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10 Ways To Keep Social Media From Triggering You (So Much)

Life's too short to be triggered by Twitter all of the time.

Life & Travel

Some of y'all might recall a couple of years back when I wrote an article for the site entitled, "How To Handle Folks Who 'Trigger' You". Hmph. Let me just say from very up close and personal experience that once you have truly mastered how to "deactivate your triggers" (oh, and control your physical and sexual appetite yet that's another topic for another time), you are pretty much unstoppable.

And while a lot of what I said in that piece could translate to how you handle your Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts, I thought it would also be beneficial to offer up some tips on how to handle those specific kinds of triggers. Because since most folks spend around 2 ½ hours a day on various social media accounts, it's really important to know how to navigate the rocky waters known as the internet — how not to let people (or content) get (or keep) you shook.

1. Remember, Social Media Isn’t Therapy


Not too long ago, I was having a conversation with someone who asked me if I thought they shared too much on social media. My response was, "I think the bigger question is do you think you expect too much from it?"

Listen, people are fickle. Humans are fallible. And when you're interacting with dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of them at a time, you are setting yourself up to, at the very least, be disappointed.

You're grown, so if you want to tell all of your business on your pages, that is totally up to you. However, sitting around taking in opinions about your personal life, dilemmas and traumas all day is setting you up to be disappointed more than helped. I have a motto — social media ain't therapy. Sure, it might be free to use yet therapists/counselors/life coaches are far more equipped to give you what you need than a whole lot of random commenters. If you remember this point alone, it can spare a lot of triggering. Trust me.

2. Use It for a Purpose. More than a Distraction.


If you've ever been curious about the history of social media, an article worth checking out (that was published by Maryville University) is "The Evolution of Social Media: How Did It Begin, and Where Could It Go Next?". A line in it says, "In less than a generation, social media has evolved from direct electronic information exchange, to virtual gathering place, to retail platform, to vital 21st-century marketing tool." Indeed. Yet, let's be real — it's also turned into a cesspool for gossip, trolling and passive aggressive ways to target people. Although I don't personally use social media, I see various purposes that it can serve and that's kind of my point — remember the purpose for why you are using it. If all that you're on there for is to see which real housewife is in some mess or to spend hours talking about how men are trash (eye roll), all that's doing is wasting precious time. Plus, how is that improving you and your life on any substantial level?

Am I saying that social media shouldn't be fun? Sure, it should. Yet really think about why it can easily take up hours and hours of your day. If you can't connect it to how it's helping you progress on some level, that's a good enough reason to scale back. Even if it's just a little bit.

3. Customize Your Notifications


Other than having a low-key social media addiction (check out "Social Media: How To Take Back Control Of What You're Consuming"), I'm not sure what would make us watch our phone ring and then let it go to voicemail and yet see notifications go off and think that we immediately need to check every single one. And then, based on what we see, let it totally throw us off and even put us in a not-the-best-kind-of mood for hours on end. That's why I'm all about folks learning how to customize their notifications so that only certain ones go off or they are reminded to only check them during certain times of the day. Listen, keeping up with the monkey-branching hamster wheel dynamic of Ben and J.Lo isn't going to help you to finish that report that's due, clean up your bedroom or pay those bills.

Besides, if there's one thing about the internet, it's that, whatever's been posted, you can find it by doing a quick Google search hours, days and even years later. In other words, you're really not missing much to the point where you need to act with a sense of urgency; regardless of how much your notifications go off. Anyway, if you want to learn more about this particular point, check out Shift's "How to Avoid Notification Overload" and then consider doing what it says. You shouldn't be a slave to your notifications. You've got the power not to be.

