. I was diving into a dark hole. And then I noticed the bad moods wouldn’t go away, and sometimes, the information I was constantly feeding on was affecting my offline relationships and attitude to people. It was getting ridiculous.
I made up my mind to pay more attention to who I was listening to and whose content had access to my mind. One good thing about social media is, YOU are ultimately in control of who you let in. So I started the cleanup process by identifying the content that are triggering, and the key individuals (influencers) that usually engage such content and I CLICKED THE UNFOLLOW BUTTON.
I then made conscious decisions to NOT ENGAGE in every trending debate. Truth is, everyone is already saying something, adding my own voice will only add to the already deafening cacophony of opinions and it’s quite narcissistic of me to always think anyone is out there breathlessly waiting for my opinion on the matter. Bottom line; NOBODY ASKED ME.
I STAY AWAY FROM TROLLS, POLITICAL INFLUENCERS, AND BLOGGERS. These class of people online attract toxic debate like moth to a flame. The few political influencers I follow on twitter are quickly put on ‘mute’ when I notice their timelines have become chaotic.
Finally, I learn to PUT DOWN THE PHONE AND DO OTHER THINGS. Watch TV, Read a book, sit on the balcony or just sleep. I don’t have a lot of people around me to physically engage with so it’s quite a discipline for me to put down the phone (which is where i do about 70% of my human connection) but I do it.
Proverbs 22:24-25 (NLT)
“Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.”
“ Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”