Social distancing has everyone going a bit (okay, more than a bit) stir-crazy. Because we don’t have the option of grabbing coffee with a friend or having dinner with family, everyone is turning to social media even more than usual.
Seeing what friends, family, acquaintances, celebrities, and even total strangers are doing during their time at home is comforting for many. It’s also a quick way to quell the boredom. Social media is one of the only ways we can feel connected right now. That’s why it’s totally understandable if you’re using it more than you normally would.
However, you don’t want social media to take over all of your time—even right now. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter might help you feel less alone, but they can also create more stress and anxiety due to false information.
Here are a few ways you can use social media in a healthy, responsible way right now.
Spend the Time Connecting with Friends
The best way to use social media right now is exactly as it was intended: to connect with friends and family. Being stuck at home in quarantine is lonely. This is true even if you’re with family members—seeing the same two or three people every day is better than nothing, but still! Humans are naturally social, and you, like everyone else, probably miss spending time with other people you care about.
Since you can’t see them in person (no, standing roughly six feet away from each other in a parking lot is not considered social distancing), the next best thing is to connect via the internet. Try software like Zoom or Skype to video chat with friends. You can do individual or group chats for free. Video chatting is more intimate than being on the phone or texting; plus, it’s fun!
Use Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date on everyone’s lives, including people you don’t know. Watch that “live” story a blogger is doing to chat in real time. Comment on photos and say something nice that will make someone smile. Post a status to spark a conversation. Just have fun and connect!
Limit Your Time Online
The connection to others that social media provides is wonderful. However, many other things about it aren’t so great. Facebook and Twitter are hotbeds for sad news and anxiety-inducing content. You can scroll through Twitter or Facebook and see a bunch of horrifying, devastating tweets or status updates about people who have lost family to COVID-19. Seeing the effects the virus is having on people physically, emotionally, and financially can make it nearly impossible to stay upbeat.
Yes, it’s more important than ever to keep up with the news and remain aware of what’s happening. However, there’s definitely such a thing as “too much” news. Try to find a balance that works for you, which will probably mean avoiding the internet for at least a bit each day.
Also, if you’re on social media all day and night, it prevents you from doing anything else that might be productive. Even signing off and stepping away from the computer for just an hour or two each day might be exactly what you need.
Organize something, read a book, go for a walk, or take a much-needed nap. Try to avoid letting social media monopolize all your time.
Don’t Trust Everything You Read
It’s no secret that Facebook is full of fake news—especially right now. Not only are people sharing articles from untrustworthy websites, but many are also spreading misinformation through “he said/she said” statuses and comments.
For example, one status claiming to be “by a doctor who ran a hospital” was making the rounds recently. Basically, this person was saying coronavirus patients were improving more than they were dying and that this hospital had seen a massively positive turnaround. However, this was spreading false hope which could be dangerous.
People have also been spreading false “facts” about how long lockdown will be. Some have been begging for masks for a friend who they claim is a nurse, but it was just a scam. Some posts have encouraged people not to social distance, and some conspiracy theories are being spread leading some people to believe the virus isn’t a real threat.
Do not trust everything you read online. If someone writes something that isn’t backed up by a legitimate news source, assume it’s a rumor until it’s proven otherwise.
Be Careful What You Share
We’ve probably all been in a situation where we shared something we later realized wasn’t legitimate—it happens. Right now, though, if you share something that contains false information about coronavirus, it’s not just embarrassing, it’s potentially dangerous.
For example, sharing a status that claims the virus is a hoax could cause someone to believes that. As a result, he could ignore the social distancing guidelines, get sick, infect others, and end up in the hospital.
It might sound dramatic, but these things are happening. Basically, don’t share news unless it’s from a legitimate news outlet and backed up by sources.
You should also be wary about sharing statuses that call for medical supplies if you aren’t sure that person is donating the supplies to a hospital. As awful as it sounds, there are people out there who take advantage of situations like this to stockpile their own supplies or sell them to others.
Think about what you’re about to post before you hit that Share button. If you’re confident it’s legitimate, then go for it—just remember to consider the consequences first.
Look at Things That Make You Happy
Social media can be kind of miserable right now, but it doesn’t have to be! Instead of just reading shared news stories or sad tweets, follow people who inspire you, or channels or accounts that make you smile. Check out a silly Twitter account that posts jokes all day. Follow people on Instagram who post beautiful, positive photos, instead of things that bring you down.
Love working out and can’t go to the gym? Find some fitness bloggers to follow and check out their Stories on Instagram—they’re probably posting free workouts. Want to use this time to cook? Follow some food bloggers and find some cool recipes with pantry staples.
You also might want to consider downloading TikTok. (I know, I know, but hear me out!) First, this app isn’t just for teens. It has tons of videos adults find helpful, and there are all little subcultures, like doctors, nurses, and moms. Secondly, it’s hilarious, which always helps during times of stress! Give it a try!
Some people right now might feel, scared, stressed out, and angry at the world. Being pent-up (both physically and emotionally) can make you feel like you need an outlet for all of that. It’s so tempting to fight with others on social media to let off some steam, but it’s just not worth it.
Fighting with someone online isn’t constructive. The chances they’ll reconsider their opinions or beliefs are slim to none, as are your chances of having that satisfying last word.
You’ll only make yourself angrier. Debating is fine when you’re engaging with someone who’s up for it (and knows how to do it properly), but full-on arguing? Skip the negativity.
Try to Spread Positivity
Social media can be a dark place right now. It’s easy to share the scary articles you read and pass on terrifying statistics. Instead of sharing the negative stuff, though, try to be a positive light online. Post things that make you happy. Try posting one picture each day on Instagram of something that makes you happy.
You don’t have to completely ignore anything negative. However, passing along happy photos, inspirational quotes, or anything that makes you smile will not only make you feel good, it will probably make others feel good, too!
Encourage Social Distancing
Show your followers that you’re social distancing and do your part to encourage others to do it, too. It’s so incredibly important right now. Share photos and videos of how you’re staying busy at home. Remind people to stay home, and call them out if they’re not listening.
Staying home has truly never been more important. The more people see others doing it, the more likely they’ll be to do it, as well.