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Anger and Judgment on Social Media: How to Stop Seeing Red and Build Healthier Relationships

How many times has this happened to you? You’re browsing social media — laughing at memes, smiling at babies — and then  you see a post that makes you see red. 

Maybe it’s a friend complaining about your favored political party; maybe it’s a relative bragging about spending money you know they don’t have. Or maybe, in the time of COVID-19, it’s your neighbors showing off the dinner party they had when your city was on a strict stay-at-home order. 

All you want to do is FORCE your friend, your relative or your neighbor to see the errors of their ways and act exactly how you know they should: be smarter, more responsible, safer. But you know there is little you can do to control the actions of other people and that makes you feel even more angry, frightened and hopeless. 

The Conflict Center believes that conflict is an opportunity to solve problems and build relationships, but often our anger, judgement and lack of control act as barriers to achieving those goals. Here are some tips to help you navigate these emotions during uncertain times. 

  • Figure out what your anger is really about. Anger can give us information about our needs, often because it signals other, underlying emotions. The anger you feel about your neighbor disobeying quarantine orders may be masking your own fear about whether you are best protecting your family from COVID-19. By analyzing our anger, we can often move from focusing on what we can’t control (our neighbor’s actions) to what we can (doing research to feel safer during quarantine). 
  • Take a break. Before you write something online or get involved in what could become a heated conversation, take a moment to let your emotions cool. You can even write a response, but leave it in your inbox until you can come back to it with fresh eyes. Once you do choose to have a difficult conversation and notice anger arising, you can always pause, calm down and return later. 
  • End the “scroll of doom.” The blessing and the curse of social media is that it allows us to see more closely into the lives of those around us. If your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feeds are making your blood boil, log out for a while. “Hide” the posts of those that cause you stress. You may never convince your neighbor to stop posting COVID-19 conspiracy theories, but you can stop reading them.
  • Focus on what you CAN control. Make sure that your anger and judgement are not negatively affecting your own actions. Do what you can to alleviate your own anxieties while responding in ways that align with your values. You can’t control what someone posts, but you can control if or how you respond!

Social media posts can be triggering, find more resources for when you’re feeling escalated and tips for acting your values online!

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