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It’s Okay to Hit Mute: A Guide to Staying Mentally Healthy in This Strange Age

Check out the following wisdom from Peer Advisor Ryan!

Currently, there are 112 words on my muted words list on Twitter. I know that number seems rather high, but allow me to explain.

In these strange, strange times in which we’re living, there is no shortage of statements about the coronavirus. There’s the crucial information that comes from doctors, medical experts, and local authorities, of course, but there’s also a glut of responses from just about everybody, even folks who you’re might not terribly interested in hearing from. Every clothing store you’ve ever bought socks from is emailing to communicative its COVID-19 policy; every discrete department and office at GW is sending you the same five tips for containing the virus; and every news outlet is running every conceivable coronavirus story imaginable. This seems only logical, we might think; it’s just what you have to do.

More brightly, there’s also been a deluge of (marginally) more sensitive content among this negativity. There are plenty of cute infographics about how to work from home, or tips for Zoom-based learning, or videos of celebrities admonishing you to practice social distancing.

These things, should they float your boat, can be great. But for me, they felt insufficient, in some way—while it felt nice to feel my sadness and worry be validated, the fact remained that these things left me feeling more negative than if I hadn’t seen them at all. So instead, I did something different: I just muted it all.

Coronavirus. COVID. COVID-19. #coronavirus. #COVID19. #C19. #COVID-19. #COVID_19. #COVID2019. Pandemic. Symptom. Diagnosed. Epidemic. Hand sanitizer. Wash your hands. Quarantine. These are just a few of the words on my long, long list—and it’s an ongoing project, as Twitter users seem to be constantly hopping to new permutations of #COVID19 with each passing day. On top of this, I used the content preferences on my phone to allow me to use my news app for only one minute each day—enough to get major notifications, but not enough to be sucked into a pool of despair. And I couldn’t be gladder about doing it.

Does this mean that I’m contentedly ignoring this issue? No, of course not. I care deeply about the epidemic, especially as an immunocompromised person, and I’ve spoken with my health care providers and keep up with official statements from my local government. But expanding my muted words list in this way was like a gift from the universe, because it allowed me to see that my life wasn’t getting any better, I wasn’t getting any safer, and the world wasn’t getting any healthier by me reading another anxiety-inducing tweet. On the contrary, these tweets were only making me feel so freaked out that I was paralyzed, unable to do anything to help those around me or do my part to protect those even more vulnerable than myself.

I think of this great purge as an act of discernment—I’m discerning when online coronavirus can be good and beneficial, and when, on the contrary, it’s not helpful. Because, to be clear, all of this content should be directing you to help your community, or to love those around you, or to act with safety and thoughtfulness—and if it’s not doing that, then you aren’t obligated to expose yourself to it every single day. Needless paralyzing anxiety doesn’t isn’t good for anybody!

Even further, it’s important to remember that your discernment might put you in a different place than mine did. For some folks, it’s possible that reading every bit of coronavirus coverage is helpful. As I’ve said in quite a few words, that isn’t the case for me. So in these times of difficulty and tribulation, I want to offer a word of advice to anyone who needs it: it’s okay to be discerning with this stuff, and it’s okay to decide that you’ve read enough for the day.

3 thoughts on “It’s Okay to Hit Mute: A Guide to Staying Mentally Healthy in This Strange Age

  1. Brittney Ho

    Excellent content only

  2. Brianna

    🙂 🙂

  3. Bri Mirabile

    So true! I deleted Twitter off my phone.

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