Feeling stressed? Getting caught up in other people's drama on social media? Kali Anthony talks about how avoiding it might just give your creativity a boost.
It started with a social media storm, involving a friend and their small business. My little corner of Australia woke up to an internet rant from overseas. Unfair and untrue accusations that left someone I knew flummoxed, upset and rightly outraged. And boy, was it a storm I was desperate to get involved in. To jump to the defence of a person who was being wrongly and unfairly criticised. Someone I knew.
I’ve noticed a trend recently, of increased angst. Those internet pile-ons when an individual falls out of line. Sometimes fair, sometimes not. Outrage, faux and real. It’s so easy to slip into the maelstrom and get lost in it. Too much time on the internet swept along with everybody else. Having your say. When you feel powerless to do anything, it can feel quite empowering to vent. In internet groups, buying into the angst, giving advice, getting shouty, getting shouted at. But over the last year or so the world has seemed to me, to be getting angrier.
This negative emotion began creeping into my day and I became preoccupied with it.
Then I began noticing authors who were taking time off social media because of it all. Talking about the exhaustion of engaging in the drama (romancelandia has had its fair share). I began analysing how this affected my creative process, because frankly, everything around me felt like an unhealthy pot of simmering outrage waiting to boil over.
Every day requires protection of your creative time. Creativity is a fickle and delicate thing. A bit like a dandelion. One puff of the wrong wind, and those seeds of imagination drift off and away in all directions and it’s impossible to get them back again. I found the drama impinging on my thoughts. Crowding out the imaginative ones and replacing them with something unproductive. All I had was the head space to be worried. My precious emotional energy was being spent elsewhere, when I already had little to spare. There wasn’t much left to be creative. I was spending so much time in the middle of everyone else’s fights, commenting and ruminating, I had no time for thinking about my stories. They were all drowned out by the drama that had crept insidiously into my life.
So what about my friend’s problem I mentioned earlier? The criticisms were unfair. The attempts to damage the business based on untruths at worst and misinterpretations at best, were deeply upsetting. But I recognised that if I jumped into the fray it might make things worse, and give the false flames more air to grow. There were people far more experienced than me, managing things in the background. I let those paid to do it, do their job, and stayed well away. It was far better for my mental health because you know what? In twenty-four hours that storm in a social media teacup was over and my friend completely vindicated.
And I hadn’t said a thing. It was a salutary lesson.
Internet angst was becoming a black hole for emotions. I needed to do something, because time is short, and creative time especially, needs to be protected at all costs.
Getting off social media wasn’t an option like some others I observed. I look after The Pink Heart Society social media accounts so am on it regularly trying to find things our readers might find interesting and pertinent (failing in May, but that’s another story!) I wondered whether, instead of turning off Twitter and flicking Facebook, I could change my reaction to what I was seeing?
I talked about my attempts at meditation last month. Truth is, meditation helped out of sight. It kept my mind far quieter and my inclination to get involved in something that was unconnected to me, diminished. I became more mindful of my reactions and the high emotion. It became easier to walk away, to let go.
Round this time, my country entered the countdown to a Federal election. Gosh, politics is polarising all over the world at the moment, and Australia wasn’t immune. Plus, I’m pretty passionate about my views, so the opportunity for drama abounded. But I tried to protect my create time. Write first, comment on politics later!
Another place I found getting occupied, was online groups. Not in a bad way, but in an overly involved way. I’d worry about other people’s problems when I really had enough of my own to be getting on with. So instead of simply jumping in and posting some response I’d stop and think before I wrote anything. Was it any of my business? Did people ask for advice, or simply want validation? Did any advice I have, add value or add something different to that which had already been said? And you know what? Most of the time my answers to these questions meant that I needed to scroll right on by rather than comment, so that’s what I did. And the more I scrolled past, the easier it became to avoid engagement in the first place.
Anything on my feed that got a bit too ranty, I muted it for a bit. I saw a drama bonfire starting I turned my back, not trying to get out the verbal fire extinguisher or even worse, the verbal flamethrower.
Whereas once I might have followed a Twitter thread to see what rabbit hole it took me down, I scrolled along. My choices of the things I favourited on Facebook, changed my feed to a happier place. Refusing to engage became liberating, rather than a cop out.
Life became infinitely calmer without the drama and angst. I wasn’t preoccupied with that, but with my stories again. Any hint of aggro, I walked past it without engaging, and my life felt all that much better for it. Staying out of other people’s business, kept me better engaged with mine.
Got to confess, a bit of angst is great if you’re trying to write a black moment. You can channel all that emotional energy it into torturing your characters, so it’s not all bad. But if you find it’s sucking on your creative time, ditch the drama and peace out. I promise, you’ll be much happier for it!
Kali Anthony is an aspiring author and senior editor for The Pink Heart Society. You can follow Kali on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Do you get caught up in the angst on social media occasionally? What techniques do you use to avoid it? Has this helped your creativity? We’d love you to get in touch here or on social media using the hashtag #PeaceOut.