How Social Media is Retraumatizing An Already Traumatized Society

We’ve taken to social media to air our ails, but by doing so are we perpetuating a society of intolerance, while exponentially traumatizing ourselves?

I used to love Facebook and YouTube. And, much for the same reason, I now love Instagram. For many years the latter two seemed to be platforms where people shared parts of their lives. Later, it became more of an information outlet, a great place to get your news. For the most part it was fun, lively, a nice social outlet. It still can be those. But, now more than ever, while it still seems to cater to sharing and news, it seems that people use these social media platforms to air their ails. It’s easy to spew hatred, anger, mysogyny, even racism, sexism and homophobia from behind your computer screen, but would you say this out loud if you could? It seems that it is too easy to take a stance, perpetuated by fear, and anger rather than understanding and knowledge in today’s climate.

In the current Trump era, the dissatisfaction of a large group of Americans, is becoming very apparent. People are hurt, angry and scared. It’s a world that doesn’t feel safe. American’s have become Americant’s. With Donald Trump threatening to build a wall, and deporting immigrants, supporting our 2nd ammendment, without imposing gun control, and threatening to take away same-sex marriage, and birth control, there is more than just an air of hate and anger going around, people are really truly scared. And, moreover, people are getting traumatized. We are now living in a state of Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, whether it be real, and experienced or experienced vicariously, we are rough, raw, and afraid. And, everytime something new happens, a new tragedy, that trauma wound gets re-opened. We react, we retaliate, and quite often we take to social media to vent, to try to find support, camaraderie, but too often our ventilations come in the form of hatred, and anger, which ultimately perpetuates this society of intolerance, and renders us even more lonely, empty and scared than before.

Sometimes we find allies on social media. Democrats find each other. Liberals find each other. Feminists find each other. Blacks find each other. Asian Americans find each other. Radical feminists find each other, but often these allied communications come at the expense of alienating others, and often times those very people we alienate are our friends. When we form allies based on a very secular group on social media, we in turn often alienate our friends, our neighbors, our family. We are having outright wars with the very people who have loved and supported us and it is creating more division than unity, and in turn, where we need supportive enviornments to heal our trauma, we are becoming retraumatized over and over.

In my professional industry, it is a well known fact, that post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not just reserved for our soldiers returning from war, anymore. In the field of psychology we understand that PTSD can occur even if we viacriously experience a shocking or distressing event like these public massacre shootings, like 9–11, just from watching it on the news. We also know that PTSD can occur within relationships, such as from betrayal, and infidelity. PTSD can occur at work, by controlling, critical colleagues. PTSD cab occur in friendships by exploiting manipulating and narcissitic qualities. Adn, on social media, the propensity of all of these existing at the same time is increased 100-fold.

This is no exageration. Retraumatization is exponential.

So, how do we deal with social media trauma? I often encourage clients to unplug from social media. But this is not always possible today in a world where many people use social media not just for a social outlet, but for their business and for thier livelihood. So the best thing to do is to practice being more aware of the way we choose to engage on social media.

We must treat social media as though it is a relationship with all our friends, family, colleagues and then some, at all times. We must practice the same mindfulness we practice in our daily, and most importantly face-to-face relationships. Here is an example, if you would spend 3 hours a week being social, then include that in your social media time. Setting boundaries as to how much you engage with people online as you would in real life is key. if you spend 5 hours a day on social media, but you would be hardpressed to spend 5 hours a month being social, then you need to check in with yourself, are you abusing social media to the point where it might be harmful to you? For businesses this is easy, hire a social media manager. A social media manager will post your articles and content but doesn’t feel emotionally invested.

In the end, learning where the boundaries of your personal, social and professional life are key, and using that to determine how you engage on social media can be the first step in healing yourself from any vicarious, political, or personal trauma that you may have experienced.

Author, Sex Therapist, Film/Music creator

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