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?
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Emily @ Paperback Princess