Social Media As A Coping Mechanism In Times of Tragedy

Social media has steadily become a huge part of our daily lives, for almost all generations of people. Through social media we allow people; friends, family, complete strangers, a look into our worlds and we, in turn, have access to theirs. We come together over our love or disdain of tv shows, movies, pop culture, music, etc. We find our “tribes” online when we otherwise would have never known we had so much in common with people from all over the world and feel less alone. And in times of trauma we share our pain.

Every new hashtag for a Black person that has become a victim of police brutality is, in essence, a virtual vigil. We gather around these hashtags and mourn another fallen brother or sister. We weep, we shout, we express our feelings of grief and outrage, we organize. We do this for them and we do this for us. Within those hashtags, you will also find the heartless trolling of those who don’t recognize our humanity and think we cannot feel pain. They are akin to those who honk and shout at people grieving at memorials on the street and come destroy them under the cover of night. But just as we do in the real world, we rebuild and continue on.

As I sat in my office today, surrounded by smiling white faces who were either unaware or just unaffected, I submerged myself in my social media feeds. I realized I would rather be subjected to the traumatic images of a Black person murdered while grieving with others who understood my pain, rather than face the oblivious and vapid small talk of coworkers. My social media feeds were my release, they were my coping mechanism.

The call for self-care often starts with unplugging from social media. It calls for turning off your tv. Shutting out the atrocities of the world. For many, this is what they need to do. But for others, like myself, unplugging leaves me isolated. When there are only 2 other Black people in your office and you are siloed off from them, you don’t get to exchange the knowing glances or acknowledging head nods. The biggest concerns those around you have are whether a campaign is pacing correctly, if an invoice is paid, or what to have for lunch. All the while you are steeling yourself to keep from crying. Avoiding face to face chats by using an instant messenger instead. Ignoring the phone, hoping they just send a follow-up email.

At that moment, you are essentially alone in a sea of people. With a heavy heart and racing thoughts. So where else can you go, but to the place that others like you are congregating? Social media.

I find solace and validation interacting with others who feel the same as I do. Both in person and online. A virtual hug as a gesture of comfort does more than the smiling face of a person whose heart you don’t truly know.

Let us also not forget the essential function social media plays in organizing. I found my tribe by attending healing spaces organized on social media. Events I would never have known about had it none been for Facebook or Twitter. Events that may never have even taken place without Facebook and Twitter being able to display, in real time, the need for them.

I say all this to remind us that how we cope is unique to the individual. But self-care is important, know matter how you choose to do it. Protect your energy, y’all. We have a long road ahead of us and we need to be able to find peace somewhere.

So What Do You Think?