๐ŸŒฑ Healthy (Social) Media Practices During Conflict

Strengthening Our Media Resilience in Times of Crisis

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

๐Ÿค“ Bite-Sized Knurd: The reaction to the unfolding Israel-Gaza crisis shows we are in for a stormy political future without many social media guardrails. Reflections and tips about staying resilient on social media as a person with a heart during times of crisis.

In Case You Missed It: Leading with ๐Ÿ’š Heart & ๐ŸŒ Humanity in a Moment of International Tragedy

๐ŸŽง Listen to Todayโ€™s Post๐ŸŽ™

112 Healthy Media Practices

Hi yโ€™all,

Happy Thursday! You might have noticed that I didnโ€™t send a newsletter last week. With the recent world events, new projects, and knowing my limitations, I decided to let the Thursday newsletter fall.

Writing this monthโ€™s theme (Modern Hollywood) has felt strange at a time of great loss of life, ensuing violence, the destruction of Gaza, and how this tragedy has shaped Palestinians, Israelis, and the global community. Even though the entertainment industry shapes our world dramatically, it doesnโ€™t feel right to speak to it now. I still hope to resume the series in the future. Instead, I want to offer some perspective and practical tips for wading through the waters of social media at a time of heightened disinformation and propaganda.

Weโ€™re All Impacted by Collective Trauma

First, how is everyone doing? Itโ€™s been a whirlwind since a shocking terrorist attack in Israel jump-started an emotionally charged campaign to rid the world of Hamas, with little regard for Palestinian life, led by Benjamin Netanyahuโ€™s right-wing government and backed by Western powers including the full-throated support from US President, Joe Biden. Itโ€™s been a jarring moment in history thatโ€™s uniquely impacted people's lives.

  • For many everyday people, especially in the U.S., it was the first time they became aware of the region, its history, the current political reality, and the Palestinian people. The onslaught of disinformation and propaganda has been overwhelming to decipher. So many people have just thrown up their hands and given up or turned away from the issue.
  • For Jewish people across the globe, it has been a moment of mourning, uncertainty for their safety, fear of the real-world consequences of antisemitic propaganda, anguish over the acts being perpetrated in the name of Judaism, and more. Many are experiencing ancestral trauma that is deep and painful. has a great piece on this, โ€œWhen Hurt People Hurt People.โ€
  • For Palestinians, Muslims, and other marginalized communities who have watched in horror as the West has accelerated violent, racist rhetoric against their skin color, their ethnicity, and their religion that only hurts everyday people and does nothing to stop the conflict.
  • As progressive activists schooled in the history of harmful systems, it has been challenging to watch the West line up with a right-wing authoritarian government, especially an ally that our tax dollars fund.
  • Capitalists, academic institutions, and the Democratic Party are experiencing confusion as young and left-leaning people are crying out about their humanitarian hypocrisy. Bidenโ€™s astounding 11% polling drop makes sense if you learned the social justice lessons of 2020.

I could give countless examples of the uniqueness of the pain that many people are experiencing in the reality that we call 2023. I use these examples to simply say that weโ€™re all experiencing world events in profound and different ways.

Media Landscape Decay

Sadly, that doesnโ€™t jive well with our current media landscape.

Since October 7th, something has been perfectly unclear to me about the moment we are in.

The media and public reaction to the October 7th terrorist attack is a direct consequence of our media landscapeโ€™s decay that can be traced to cable news, social media, and the mass adoption of smartphones.

Iโ€™ve written many times about how social media and smartphones have changed our brains, our emotions, and our behaviors. (Start your learning journey here). The tech disruptions in the media landscape have gutted the traditional media landscape, caused a rise in disinformation, harmed public safety, increased polarization, radically hurt our mental health and caused a higher degree of uncertainty.

While I wish we could just tell Mark Zuckerberg to stop suppressing pro-Palestinian content or call Congress and have a social media disinformation act on the floor tomorrow, we donโ€™t live in that reality (โ€ฆyet). So, while we work to reach the mountaintop of having trusted news sources, internet regulations, and privacy laws, we must shield ourselves from the current harm as best we can.

While we all have lived experiences of the negative effects of social media, we donโ€™t all have tools to turn to in moments when social media just becomes too much. We are in for an uncertain future which will require each of us to arm ourselves from disinformation, propaganda, and deception so that we can navigate clearly during moments of crisis.

Today, I hope to get us thinking about tools that we can have at the ready in moments of need. This is by no means a comprehensive list or the only ideas as it relates to strengthening our media resilience. In fact, I encourage you to add your health practices in the comments as a list to help others.

Healthy (Social) Media Practices During Conflict

There is so much noise on the internet right now, but not a lot of practical help. So here is my attempt to tip the scales just a little. I wanted to offer a few reflections about staying resilient on social media as a person with a heart. Here are 8 tips on how I stay sane.

1. Find a Safe Space for Talking or Mourning

As our societal guardrails continue to falter, we need to build practices to bring us back in connection with ourselves and others. My first suggestion is very simple but effective. If you feel overwhelmed by the news, donโ€™t understand the issues, or just have a lot of unexpected feelings, GET OFF SOCIAL MEDIA. Did I get your attention?

Todayโ€™s social media is meant for the masses. It is a challenging environment to hold space and process feelings except in more intimate corners like live streams or private groups. Instead, I encourage you to find the spaces outside of social you can go to. It might be a person, a group, or a journal where you find support. You are looking for a space you feel safe to share and feel in. My political and entrepreneur groups have been especially important havens to be unapologetically human for me in these past few weeks.

2. Understand How Media Manipulates

In the series on social mediaโ€™s roots, I focus on the companyโ€™s profit motive. As is the trend in late-stage capitalism, the sole focus has become profit. Content moderation, teen mental health, disinformation, and other factors fall by the wayside when profit is the focus.

