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Anyone else feeling triggered on social media recently? I’m old school and spend most of my scroll & post time on Facebook. I used to LOVE it. Facebook was a place where I connected with old classmates, shared vacation photos and occasionally shared a recipe or article that I thought my friends would like. I am part of some amazing groups that provide community around the things I love (food, fitness, puppies). I’m not sure when it happened but my feed now feels like a vast landscape peppered with landmines of hardline beliefs, conspiracies and hurtful accusations. It's like people forgot that words hurt and heck, it's easy to be bold and brave from behind the safety of a screen.
The fun stuff is still there but engaging in it comes at a risk. I’m not proud to say that I’ve been reactive on my feed and in the comments of other's posts. I’ve justified my not-so-nice words because I was just trying to SHOW people how I feel and what’s most important to me. Truthfully, part of me does want to ability to change someone's mind. In this polarized environment, honesty and vulnerablity seem to be a red cape to the charging bulls and that feels HEAVY to me.
Here’s where I’m struggling. I’m a huge advocate for removing the things that weigh us down. For years, I struggled with body weight and restricted myself in an attempt to feel lighter in my body. What I know for sure is that heavy begets heavy. It’s not as simple as eat less, weigh less. The often-missing link is paying attention to the things that make us feel heavy in spirit. Some of the things I read on social media are weighted. They bring out the “heavy” in me and that is not a healthy way for me to spend my energy. Does that mean I need to go on a Facebook diet and restrict myself? That's hard because there are things I LOVE about social media and I don’t want to give it up all together. How can I shift my experience without diluting my voice and still log-out feeling connected, engaged and purposeful?
Do I hold my tongue for fear that what I want to share might offend someone? Do I avoid social media because in between puppy photos, inspirational quotes and taco recipes are posts from “friends” that make my blood boil? Or, is it simply a matter of establishing guardrails that allow me to be true, generous and maybe even inspiring?
In most cases, there is little I can share on social media that is actually going to change someone’s mind when they care deeply about something I may disagree with. The sooner we all come to terms with that, the better. My hope is that I can inspire others to expand upon their beliefs and ideas, not necessarily abandon them. I think we can agree that none of us like the feeling of being pushed or shamed so let’s collectively cut that out.
Lately I’ve been trying to take a 3-step approach when it comes to give and take on social media and it reminds me a lot of being a kid on the playground at recess.
PAUSE. PASS. Or PLAY.
When a group of kids take to the playground, some will jump right into group activies or favorite games. Others will stay back, watch and assess. Their first step is simply to notice, which is a great first step when you enter the social media playground too. What stops you in your scroll? What gets your attention? This is the PAUSE. Sometimes I’m stopped by something funny or something meaningful and yes, often by something triggering.
Without the PAUSE, mistakes can happen. Maybe I share something from a source that isn’t accurate. Maybe I’m so triggered by the title of an article that I share it without fully understanding the context. In most cases, my impulse to share or comment has a motive and PAUSING allows me to sit with that for a minute. Is my reaction going to serve or inflame others? What is my intention for taking the keyboard and ultimately pushing "post"?
A thoughtful pause will always lead to one of two actions. In some cases, clarity frees me to simply PASS. When a share, a post or a comment feels more like a hot barb than an invitation to expand, passing is almost always the right choice. And that urge to make my point, to "win" the situation, will eventually pass which actually frees me to engage in more meaninful ways. Sometimes that child on the playground will watch a 4-square game and decide that they would get more joy from time on the swings. Pausing and passing creates new direction.
In some cases, I will decide to PLAY. When I was first thinking about writing this article the concept was PAUSE. PASS. POST. As I thought about it, it felt more like the word for engagement is PLAY. Post feels final – like I’m trying to get the last word or like I’m putting my flag in the ground on a certain subject. When I find something meaningful to share or have something I feel is valuable to say, what I really want is interaction. I want to PLAY with others in the spaces that feel important to me even if we don't agree. Shutting people up isn’t engaging. That's what the bullies on the playground do. PLAY assumes curiosity, imagination and even partnership.
Recognizing when actions or habits feel heavy isn’t always easy but there is always value in the awareness of WEIGHT. For me, heaviness most often occurs when I stop paying attention and act out of reflex instead of on purpose. And honestly, having strong individual beliefs is a beautiful thing . . . until those beliefs become weapons. When I think of social media as a playground it becomes something altogether new. A place where I can assess (PAUSE), choose to disengage (PASS), and engage with the people and conversations that expand the way I think (PLAY).