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Handling Anxiety & Social Media

By April 12, 2018November 19th, 2020Anxiety, Dr. Jenny Yip

The internet and social media have seemed to evolve faster than the social norms surrounding them, which can sometimes make online interactions a bit contentious. Responses often happen so quickly online that emotions play a bigger role in the moment of writing than we would sometimes feel comfortable with. Also, when only words are exchanged, it’s difficult to know the emotional context they were intended to be communicated in the first place. What makes it even harder is that sometimes we are limited to a finite word count that gets even more lost in translation. It’s no wonder that some people feel anxious about posting anything online! Before engaging with others online, here are a few tips to keep in mind for avoiding conflict and misunderstanding.

  1. Don’t respond. This shouldn’t be such a novel idea, but not responding is just as acceptable as responding, no matter how badly you would like to correct someone or point out their errors. Ask yourself if it’s really worth the time to engage the person if it seems the conversation is spiraling downward fast. Remember, you don’t need to respond to everything you see, and most of the time it can feel more empowering not to.


  1. Identify your feelings. Identifying your own feelings are important before responding out of emotion. Are you feeling hurt? Angry? Disgusted? If the post is eliciting such a strong emotional response from you, it may be best to walk away and return to it later once your adrenal system has calmed down a bit. Again, it can feel empowering to step away and not let your emotions dictate your responses.


  1. Practice empathy. We often interpret what others say through our own lenses and forget that other people may have had a different upbringing than we did. Before responding to someone’s seemingly ludicrous post, first consider how their own life circumstances could be shaping their views. Usually we don’t hold beliefs for malicious reasons, but often base our understanding of the world on what we have observed working best thus far. Before attacking another person and their beliefs, try understanding where they are coming from first. You can even ask them to clarify or explain what led them to their opinion before responding with your own.


  1. Re-read and edit if necessary. Re-reading your responses before sending not only helps you catch typos that may be skewing your intended message, but you also have a chance to clear up your response of any misunderstandings before they arise. Perhaps a sentence turned out a little harsher than you intended, or your main point isn’t exactly clear. You can also re-read it from the other’s perspective to anticipate any questions or arguments they may respond with later. When discussions move quickly online, taking a second to re-read and edit can help prevent an utter derailing from the main discussion at hand.


  1. Go one-on-one. There are times for group discussions and times for one-on-one direct messages. Sometimes conversations can turn contentious if a person feels they have to defend themselves in front of everybody. If a conversation becomes heated or you need to confront them about something they said, it’s best to switch to a private message as to not drag everyone into it. You can even say something like, “I’m sending you a DM,” in the main chat so they know to look for your message. Direct messages can be good tools for sorting out understandings on both sides without everyone else’s opinions clouding up the relationship.

Social media can be a good tool for keeping in touch with friends and sharing ideas. It can also cause broken relationships when mishandled. If you’re feeling anxious online, remember these five tips to help you interact with your friends in a positive way and keep your online experience fun.