As 2015 draws to a close, it’s easy to look back and see a year marked by darkness. When so much of modern life takes place on the internet, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the endless cycle of news and information–especially if the majority of your responsibilities require you to be online.[Tweet “”Be a positive force in a world that’s often a chaotic mess of negativity.” – @stephkaysharp”]
While it can be tempting to bury your head in the sand, it’s easier than you might think to remain both informed on the news and care for your own soul while you’re at it. Better yet, you can be a positive force in a world that’s often a chaotic mess of negativity.
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So from my experience as a journalist and–more importantly–as one of the billions of humans on this planet, here are some tips on how to deal:
- Amplify accurate information.
When you see something upsetting, it can be easy to sound off with your first gut reaction. It’s almost too easy to hit retweet, but I challenge you to take a beat and consciously analyze what you’re sharing. Do what you can to trace it back to the source and consider the source’s credibility. There’s a significant difference between breaking news and election coverage, so the vetting process looks different depending on what you’re responding to but the goal is the same. Share, but share facts.
- Be responsible in your commentary.
Unless you’re on the ground during an emergency or directly involved in an issue, you’re just a megaphone. You are not a source and the information your opinion is based on is being filtered through a digital grapevine. Your next post may be the first or only exposure some people in your network have for a news event, so be mindful that you’re adding value to the larger conversation and not just adding to the noise.
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- Express and educate.
Social media provides an important emotional outlet for many people and, contrary to some popular baby-boomer naysaying, that’s actually a great tool at our disposal. Surround yourself with people (whether virtually or physically) who want to talk about the emotions evoked by and the implications of newsworthy events. Engage in debates and discussions with people. Listen and absorb as much as you can. When you see someone sharing misinformation or disregarding the magnitude of an event, share solid sources and encourage them to seek facts. Don’t derail conversations by attacking people, focus instead on building community.
That being said, if someone is just being ignorant or offensive, it’s not your responsibility to drag them to the light. Mute, unfollow or block whoever you feel deserves it. I think we sometimes forget that this is a completely viable option.
- Take care of yourself.
It’s okay to take breaks from the news. It’s okay to go for a drink or get some junk food and watch a silly movie and ignore the outside world for a while. It’s even okay to put an issue or event in a mental box and ignore it once you feel yourself running dry. You cannot stop all the wrong in the world. The only responsibility you have, at the end of the day, is to take care of yourself and your loved ones. You can always combat the negative with positive.