Remember when fighting for change was an activist’s job? As humans, caring about social issues is only the right thing to do, but if you find yourself constantly refreshing social media and checking the news for emerging threats worldwide – you might be addicted to bad news, and like all addictions, it can be harmful.
No, we’re not saying ignorance is bliss. When tragedies keep us glued to our screens, it can cause compassion fatigue – a form of burnout that’s commonly found among caretakers and healthcare professionals. But the rise of social media activism has manifested an unfair expectation for everyone to stay on top of every single issue, leaving us feeling either guilty or exhausted.
So is compassion fatigue caring ‘too much’? According to GoodTherapy, the concept also known as second-hand shock or secondary stress reaction is “a type of stress that results from helping or wanting to help those who are traumatised or under significant emotional duress”. Below are a few symptoms of compassion fatigue:
- Feeling overwhelmed or hopeless when hearing how others are suffering.
- Feeling detached from yourself or your surroundings.
- Having less empathy.
- Reacting sensitively or insensitively to tragedy.
- Constantly thinking about the suffering of others.
- Constantly blaming yourself or wondering how you could have done more.
- Downplaying your own accomplishments or success.
- Having unhealthy or destructive coping mechanisms.
- Not finding pleasure in activities you used to enjoy.
If you experience any of these signs, it’s time to take a break – your mind needs to rest, just like your body does. Here’s how you can cope with compassion fatigue and prevent burning out:
- Has Social Media Gotten Too Overwhelming?
- Have You Been Feeling Burned Out?
- Dealing With Stress During A Pandemic
- Digital Wellness: Developing A Healthier Relationship With Social Media
As the activist and writer, Audre Lorde, once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare”. Don’t feel bad about taking a step back because there’s an increasing number of people ready to carry on where you left off. You can’t stand up for social justice when you’re barely hanging on, so do what you need to do to stay positive, strong and healthy.
If you still feel overwhelmed, please seek help from a mental health professional.
2020 has been problematic, to say the least, and as much as we wish we could cancel it and let the next few months fizzle out with a growing list of celebrities (oop), we’re just going to have to stick out the bad news.
Ah, the news – a chaotic 24-hour cycle you can’t escape. With information being one click away from going viral, social media users have been breaking stories before news outlets and ending up on all your feeds. I mean, Twitter’s become the new morning paper – you think you’re scrolling through fan cams, horoscopes and cute animal videos but each time you close the app, you end up being more informed on current affairs.
It’s this constant media consumption that has taken a toll on our mental health. The news (which only seems to get worse) has become overwhelming, but with the rise of social media activism – we fight these feelings of anxiety, and sometimes even depression, to stay updated and help those in need. But it’s okay to put yourself first.
Don’t feel guilty about taking a moment for yourself – you’re only human and no one should make you feel bad about it. Limit your screen time by setting a reminder to step away. During your break, do a couple of breathing exercises, preferably outdoors – it’s always good to get some fresh air. Talk to someone you trust or hold space for yourself, but if you still feel empty or powerless, please seek professional help, especially if you’ve received online abuse or been triggered.
As stressful as social media has become, it has been a powerful tool in fighting for change. From successful petitions and a plethora of educational posts, the Internet has started powerful movements and brought the world closer together during a pandemic and unrest. Continue keeping up with the news, standing up against injustice, checking in on others, but don’t forget to take care of yourself in the process.