Image Source: Getty / Chip Somodevilla
When Donald Trump was announced as the president-elect, I was shocked. And it very quick made me realize: I live in a Facebook bubble.
As a New York woman who works at a liberal (mostly female) media company, my network is mainly made up of like-minded voters. We all posted "I voted!" selfies and #ImWithHer photos on Tuesday. Based on who I interact with, it felt inevitable: of course she would win!
Clearly that wasn't the case. The country is extremely divided, with just about half the popular vote going to each candidate. That left roughly 60 million people celebrating and the other 60 million devastated.
In the immediate days after the election, my Facebook feed was dominated by crying emoji, dramatic soliloquies from angry Democrats, and friends sharing news articles and op-eds about the results.
Every time I load that familiar blue-and-white screen, I am sucked into a Facebook political vortex.
Sometimes that can feel soothing (I'm not alone!), but it can also be overwhelming. Every time I load that familiar blue-and-white screen, I am sucked into a Facebook political vortex. But the experience can also be isolating, especially if you're a Republican with mainly Democratic friends or vise versa.
Regardless of what your stream is showing, Facebook is one of most polarizing and dynamic places to spend time in our post-election world. The social media platform is one of the easiest and most obvious ways for people around the country to express themselves, discuss the issues, and find solace. But we also need to remember to take a break sometimes.
"Facebook provides a forum to vent, speak your mind, and find support," Jonathan Alpert, a psychotherapist and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days, said to me via email. "That's all good, but there's a downside. Venting without a plan to resolve or move forward can keep someone stuck. There's also a contagion effect of Facebook. Sure, you'll find people who share similar views and values, but there's a possibility that complaining to a captive audience will perpetuate anxieties and stress."
To dive deeper into this topic, I spoke with friends, POPSUGAR editors, and an expert about the effects of using Facebook post-election and what to do when you log off.
Image Source: Getty / Justin Sullivan
The Pros of Spending Time on Facebook
You Can Stay Informed: Facebook is a fantastic way to get news. Media outlets and users are posting content about the election nonstop. It's like an RSS feed occasionally peppered with photos of babies and puppies!
"I often scan Facebook throughout the day for news, but since the election, I have been clicking refresh more often than I care to admit," said POPSUGAR Beauty editor Emily Orofino. "It's not just the articles — I like seeing what my friends are reading and learning their perspectives."
In addition, it gives anyone who isn't a journalist a place to create their own "news" and op-eds, so to speak. It eases a feeling of powerlessness since every user has the opportunity to be heard by the masses. In the past week, I've seen friends who are usually pretty politically quiet release multiparagraph mini essays about their election reactions. There are even leaders who have emerged among my friend group, whose pages continue to stream fresh articles and statuses.
It eases a feeling of powerlessness since every user has the opportunity to be heard by the masses.
The shocking election results have also sparked political conversations between different generations, parties, and geographic locations. This type of open dialogue is step one toward uniting our country. It only takes a few seconds to type up comment on your phone. Facebook also allows people who might not feel comfortable calling or texting each other to communicate.
You Can Find a Community: As I described earlier, Facebook can feel like an awesome support group if you need that right now.
One of my Facebook friends, Jessie Diaz, who is the blogger behind Curves With Moves and an self-proclaimed "proud Latina," wrote, "I like that my Facebook is a bubble. It keeps me away from the racist people who are really trying people after the election. Not me. I'm happy living in my Facebook bubble filled with so many cultures, socio and economic backgrounds, intellects, and genders. What I won't see is anyone trying to come for me, my friends, or family, or any group in general. Because as a human, I feel their pain."
There are a lot people, especially minorities, who are feeling scared right now. If Facebook provides you comfort, then keep refreshing that screen!
Image Source: Getty / Jason Connolly
The Harmful Side of Spending Time on Facebook
Facebook Can Be an Angry Space You could be surrounded by supportive people in your hometown but face bullies on Facebook, or the reverse: your Facebook friends are comforting, but the people around you are isolating you.
