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Dear Grace Q & A: How do I cope when my world (& social media feed) is filled with violence?

Dear Grace Q & A: How do I cope when my world (& social media feed) is filled with violence? over photo of green plant, map and old camera

Dear Grace Q & A: How do I cope when my world (& social media feed) is filled with violence?

My dear, I really hear you, it’s so tough. The news from Aleppo is chilling and desperate, the challenge of Trump and the fear of his premiership is present and real and there are attacks, tragedies and losses happening – reported and unreported – all over our world.

N.B: I’m aware this is a question about global violence issues, if your personal world is violent, please contact the police and your nearest crisis centre to help you. Please be safe. 

It hurts, I get that. It hurts so much. It can feel like the world just isn’t working, that people are suffering and there’s nothing we can do but watch them suffer. And suffer in witnessing their suffering.

I want to acknowledge that it can be extra difficult when our social media feeds – for many people living with illness, pain or life crisis it’s their main connection to the world – become filled with violence.

It’s so new, that we can read the last words of people in Aleppo, live tweeted…therapeutically speaking I don’t know how this is going to impact us, or our generation, but I think the vicarious trauma is rising. I’m not sure if seeing the graphic details makes it any more real, if it activates any more people than otherwise. I’m not an expert on engaging donations and generating public opinion

(I’m not an expert on engaging donations and generating public opinion, so I’m just going on my experience).

I know for me, I don’t need the painful details to take action, and knowing the specifics is unlikely to galvanise me to further action. In fact, in the unboundaried space of social media, it’s much more likely to overwhelm me and shut me down.

It’s also much harder to work, and if I can’t work, I can’t earn money and if I can’t earn money then I have less to donate.

This isn’t the case for everyone, for some people the saddest stories fuel and galvanise them. That’s ok, it’s not about the “best” way, but about knowing our way.

Instead of allowing my social media feed to feed me images and information I know makes me ineffective, I curate my feed to give me what I need to be the most effective.

Here’s the thing – it’s my social media feed, I can curate it to reflect what I need to be there to be able to do what I want to do. For me, little pieces of information being fed to me all the time isn’t useful.

Is your social media feed the best place to get the information – are you most receptive, most able to act on it there?

If you read information about a world crisis on social media – notice what happens next. What do you do?

Do you like/re-tweet/share? What happens then? What’s your intention for sharing? What will it do?

By the way, if the answer is ‘raise awareness’, you might want to read this: I don’t support awareness raising, and here’s why.

There is a commonly held belief that if enough people know about an injustice, it will stop” – Rod Coronado, former eco activist

If you click to read a longer piece of information, what happens after that? What action do you take? How do you feel after having consumed more information? Do you feel grounded, clear and ready to take appropriate action now? Or do you just click on to more information? Or go back to social media and start the cycle again?

What we are unconsciously feeding ourselves isn’t the fuel we need for the action that’s required.

Bluntly: do you really need more information?

What’s the point of finding information? To know? But to know we also need space and resilience and stable ground to be able to process.

More information doesn’t mean more power.

“Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen.” – Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University

The world contains violence but that’s not all it contains – not looking away can exhaust us, not incite us.

What do you need to balance out the pain you are witnessing?

What do you love about the world? What’s the balance? You may be being fed by the world, but what are you being fed?

I won’t tell you to not care, but I won’t tell you not to look away either. I want to talk instead about appropriate action.

In this painful world situation, we have two options: we can go under it or go over it, but we can’t stay tangled within it. I mean we really can’t – it’s unsustainable, most people crash, burn-out, quit, get too sick to carry on.

What action can you take today that can make a beautiful difference?

Can you donate time, resources or money to local or national projects?

Can you check in with your local council and let them know what you can offer?

Can you curate your social media feed to inspire you not tire you?

Can you take an action for your own self-care?

How do you cope when your world feels full of violence?

P.S You might also like Dear Grace Q & A: How do I explain that my chronic illness and life aren’t a tragedy? and Dear Grace Q & A: 7 steps to your business come back after chronic illness. Read all the Dear Grace columns here.

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