I'm confident I'm not alone when I say that my social media outlets can be filled with a lot of drama and negativity.
For me, part of that may be because I'm a news junky, and, unfortunately, news is often ... heavy. That's a nice way to put it.
But there are also internet trolls; there's shaming of all sorts, heated political debates and absurd comments on news articles—all of which sometimes make me question the goodness of humanity.
And online, people can and will be hateful about almost anything. I recently discovered that apparently there is internet in-fighting among crafting and children's clothing Facebook groups. *Face palm.*
It's a sad commentary on human nature that some people feel empowered and removed enough when online to hurl insults they likely would never say to someone's face.
I know plenty of people who opt to avoid social media altogether, but I find too much value in it to do that.
Social media and the internet are tools, and each person can figure out how to maximize use and do what's best for their own psyches.
Personally, I would rather figure out a way to use the powers for good when possible.
So I recently made the conscious effort to like and follow pages and accounts that are filled with positivity. I added several mindfulness-related Facebook pages and others I personally connect with, such as a blog called The Mind of an Introvert.
Filling my Facebook page with mindfulness tips and articles about meditation also helps remind me—even when I'm staring at a computer—to honor my practices.
Here are three tips for creating a happier, safer social media environment.
I've made an effort to curate a list that provides content that will inspire me, motivate me, make me laugh or make me feel a kinship. And I've been saving positive, fun articles that pop up in my feed to read later when the collective social media gloom starts to get me down.
The result is that I'm connecting more with topics that are uplifting and interesting to me. Think mindfulness, meditation, music, mental health, psychology, podcasts, documentaries, history, the outdoors, babies, writing, spirituality, art, crocheting and cute animals in costumes.
Each person's list will be different, but the point is to take control of your accounts and resist the urge to be sucked into the dark end of social media.
The ego loves drama, and if we aren't aware of this fact, we will have a difficult time creating boundaries and maintaining a calm, happy demeanor. That's true in real life and is sometimes magnified in the bubble of Facebook, Twitter and the like.
As an aside, I was late to the Instagram bandwagon for whatever reason, but I find it to be more pleasant than some of the other platforms because it's image-heavy. More pretty pictures and less venting into the void? I'll take it.
Remember there's no obligation.
There's no requirement to engage in social media at all, and there's certainly no duty to read or respond to that rude comment. There's no reason not to delete it, either.
There's also no obligation to accept a friend request or allow someone to post upsetting or unwanted content on your page. And, generally, there's no need to explain yourself about it.
There's no contract that says you can't hide or block someone or turn off distracting notifications.
None of this should be done in a hurtful way, and obviously, situations vary and may require different reactions.
But it's important to establish boundaries and remember that social media is a privilege of an advanced society. It's a privilege to connect online, not an obligation.
I never want to offend anyone, but that feeling can't outweigh my own mental well-being.
And, on the other side of that, we should all try not to take it personally if someone doesn't accept a friend request or love every comment we make. There are countless reasons for this that don't involve something nefarious or intentionally hurtful. Don't take it all so seriously.
We might not even realize how much the constant barrage of complaining, criticism and carelessness online affects our mental state. And that's a dangerous place to be.
Be aware of the feelings provoked when engaging online. If the bad starts outweighing the good, make changes.
Figure out what works for you because we all have different needs, emotional responses and tolerance levels.
If we are cognizant about the information we are taking in and how it's affecting us, we can avoid getting drawn into the drama and use this amazing gift of technology in a way that enhances our worlds.
Life is truly too short to spend it bickering via broadband.
The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.