Staying Calm on Facebook

20 March 2020 By Erica Lay

Well, it’s official. The world’s gone nuts — half the planet is on lockdown or headed for it, the conspiracy theorists are having a field day, everyone seems obsessed with overbuying toilet paper and flour, and if you’re looking to give yourself crippling anxiety, just head straight to Facebook where misinformation, hearsay, blame, and gossip is rife.

We all know the “how to avoid coronavirus” rules, we know what we should and shouldn’t be doing, but I am here, however, to offer a little advice on your mental health, which might be feeling a bit neglected in the current situation.

It’s very easy right now to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and fearful. Many of us have been displaced by the virus and we may find ourselves under lockdown in a crew house, in accommodation, or even on board yachts, away from close family and friends. Thankfully, we all have Internet, so make the most of video calling and make sure you keep in touch with loved ones. This is a huge help, and something we should definitely set time aside for instead of interacting just on social media. FaceTime calls are the next best thing to real-life interaction and really do help the endorphins.

At the moment, being glued to social media sites, especially Facebook, is hard to avoid. But now is the time to be responsible and aware of what you and others are posting. In the past 72 hours, groups have popped up all over the place for “updates” in specific locations. I was invited to one, looked at the content, and promptly left it. It was absolutely full of scaremongering, gossip, and quite frankly a load of rubbish. These types of groups are not helpful for anyone. If you suffer from even a teeny tiny bit of anxiety, groups like this and the people within them need to be binned off before they put you into a state of panic.

If you find yourself feeling unhappy or stressed by certain connections who won’t stop banging on about conspiracy theories, or those who are demanding that the world is overreacting and they’ll be “just fine” if they catch COVID-19 (um, hello, what about your aging Grandma you just visited carrying the virus, you selfish oaf?), or those who are sharing fake news, and generally trying to spread fear, a very good idea is to hit that unfollow button. They won’t be any the wiser, and you can start following them again when you feel ready or when they start posting their usual stuff again. You can also hit the “snooze for 30 days” option. I’ve done this a lot since the weekend. It’s quite liberating. If, however, you have balls of steel and fear no reprisals, you could unfriend them. When something of this scale happens, it’s a great opportunity for a good Facebook cull. And yes, I’ve done a bit of that too this week.

Of course, there’s the option of not checking your Facebook every five minutes, or even deleting your account. If you do this, you don’t have to announce it to everyone. You will look a bit daft when you announce you can’t bear to be on Facebook anymore, goodbye, inbox me your numbers…and pop up commenting less than 24 hours later.

Please be responsible and think about the content you’re sharing and posting. Is it helpful? Is it kind? And very importantly, is it factually checked? This morning in Mallorca, we’re hearing lots of rumors about a possible extension to the lockdown. Two dates are being thrown about, pages and groups are seeing lots of, “Well, I heard it from a friend who saw it on Spanish TV.” I’m sure Daniel’s sister’s bestie’s hairdresser’s dog groomer Sandra has a direct line to Sanchez, the Spanish PM. A quick Google search in English and in Spanish came up with zero results. So if you see something posted with no official source cited, it’s a good idea to fact check it before hitting “share.” And then stay calm. It is what it is, there’s food in the supermarkets, chill out and settle down.

Nobody has the answers right now. We don’t know how long lockdown will continue in Spain, France, or Italy at this stage, but I’m sure when changes are announced they will be classed as breaking news, easy to find and verify. And THEN we can deal with it. Stop worrying about what hasn’t happened yet as it might never arise.

So back to Facebook. Perhaps limit yourself to following just a few sources for up-to-date information. Me for example: My pages are set to public at the moment and I am only sharing officially sourced news and updates for Spain as it comes about (and the odd funny, or dog picture, because, well dogs…). No nonsense, no conjecture, no maybe possibly might be, no bull. Official news channels are helpful to keep an eye on too.

As so many of us are quarantined, it could be very easy to fall down the rabbit hole of social media, so here are some tips to try and stay healthy online:

  • Limit your usage — set aside specific times and time limits and stick to them. There are even apps out there you can use like Freedom, Moment, ZenScreen, etc.
  • Don’t check social media at bed time, unless you enjoy insomnia.
  • Switch off notifications — if you’re finding them hard to deal with, silence them for now.
  • Set yourself an objective — why are you going to Facebook? Once you achieve it, log off.
  • Unfollow anyone who makes you feel less than happy. You can refollow later if you wish. Or not.
  • Follow happy pages like Doggo (okay, I love dogs, so what), comedy pages, or if you’re into the spiritual stuff, that sort of thing.
  • Don’t feed the trolls — is it worth posting a reply on some idiot’s angry rant? Will it make you feel stressed, anxious, unhappy? So don’t bother. We’ve already figured out he’s a massive idiot.
  • Post and share responsibly — CHECK YOUR SOURCES.
  • Use it for positive interactions! Message old friends, check in on people, and join positive, helpful groups if you wish.

I think it’s important we all try to live in the moment right now, try to focus on positives and what you CAN do as opposed to what you CAN’T. There are heaps of great resources out there for free things to do whilst stuck at home or on a boat, and so many people offering free classes and live sessions online for all types of exercises. Amazon is still delivering (yay!) so order a board game or card game, and here in Palma, there’s even a wine delivery service. Pick up that dusty guitar in the corner and do online classes, draw a picture, hide from your children, whatever helps!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, please reach out to someone. You’re not alone — we are all in this together. Take care everyone, and I’ll see you on the other side.