As we know, the first step is to admit that there is a problem. Or more specifically to understand our role in all of this. We, the people who use social media, are the product. Every keystroke, click, search, purchase, and more is logged into a giant algorithm that helps the companies show us content to keep us on the site and sell targeted ads to get people to buy stuff. Companies buy advertising that is filled with our data (that we did not get compensated for) and the social companies get rich.

When I understand that the platforms want me to stay on the site for as long as possible, it allows me to notice. I can more easily recognize how an app tries to keep me engaged. Once you bring awareness to how social media sites are designed, you will notice a lot more and begin to recognize the ways you can change your relationship and push back against unhealthy design.

3. Leave Space to Feel Before Reacting

Social media is instantaneous. It used to be a novelty when the worldโ€™s breaking news was on Twitter. Now, instantaneous means disinformation, half-truths, propaganda, and confusion.

When things feel a little bit too frenzied on social media, that is a sign to breathe. The simple act of pausing can change how you engage with content. Hotheads can gather themselves before reacting in the comments. Confusion can turn to clarity.

If Iโ€™m feeling heightened emotions, I will pause, take a deep, slow breath in, and let it out before doing anything else. That simple reset gives me time to reflect and answer how I engage or not. I ask myself what Iโ€™m feeling and why. The pause lets our brain catch up to our heart so we feel more aligned with how we respond instead of reacting with our instinctive brain.

4. Return to Your Values

If in doubt, always go back to what is true to you. If it smells fishy, it just might be. Our values can be shielded from disinformation and other forms of manipulation. If our values are rooted in love and equity, then weโ€™re less likely to believe hateful or violent disinformation.

I think of values in terms of how I consume content and how I post or engage. When I see a post that doesnโ€™t add up in my head or goes against my values, Iโ€™m more likely to be cautious about how I engage with it.

On most platforms, reacting boosts a post. So when a right-wing troll triggers someone to angry comment, they are helping get more people to see their post. Whenever I engage with a post, I ask myself what do I want to amplify. What kinds of messages do I want to see in the world?

The phrase โ€œBe the change you want to see in the worldโ€ is corny but itโ€™s also true. The more we post with our values, the more we can curate a healthier internet for ourselves. (Regulation is of course still desperately needed!)

5. Verify Facts & Understand Themes

Guess what?! Disinformation can work on everyone. Anyone! Whether you are a Gen Z internet wizard or a Boomer cable news junky, no one is immune. You are not immune to disinformation. I am not immune to disinformation. Once you accept this, it makes it a whole lot easier to protect yourself against disinformation.

In the Elon era of social media (a sub-brand of late-stage capitalism), we have to assume that something might be disinformation or propaganda even if we agree with it.

The advice I offer is to verify facts across multiple sources but understand the general themes of the conflict. One clear example was when it was reported that Israel might have bombed a hospital. There was breathless coverage about whether this was true or not. It became a proxy argument about the conflict itself. But this hospital bombing was only one part of the greater conflict. At the time of the Al Ahli Arab Hospital bombing, Israel had also been confirmed to have bombed a school and two densely populated refugee camps. The World Health Organization (WHO) documented more than 136 attacks on health care services in the occupied Palestinian territory, including 59 attacks on the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the death of at least 16 health workers since the beginning of hostilities on 7 October.

So my question is, does it matter if this one hospital was bombed by Israel or not? Does this one incident change your perspective of the whole conflict?

Disinformation and propaganda work to obscure the facts. But in some cases, we donโ€™t need to know the exact facts, we can understand the general picture. The fog of war has always been a thing, even when we have the whole world in a handheld box.

7. Step Back from Expectations

One thing that has shifted in recent years, is the expectation that we are all social media stars. ๐Ÿคฉ The algorithms have tricked us into thinking that we need to post x number of days a week or that we should be caught up on all the latest trends.

Do you get paid to post on social media? If not, then social media is not your job. Remember, you probably joined social media for connection and to have fun during your downtime.

If this resonates with you, itโ€™s time to gently remind yourself:

  • You can take a break (you arenโ€™t a content machine)
  • You donโ€™t have to be an expert in every issue (our brains werenโ€™t meant for that!)
  • You donโ€™t need to post every time (there are no expectations)
  • You can waste time (social media doesnโ€™t have to be productive)

As a society, we have lost the art of unstructured time. Productivity has embedded itself into every aspect of our lives, even what was supposed to be fun. Our society makes it easy to fall into that trap, so itโ€™s important to be kind about our instinct for productivity and gently build practices to pull away from those expectations.

8. Set Aside Time to Be

I havenโ€™t lived in any other time (that I know of), but I can say that this is a hard time to live through. As much as we are working to move towards a liberatory, sustainable world, we still have to take care of ourselves in this world.

So my last reflection for you is to just take the time to do nothing, to feel, to laugh, to mourn, to adventure, to just be.

There is a strong collective of people across this globe who are all working towards a world outside of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. The collective is what can hold us in these moments of great tragedy. If you need a break. that is ok. You are a human who feels in a world that tells us not to.

Find time today to just beโ€ฆwhatever that means for you.

Reshaping Our Social Relationship

As the universe would have it, I had a workshop called โ€˜๐Ÿ“ฒ Algorithm Brain ๐Ÿง  How Social Media Influences Our Emotions and Thinkingโ€™ scheduled a week after October 7th in partnership with #CultureFix. Leading a workshop might have felt overwhelming in a time of grief, but it felt perfectly right. It was incredible to be in a comforting space with good people who wanted to grow together. I wanted to share some notes that visual artist, Cindy, crafted during the workshop.

I hope to offer another workshop in early 2024. If youโ€™re interested, respond to this email or make sure you are on our email list.

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Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.


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