Friday, 12 March 2021

Paperback's Pondering's: Sometimes it's Good to Take a Social Media Break

 CW: discussion of morality OCD, intrusive thoughts, compulsively using social media 

Recently, I've been doing a lot of thinking about how I use social media. For example, in January, it was Bell Let's Talk Day, an annual initiative in which the Bell Media company donates 5 cents towards mental health charities whenever someone uses the hashtag #BellLetsTalk on social media. However, there have been a lot of recent controversies coming to light about Bell, mainly about how Bell exploits incarcerated Canadians. Still, millions of people shared the hashtag on social media, and I was pressured into doing the same. Even though I didn't want to, I saw the droves of people talking about how the hashtag still does good, and I just felt like I would be a terrible person if I didn't share it. And, this is a common scenario for people with OCD who use social media compulsively. 

I have a tendency to think that if I don't actively post on social media all the time about various issues, that I am a bad person. Now this is definitely my OCD at work. One of my main obsessions is being perceived as racist, homophobic, transphobic, or anything else. I am so petrified of messing up and hurting someone else. This is called morality OCD. My morality OCD has prompted me in the past to stay up much later than I should have, retweeting, sharing, and liking everything related to social justice because I think that if I don't speak out about these issues, then I am a bad person. 

Now, there is great importance in speaking up for what you believe in, and not staying silent while others suffer. However, my problem with social media activism is how often it can trigger folks like me to compulsively post and continue going down rabbit holes of every terrible thing that is happening in the world. And nobody should feel like they have to retweet and like every single thing, because it is simply not healthy to be surrounded by negativity on social media all the time. 

Now, it would be remiss not to mention that marginalized people such as BIPOC folks, LGBTQ+ folks, and disabled folks, sometimes have no choice but to take to social media to talk about harsh issues. The world has made it so these people do not always have safe spaces to gather and share their feelings, and so social media can be a great outlet for inspiring change and being with your community. However, I do think that it is important that we remember to take breaks, to take care of ourselves, and to log off once in a while. 

It is important to remember that social media activism is not the only way to get involved. We can read books, articles, listen to music, and of course volunteer in order to spread awareness. Social media is a fabulous tool, however I have a problem when people are quick to judge others for not speaking out about an issue. We simply do not know what people are going through, and maybe they just can't be on social media right now, or are not in the right headspace to be talking about harsh things. It isn't an excuse, it's just a way for people to take time to heal. 

I have had to take social media breaks in the past. These breaks are integral to my OCD, so that I ensure that I am not compulsively posting and so that I don't let my morality OCD get in the way of me enjoying life. Something that I've been trying to remember, which is also very hard, is that humans are flawed. We are bound to make mistakes. But how we respond to our mistakes, is even more important. 

So, I guess I just want to tell other folks with OCD that it's ok to put the phone down once in a while. It doesn't mean you're a bad person, and it doesn't mean you don't care. It just means you are taking time to heal yourself, so you can come back to your activism stronger than ever. 

How do you feel about social media activism? How do you balance social media? 

For additional reading:

Emily @ Paperback Princess


  1. First off, I didn't know morality OCD existed! so I learned a new mental-health-related thing today 🙂.

    And wow, it must be awful to feel compelled to engage even when you aren't in the right headspace for it. But rest assured (if it helps) - no one expect other us to "perform" all the time. Also, it's not mandatory to be logged in on Twitter, Facebook or whatever at any given time. People know. People don't expect you to. People understand 💙.

    I don't know about the Bell controversy, but...if one doesn't think that supporting them is the right thing to do, it's not right to feel pressured into doing so. We have a choice. No one can take that away from us.

    I also read that Teen Vogue Article, and I agree. Clicking left and right doesn't make things better - neither does it make better persons out of us. Activism is much more than liking or retweeting. And...those of us who log in on our favourite social media only to connect with friends and see puppy gifs aren't bad persons. Maybe we just want an out from our stressful everyday life (because granted, life can be stressful enough even when there isn't a crisis - and anyhow, after a whole year of pandemic, aren't we all in the middle of an ongoing one?).

    1. Great points, Roberta!

      First off, I'm happy you learnt a new mental-health thing, that always makes me happy :) Mishma's Teen Vogue article was fabulous! It really made me feel validated with how I use social media. I do post activism things on social media from time to time, but most of the time I am just going onto social media to look at funny tweets to take my mind off of all of the hardship going on. And you're totally right, sometimes we just need an out from the stress! It's hard to fathom, but nobody should feel compelled to only be surrounded by sadness on their social media feeds all the time.

  2. This is a great discussion. And I think it's a great point about being okay to take breaks. I think breaks are important and we need to take care of ourselves if we're going to be able to help others/ be activist.

    "Social media is a fabulous tool, however I have a problem when people are quick to judge others for not speaking out about an issue. We simply do not know what people are going through, and maybe they just can't be on social media right now This is so trueee.

    My issue with OCD is I often feel compelled to delete a post- so I'll find myself just not tweeting rather than go through the whole post it then do I later delete it issue? It's frustrating :)

    1. I definitely get posting and then deleting fears! My therapist really tries with me to not compulsively check my tweets and posts to see if I want to delete them. It's hard work, but we need to make sure that social media is a fun tool for us, as opposed to a stressful one.

  3. I get the non-OCD version of this a lot. The guilt I feel at *not* doing something when I could (or sometimes when I objectively couldn't) is completely disproportionate, and def. linked to my Anxiety/Depression.

    Mostly, I manage to just be like, 'I will do this casual thing that is totally easy to do, because why wouldn't I? But once I've done that, I'm logging off and/or doing this unrelated thing instead.' I think it helps that I tend to go back to my profile as a sort of social media base, rather than going to the home feed, which is constantly updating and demanding our attention and action.

    Never underestimate the power of logging out and/or setting boundaries for your social media usage Em! And don't feel guilty for doing what's right for you - the world is messy af, and you need to take care of yourself so you can marathon-not-sprint things. (...I have no idea if that sentence made sense. I hope it did! <3 )

    1. It totally made sense, Cee! Yeah, healthy limits is key. Sometimes I really like posting activism things on social media. But then after I post, I am checking that post a million times, to see if it made sense, if it's offensive, if I gave credit to the right people, etc. So, I need to strike that right balance where I post about things I'm passionate about, but I also don't obsess over it. Which is why breaks are so handy for when you are trying to find that balance :)

    2. I get that - it's why I don't tend to do things like shout-out bloggers in posts, I'm always super worried that I've missed someone.

      We just have to keep telling ourselves that doing our best is all we can do, and if we genuinely f**k up, all we can do is apologise - and it's out of our hands what people think of that. We can only do what we can do, but also why wouldn't we do what we can do, y'know? I realise that's at least partly contradictory, lol <3