Thursday, November 5, 2015

Social Media: Joy & Peril ... It's Here to Stay!

We’re sure you’ve argued both sides of the fence on this topic of whether social media and the Internet has made a caregiver’s life better or worse.  We think it's done both. With a short phrase typed into a search engine, you can find multiple sources of information in milliseconds. 

There is ease in using social media to connect you to smaller groups who understand your situations and allow you to connect with someone across the world. Medical information can help your caregiving, and you can find apps for most everything.  Yet, it’s still up to you to find credible sources and to check the validity of the information.  Believe it or not, not everything you read online is correct!

The opposite view is that we are now at arms-length from people and more isolated from one another.  Online friendships can form instantly when someone agrees with a Facebook posting you made.   It also has the potential for harm when a comment is perceived negatively or judgmentally.  We've seen serious actions and consequences when a caregiver is hurt by public comments or even betrayals of trust.  Comparisons are made nearly every day, and the lens with which you view a comment can turn an innocent post into a hurtful jab, or you may miss the point entirely as you grab a view on your phone at the stoplight.

As caregivers, it's nearly universal that support and information will be sought online.  But, because studies and good old common sense are telling us that we’re often “overly attached” to our phones and tablets, and we know it, what are we doing about it?  Science also proves that in teens, social media is adding to depression, what others are doing/buying/saying, and cyber-bullying continues.  Think it’s only in teens?  No, it can happen to any of us.
What to do?  Try to keep yourself in a healthier, more balanced place, and set limits on what you will share online and to whom. There are full medical histories on the Internet, and that's your choice, but think of the potential years from now.  Know that anyone and everyone can access some of your information somehow and if you don’t want it out there, do not post it.  Employers still Face-stalk, and so do other officials, so don’t leave yourself open to interpretation that may harm you or your family.

UNPLUG sometimes. A certain hour of the evening, a cyber-free Sunday, two hours during the day so you accomplish more of what you set out to do.  Yes, you’re likely to be texted a million times if you go out, but sometimes adding space in your caregiving relationship can help you both.  Inter-dependence and co-dependence is hard on a family, and even medical staff can add to the dependence versus independence.  Be mindful and be aware.
Balancing your time can start with seizing back one or two of the many intervals each day you check your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter page.  Or, use that time to go to a personal learning or favorite hobby website and take your mind off tasks for a while.  The best alternative is day-dreaming – it’s a hopeful and non-electronic means of recharging! 

Linda Kreter & the 
VeteranCaregiver Team

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