Practicing discernment during emotional seasons is probably one of the hardest skills to nail down. Not only did 2020 prove to be a year of change and ambiguity, it also proved to be a year of constant chaos, media distractions, and emotional turmoil. Looks like 2021 is off to a very similar, or even worse start.

Sure, we can shut off the TV, stop watching the news, unfollow, and mute. Those actions absolutely help to minimize triggers. I know I have had to do a lot of walking away, both figuratively and literally the last 9 months. I’ve heard many times, and have come to appreciate the phrase ‘protect your peace’. I might as well get a tattoo of that by now as it’s become my life’s motto.

How do we practice discernment when it seems all anyone wants from each other is reaction and response on social media, without exiting social media all together?

I have no easy answers to offer, and by no means am I an expert. We are all on our own journey, no doubt working hard to figure out what works for us individually. How you protect your peace won’t look the same as your neighbor’s. For example, my decision to privately ride my emotional roller coaster rather than bring my community along for the ride isn’t the answer for everyone.

What I do have are a couple of tips that have helped me feel less reactive, emotional, and confused during a time where social media is an absolute mess, people are projecting their opinions and beliefs left and right, and there’s a lot of hurt that will remain in the world whether you post your perspective or not.

1. Before you share that post, ask these questions:

  • Is your intent in sharing the post good?

  • Did you do your own research associated with that post?

  • Are you prepared to speak knowledgeably to and/or defend the information yourself?

  • Are you confident you aren’t contributing to the sharing of misinformation?

2. If you feel compelled to react to a post sharing information you feel triggered by, wait and confirm with yourself that your intent in responding is good. For example, when quick to react to a post, ask yourself how your response adds value to, at a minimum, your own mental health.

3. In the case of constant consumption, The Power of Pause is an effective and proactive tool to keep in your tool box. It is so simple, yet easily forgotten about. If there’s one thing I took away from 2020, discernment doesn’t come from a place of constant consumption and noise. Discernment comes from a place of quiet. These days, we have to create quiet space for ourselves.

4. Diversify your feed. When you see the perspectives from people that don’t think, look like, or agree with your view of the world, you are training yourself to be open minded and to question the context of how you interpret the information you consume. You begin to accept the human experiences that you don’t relate to, and your ability to show empathy and compassion for people becomes your super power. (Hint: this is where you may also decide to unfollow and mute accounts in an effort to curate a feed that contributes positively to your health.)

5. Educate yourself by reintroducing yourself to history. Prepare to unlearn a lot things, and research the questions you may not have been equipped to ask in grade school. Challenge how you received information on the past, and critically think and question for yourself.

It’s fair to say we have a lot working against us right now. Emotions are running high, there is a lot of pain in the world, and people are having to operate with unreliable resources and outlets. Showing up for others with compassion and understanding takes continued personal work and investment into our hearts and our health. There are a lot of steps forward, followed by steps back.

We’re human, we’re working, and we’re trying.