This is happening to both Democrats and Republicans. One of my Facebook friends put up a post describing how she was accosted by a customer in a Philadelphia grocery store for "looking like a Trump supporter." People from both parties are feeling fired up, and much of that is being taken out on Facebook.
"I'm from the suburbs of Chicago, and a lot of people (mostly white men) that I went to high school with have been posting very aggressive things on Facebook since Trump's win," said a woman who prefers to remain anonymous. "They are forcibly telling parents to tell their kids to deal with it; convince other people that Trump is not a racist, rapist, and homophobe; and are spreading the same hate that these election results are based on. It makes me feel extremely angry."
She went on: "People have been respectfully disagreeing, and they respond with anger, entitlement, and aggression. They are clearly seeking out fights with people."
When it comes to these situations, it's best not to engage. The aforementioned editor chose to simply unfriend those people.
Facebook Can Become All-Consuming and Anxiety-Inducing: Even if almost everyone on your feed is "on your side" of the political divide, spending too much time on Facebook can become obsessive.
Personally, I've found it difficult to focus, and all I want to do is check my feed to see who has posted up new rant I can "like" or shared article I can read. While it's important to stay in-the-know, the outpouring of raw emotion and information is, at times, overwhelming.
Step away and ask yourself, "What's more important: our leadership at the top or my health?"
"I have mostly been avoiding Facebook, even though most of my feed agrees with me, because I find it just makes me angry and fuels the drama and keeps me from moving on," said POPSUGAR executive editor Nancy Einhart. "I prefer to talk to people in person because it feels more productive."
Alpert, the psychotherapist I consulted with, also brought up the point that radical reactions can bring on restlessness. "One should be concerned about the propaganda spewing from both side of the political aisle," he said. "Comparisons of Trump to Hitler, for example, or claiming Clinton has a terminal illness. Neither help to calm people's anxieties."
If closing your computer or turning off your screen is difficult (Facebook is addictive!), and especially if you have clinical anxiety, remember that you have a choice about how you spend your time. "Ultimately you must step away and ask yourself, 'What's more important: our leadership at the top or my health?'" Alpert advised. "Anger has profoundly negative effects on the body and can lead to stress-related issues: headaches, stomach aches, body aches, cardiac issues, and more. So ask yourself, 'Is it really worth it?'"
He adds to remember the basics of stress management: good sleep, healthy eating, exercise, and avoiding drugs and alcohol.
And finally: "Don't personalize the results," he said. "If your candidate lost, it's not a reflection on you, but rather, it speaks to the political process that's been in place for 200+ years. Understand that what divides this country is also what makes it stronger — diverse ideas, hard-fought battles, and working toward a stronger, more perfect union."
Image Source: Popsugar Photography / Maria del Rio — (model on left) SUNO dress, Jill Stuart sweater, (model on right) SUNO top
How to Cope With Social Media Post-Election
If Hillary Clinton can lose the election and still be OK enough to take a walk around the neighborhood with her husband and dogs, so can you.
"Facebook has its benefits, but there's more to life than sitting in front of a computer talking to online friends," Alpert said. "That can be limiting and isolating. Log out and get connected through real life interactions — meet friends for dinner, drinks, or coffee. Get involved in activities. Do something that provides old-school interaction and communication."
I found it therapeutic to take a head-clearing, hip-hop dance class after work one night this week. I wasn't be able to check my phone while memorizing steps and rocking out to Justin Bieber's "Children."
Do something that feeds your soul, be it an indoor cycling class, grabbing brunch with an upbeat friend, or reading a fiction book. It might involve admiring the new Starbucks holiday cups or pretty Fall foliage.
Talk to people. In person. A lot is lost through a screen: nuance, tone, facial expression . . . POPSUGAR Latina editor Ale Foresto credited having a strong group of girlfriends that helped her through the disappointment of Clinton losing.
"By being around people who share similar views, you'll be able to talk out your frustrations and work toward an acceptance of the outcome," Alpert said.
And if you can't get together with someone, make a phone call! It's still more personal than texting or Facebook messaging.
Enjoy what is great about America right now IRL.