With the Midterm elections quickly approaching and the volume of ads and content surrounding candidates, their positions, and what is at stake can be completely overwhelming. Watching and interacting with the content can be addicting and anxiety provoking. It is important to know when your interactions and content consumption has tipped the scale into the unhealthy range.
The US Political Landscape, Mental Health, and Social Media
Many important topics are on the ballot this November including abortion rights, marijuana legalization, voting-related policies, and bail reform, just to name a few. Many states have measures on their ballots addressing several of these and many other issues that are central to people’s lives. Watching polling and political commentary can feel like a rollercoaster of emotions.
One minute it seems polls are in your favor while the next, the outlook seems grim. Watching and interacting with political content on social media often feels important and in line with one’s values and beliefs.
Further, social media provides a platform for you to voice your opinion and encourage others to get involved. However, the contentious nature of politics and social networking can make for a combination that can be detrimental to your mental health. Watching and interacting with politicians whose platforms feel so far from your own core values can be highly anxiety provoking.
Moreover, when those politicians appear to be polling ahead, the feeling of existential dread that accompanies looking into your future and worrying what will come of it if that person is given power can cause and unimaginable amount of stress.
Not to mention, seeing friends or family members you felt were “on the right side” suddenly reposting or advocating for polices or politicians who you believe are “on the wrong side” can feel devastating. For many people it can feel hard to step away from social media apps in what feels like such a crucial time; however, it is important to know when to take a step back and give yourself a break from social media.
How to Know if Your Midterm Anxiety Could Use a Social Media Break
Knowing when normative election anxiety turns into harmful scrolling and trolling can be hard to determine. It is normal to feel anxious when such important issues are up for debate and on the ballot. Moreover, many election ads and social media account pages on the topic aim to make us feel anxious. The goal, oftentimes, is to make us feel so anxious that we get out and vote and encourage others to do so as well.
However, it is important to know when to take a social media break. If your social media habits and screen times have increased significantly in relation to your consumption of political content, it may be time to take a step back. You may also notice that you have begun to develop an un healthy relationship with social media via constantly checking social media in a way that negatively impacts your social life, productiveness at work, and personal self-care. Spending large amounts of time scrolling anxiously though social media can put your health at risk.
Increased anxiety translates to increased cortisol which can mean decreased immune system, difficulties with digestion, memory issues, weight gain, and fatigue. If you are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms it may be a sign that your body is in fight-or -flight mode and it may be a sign to limit the time you spend on social media.
Additionally, if you experience elevated heart rate, difficulty sleeping, or racing thoughts while scrolling through social media, you should disengage immediately. These symptoms are a warning that your body believes you are in danger and has activated your fight-or-flight response.
Tips for Taking a Social Media Break During Midterms
Social Media Time Limits
Limiting your time spent on social media can be the first and most important step to taking a social media break. Social media platforms are meant to be addictive and so is political content. It is no wonder many of us are scrolling endlessly as the Midterms approach. If taking a full time-out from social media feels like too much, it may be helpful to give yourself a time limit.
Allow yourself to scroll for 15 minutes or 30 minutes 1 to 2 times daily, but disengage for the rest of the day. Employ a trusted friend to check in and hold you accountable.
Delete, Delete, Delete
If taking a break from social media usage does not work it may be time to delete. If you are glued to political content and you can’t look away, it sounds like a good time to delete or unfollow those pages. Unfollowing can give you a much needed respite during this time. If that doesn’t work, it may be time to delete the apps altogether. Delete the apps and give yourself a timeline for when you will redownload, if ever.
You may wait until the night of the election or after the election when all of the post-election social media fighting has calmed down.
Engage in Real Life
If you feel motived to engage with politic content, there are plenty of ways to engage in real life and make a difference. Joining phone banks and knocking doors can have just as much, if not more, impact during these last few weeks before the election. Linking up with like minded people to channel a healthy amount of Midterm stress into action can feel incredibly rewarding.
Don’t forget to engage in self-care. Take your social media detox to the next level. Get a massage. Go for a walk. Call a friend, but leave political talk out of the conversation. Importantly, know when it might be helpful to seek therapy.
Political elections can make for a perfect storm of social media trolling, existential anxieties, and disappointment in others. Taking a social media detox can improve your quality of life and allow you to focus your attention on healthy coping and supportive relationships.