Try this if you can’t get off social media right now
I’ve been on social media way more than usual this week consuming protests, upsetting videos of racial injustice, and unnecessary police brutality. I’ve felt exhausted with raw and angry emotions. Now, we white people know what it’s like to walk every single day in a black person’s shoes.
I’ve seen a number of people tweet about how they physically could not bring themselves to stand up and walk to the bathroom because they were so consumed in their feeds. Imagine feeling this burden every single day of your life.
The phone camera and social media are critical tools in this racial rights movement to bring examples of injustice to the surface and organize. Social media also has the power to pull life out of our body until we fold, helpless, into the couch, like a magician pulling the never-ending string of scarves out of their sleeve.
In moments like this, we need to strike the right balance. We need strength and energy, too.
Taking control of social media use right now
I’m working to dial back down my use of social media, but I recognize I’m going to be consuming more than in the past. While it might be appealing for mental health, tuning completely out of social media is not the right decision now. At some point, though, after scrolling for hours, days, or weeks, we’ve seen all the hot takes.
My challenge to you (and to myself) is to find the right controlled pockets of time to consume social media feeds. Stay informed about the fast-moving nature of Black Lives Matter but keep from falling into the overwhelm where you can’t bring yourself to use the bathroom.
I’m going to put these directional social media guidelines in place, knowing they are not a hard and fast rule:
· Wait at least 30 minutes after waking up to check social media. We need to give ourselves a few minutes of calm inward before we turn our attention outward.
· Loosely count 5–7 social media consumption pockets throughout the day each lasting 5–10 minutes. We’ll see the content that is important for our contextual understanding of what’s happing but won’t end up bent in half between couch cushions. Try noting the time on your phone when you start in on social media so you can track when to pull your attention out of it.
· This week, I’m focused on single-tasking. While working from home and on never-ending Zoom meetings, I’ve been bad about diverting my attention from the meeting to passively scrolling social media.
· Try to spend the 30–60 minutes before bed without social media while consuming lighter content to find some sense of calm amid the fire. I had a number of restless nights last week and sleep is our secret weapon during highly emotional times and while fighting.
Trade surface content for deep content
Trade the time and attention diverted away from the YELLING of social media for longer-form content to deeply learn. Social media helps us understand the real-time surface-level context, while longer-form content helps us understand the deeply rooted oppression black people have faced in the U.S. since being kidnapped from Africa in 1619. Read books, listen to podcasts, watch shows. There are plenty of lists out there — I’ve found this one to be helpful.
An hour spent learning through long-form content is better than an hour in the social media echo chamber, getting enraged by different reactions to the same videos and white fragility in the comments.
We white people have to do the work to learn and understand. Don’t ask somebody drowning to teach you how to swim. Social media helped incite the uprising by bringing us the video of Derek Chauvin crushing the air pathway in George Floyd’s neck, but deep education will continue the momentum as more white people look in the mirror and understand the silent and overt ways racism plays out in our society. Through education, I’m working to understand my personal blind spots of racism and improve.
Go to the next level by volunteering
Donating is great and is one of the best ways white people can help. I’m glad to have given in the last week and appreciate that my company is matching employee donations.
However, I firmly believe that any true sense of justice, equality, and an end to racism will not come just by throwing a donation over the fence while staying on the white privilege side of the fence.
To that end, I’m finding the best path forward for me is to identify one of the many sub-issues of racism I can involve myself with at a local level. For me, that is food justice in my home of Tacoma, WA.
In my non-expert opinion, food feels like a root issue. In an oversimplified sense, it creates a sense of ownership and access to healthy vibrant foods, beautifies “not good” neighborhoods, and creates positive outlets for community members to spend their time.
This past weekend, I volunteered at the Hilltop Urban Garden (HUG) in the historically low income and black neighborhood in Tacoma.
I was glad to listen more than I spoke, learn, and have a dialogue to understand deep and emotional community issues from a different lens than I normally look through. This, all while helping to plant organically grown food for a community that doesn’t have easy or affordable access to it.
We covered a lot of ground in this post. I’d invite you to join me on some or all of these next steps I’m taking:
1. Dial-down social media use to several 5–10 minute pockets of time per day.
2. Invest the hour or more saved daily on deep long-form content to broaden historical knowledge and context.
3. Donate. Time, money, or whatever you can.
4. Find some angle of racial injustice in our country that calls to you. Volunteer locally in that area and listen to uncover the best way to help.
We’re experiencing what seems like a tipping point on modern black rights, but it’s going to take sustained work, listening, understanding, and dialogue to make policy changes and social progress. Most importantly, it’s going to take white people working to lessen the blind spots we all have when it comes to racism. This willingness to do the uncomfortable work is the tallest order.
Hi, I’m Grant. I write the weekly Sustain newsletter about how to prevent burnout from work based on research and my own experience. It’s a fresh approach called Holistic Burnout Prevention which treats the causes, not the symptoms of burnout. Join me and let’s create a world without burnout. Subscribe >