The dark chaos following India’s corona crisis is getting a platform through social media posts. While many seek assistance for their loved ones, from oxygen to hospital beds, ambulances, medicines, etc, others air their opinions against people in power, you also see excessive sad/depressing/annoying news on social media.
In a bid to stop oneself from spiralling in the depressing world of sad news, many are staying off social media. Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty Kundra, whose family tested positive for Covid-19 recently, in a recent post on Instagram said, “If you're feeling overwhelmed by whatever is happening around us, it's okay to take a break from social media. For everyone who is dealing with someone battling COVID-19, or has been helping others find the resources they need, I understand that this battle is not easy for any of us. Take some time off. You need to mentally be in a place that allows you to think on your feet and be fit enough to help others. Do whatever allows you to strengthen yourself and come back stronger to do what you can. Stay strong, stay safe!”
Those who find it difficult to stay away from social media are seeking ways to deal with it in the right manner. As Malala Yousafzai pronounced, “What is interesting is the power and the impact of social media… So we must try to use social media in a good way.”
A double-edged sword
In this crisis, is social media a blessing or a monster? Sahiba Sethi, Counselling Psychologist & Founder — Ummeed Healing, rightly states that 2021 proved 2020 wrong on being an unmatched crisis. “With our healthcare system at breaking point, people dying outside hospitals and being cremated on the streets, it would break any sane mind. On one end, social media has been a godsend connecting people and resources. For others, it has been overwhelming with an always ‘on’ trauma switch that batters their mental health. However, social media is a tool and the frequency of usage can be decided by us. Understanding what is harmful vs. useful to our mental health is our own individual responsibility. We have to be strict about it without giving in to temptation of mindless scrolling.”
For Mumbai-based Mustafa Dawood, Founder-CEO of the digital agency COSCOM, social media, too, is a double-edged sword. “Our sentiment analysis data from the conversations happening over the internet indicates an upsurge in negative conversations compared with the pre-second wave data. However, the advantages of social media in these times far outweigh its nuisances as lives are being saved using social media while you read this.”
Ayush Chudiwala, a food and lifestyle influencer from hungerpangs_mumbai, too highlights social media posts talking about ‘requirements, availability of resources, or a simplified guide to cope with anxiety on a personal level’. “These consistent endeavours depict a lot about us and our usage of social media. When you stop and look around it is amazing and overwhelming to see how we Indians are using the power of social media to spread love and hope in every possible manner.”
Evidently, certain sensitivity makes social media’s impact strong. Mustafa advises prudent use of social media in these times. “Especially, people who have a large share of voice on these platforms must shoulder the responsibility of putting out things that can help others and refrain from posting opinionated content, whether positive or negative. If one doesn’t have much to offer in terms of helping people, then it is best to keep mum. In the last few weeks, we have witnessed many social media personalities facing backlash on opinionated posts. Brands, too, must either stick to their regular content or share information helpful for their online community. Trying to use topical marketing for gaining social media mileage could also fire back during this time. It isn’t easy to generalise the impact that social media is making in our lives as there are so many facets to it. But we are learning to use social media more responsibly and Covid-19 is teaching us how to use the power of connectivity to help each other.”
Ayush is pleased to see influencers ‘paint out’ impact that’s positive for the audience and followers. “I had also recently come across a few social media posts that encouraged people to take vaccines and earn a small reward in return because obviously the jabs will help us to curtail this pandemic. So one might definitely have the feeling to go for a digital/social media detox due to the constant disheartening news/posts but in the end the thoughtful, entertaining and valuable content creation can also pull your mind back by making you realize that there is still hope and joy left to spread.”
You sadly nod with Sethi about endless images and messages of death, apathy and misery not just on social media but in news and discussions making everyone feel the loss, rage and vulnerability. “You don’t need to know the person to feel the loss. I find more and more people coming to me to talk about general feeling of heightened anxiety, hopelessness of life and how to deal with it. This is becoming very prominent in young adults who don’t see a future beyond Covid. Their best laid plans for a possible future based on the career paths laid down by earlier generations seem to be disappearing. They have to re-evaluate their life at the deepest level. And at such a young age this is a difficult load to deal with.”
From an influencer's point of view, Ayush suggests planning one’s post timeline. “You can create a balance between fun, positive and help-related posts so that your audience can absorb the type of content they want. Plan your content around what is most relatable. Balance is the key right now. Go live and keep an open platform through contests or AMA, which again revolves around the idea of knowing them or cheering them up through virtual giveaways.”
For audiences, he suggests controlling screen time. “With lockdown, we are mostly indulged in the art of scrolling over social media. So, set a screen time to ensure that one is not spending too much time on social media. Divide your screen time in helping people. Observe the content well and watch only what pleases your mind and soul. Finally, repost & forward mindful content that can be helpful to your fellow followers and community.”
Sethi calls social media a tool ‘made for humans to use’. “We all need to use it responsibly. Choose to use it in a powerful positive way. If helping out, verify sources before sharing. If you want to warn someone about an issue, do without directing hate at an individual. If you want to entertain someone, do without sounding tone deaf. If you want to educate, do with the resources your audience would have. Be mindful of the mood around you.”
Mustafa calls keeping off opinionated posts quite crucial. “If you wish to help, it might be better to post about hyperlocal news and supply information that could directly help people around you.”
The time has come to make the social media space free from damaging posts. Let’s be the change!
Tips for social media management amidst these trying times:
Using a powerful tool like social media responsibly is the need of the hour. Thus, corroborate sources before sharing anything.
Entertaining via social media should come with awareness of the mood of the situation.
Stay away from opinionated posts, preferably. If possible, stick to helpful hyperlocal news and information.
Audiences should control their screen time. This ensures lesser time spent on social media and using that time to help people. Keep a tab over the content to see what pleases you.