Earlier this week we were horrified to discover yet another tragedy had occurred. The mass shooting in Las Vegas flooded our hearts with fear, anxiety, distress and sadness. Some of us found out a shooting was occurring as it happened, while others of us woke to the sound of chaos and sirens on our television, or were bombarded with information online as soon as we picked up our phone or turned on the computer.
We no longer have to wait for the newspaper to arrive, or the evening news, to discover what is happening in the world. Sadly the recent number of tragedies has filled many of us with unease, as if we are waiting in fear of what catastrophe will happen next. We don’t usually have to wait long to find out if a tragedy has occurred since social media has made sharing information immediate, convenient and almost obligatory. In the event of a disaster, this instant access to every distressing detail can often be emotionally overwhelming.
Information Is No Longer Just From The Television Station
Social media has changed the manner in which we receive information. This advance to accessing and providing timely communication does have many positive benefits.
- The light social media shines on individuals, and the world, can allow us to feel more open and connected to the world.
- Helps us to ensure that our distant friends are safe if they use the Facebook Safety check feature in the event of a tragedy
- Makes staying in touch with friends and family more possible
- Chatting on social media can provide a sense of belonging or unity
- Provides humor, education or entertainment
- Offers a place to come together, find comfort, support and share with others
- Reassures us that there are good people who care and allows us to heal over a senseless act or tragedy
This transparency can serve to help, or hurt, a situation, and affect our emotions. Social media can bring us together, or the light it shines upon fear can drive us apart.
How Much Social Media Is Too Much in the Face of Tragic Events?
Often fear and anxiety are stirred with tragic events. When a tragedy occurs many seek answers for an injustice when none are readily available. This can result in an increased emotional response. Thus, the process of healing from the tragedy is compounded with additional stress from those who lack an outlet for their anger and fear may turn to social media. Often over venting our thoughts and feelings about the tragedy may exacerbate what we are feeling instead of giving us relief. In fact it is almost akin to re-experiencing the trauma over and over again. The same may be though for those of us who almost obsessively stay in tune with what is happening. A way to determine if we are receiving benefit from our experience on social media, or if it is emotionally detrimental is asking ourselves, are we feeling better or worse?
Carrying on with business as usual, in the face of recent horrific events, is okay. And not just because it’s unavoidable, but also because doing so is a critical part in starting to recover.Peggy Drexler, Ph.D., research psychologist and author
The Fear of Missing Out
We have become accustomed to receiving updates about the world through our social media and might fear we will miss out on what’s happening if we don’t scan our feeds just one more time. But often what we find is repeated information. This overload of an overwhelming trauma can negatively affect even the most optimistic person. Those challenged with anxiety or a past history of dealing with fear or trauma can easily become anxious or distraught. Performing the most basic, mundane tasks can become a struggle.
Suddenly we might feel as if we are vulnerable in our usual daily routine and avoid places we usually frequent or enjoy. Our sense of security is shaken as we grieve for the loss of innocent lives while struggling with the fear that a tragedy could happen to us, or our loved ones at any time.
This stress can result in detrimental physical and emotional effects such as:
- Decreased appetite or overeating
- Perspiring profusely or chilled to the bone even when the temperature is neutral
- Loss of sleep
- Increased irritability or anger
- Feelings of guilt
- Increased anxiety or panic attacks
- Experiencing sadness or fear
- A sense of powerlessness
What To Do With Information Overload
Mourning and grief are natural responses to have when a tragedy occurs. Sharing these thoughts and feelings with others can help us with healing and allow us to be supportive to others. But using social media to the extent that it becomes detrimental to healing might mean it’s best to step away, or reduce, the time spent on these outlets.
- Instead of scanning our feed, we can make a phone call with a loved one
- Speak with a friend or psychotherapist
- Protect our emotional health by getting accurate information
- Don’t dwell on the event or watch it repeatedly
- Work towards acceptance that sometimes there are no answers
- Pay respects in your own way to those who have suffered
- Utilize coping strategies to restore balance such as exercise, partake in enjoyable activities, or by helping others
Break Free From Fear
If you find your response to the recent tragedy has resulted in increased anxiety or fear, or that you are avoiding places you usually enjoy, speaking with a trusted psychotherapist at Nassau Guidance and Counseling located on Long Island can help. Our licensed therapists have helped many people find methods to manage emotions elicited by tragic events and cope with the unexpected events of each day.