4. Post Something Positive to Combat Negativity


Negative bias is a real thing. If you don't believe me, ask someone to share with you five things they like about themselves followed by five things that they don't; I'd be shocked if they didn't list the things that they don't like first. This is why a lot of people can be drawn to bad news more than good news. Unfortunately, social media has plenty of the former. If, as much as you like being on Black Twitter or surfing IG, this is what gets on your nerves the most, be a light in your little part of cyberspace by posting something positive — a quote, a great picture…something that will inspire others. It might not seem like you're doing much on the surface yet you'd be amazed how much something this simple can help to shift energy, even if it's only on your own pages. Just try it and see.

5. Actually Use the “Mute” Feature


I'll be honest — when I do tiptoe in to see what folks are doing out in social media, it's like it's a social media experiment on how many people know what a monologue vs. a dialogue actually is. In other words, while social media apps are supposed to be about communicating with others, some folks just want others to hear them talk all day long and so, whenever someone else doesn't think they've got the greatest thoughts ever, they mute or block them. Yeah, one day we'll get into the rise of social media narcissism. For now, I'll just say that I once read an article that stated social media has caused a 25 percent increase in narcissism among people who are between the ages of 18-34. So, when I talk about using the mute feature that's available on most apps, I'm not advising this to folks who only want to hear themselves speak.

No, what I mean is some folks are contrary just to be contrary. They don't want to get to know you better, hear your point of view or have a healthy exchange. They really just want to be assholes. If as much as you know that, you still can't seem to shake how they affect you, then yeah — mute 'em. That way, they can keep on ranting if they want without you having to see it. By the way, the mute feature is also cool for if you want to hop online but you need a break from someone else's timeline traffic or you want to mute a word so that you don't have to keep hearing about the same things over and over again. Muting is a social media feature and a blessing. Use it as another way to deactivate an online trigger.

6. Know What You Know


Back in my Facebook days, many years ago, I set my page up to be a free forum for folks to share their thoughts. One rule that I had, even when it came to what folks said to and/or about me, was I wouldn't delete any comments. And boy, did that make things really interesting. Anyway, even back then, I had to really get pushed to get upset because I could tell who was sharing an opinion vs. who was actually speaking facts.

Something that's kinda crazy about social media is how many people are so passionate about their own feelings and conclusions that they think they are truth-based data when opening up a Google browser can oftentimes easily prove otherwise. That said, there is a pandemic of unteachable people on social media — individuals who think they know every damn thing (and don't). There's no point in letting those kinds of folks get to you. If you know that what you know can be proven and cited, share the info and then let the potential debate go. Facts can easily stand on their own which actually brings me to my next point.

7. Free Yourself from Always Needing to Have the Last Word


As I've gotten away from controlling relatives (check out "Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members"), it's amazing how less controlling I've become (check out "You Just Might Be A Control Freak (In Recovery)"). Hmph. Funny how when folks are trying to run your life, you find yourself trying to do the same thing to others…as a form of gaining back some sort of control (chile). As I've freed myself from this pattern, something I've needed to have less and less of is the last word.

People who are consumed with needing to have the final say on something are typically battling with some form of needing to control something or someone, whether they realize it or not. These days, I'm more concerned about being impactful with what I say; if that's the case, who cares if I said the "final" thing or not? Same point applies to you on social media. A profound word says so much more than needing to get the last one.

If you totally get this and you still have a weakness in this area, remember what I said about the mute feature? Exactly.

8. Remember, You Don’t Know Those People (at Least Most of Them)


The older (and hopefully wiser) that I become, the more I'm like, "These folks really think we're still in high school" — in life, in general, and definitely when it comes to social media. When it comes to caring what people think, those in my life who really know me (check out "5 Signs You Really Know A Person") know that the people's opinions I care about, I truly do; oh, but that list is quite far and few between. And when I was on social media? I don't know 80 percent of those folks while 10 percent more are pretty transient in my world. They don't shift my life dynamic on any real or lasting level, one way or another, so honestly, after about a five-minute exchange, who cares what they think?

We see a lot of celebrities who totally lose their minds due to what happens on social media. And while I get that social pressure is indeed a thing — again, like peer pressure was in high school…see my point? — when you really stop and ponder the fact that your tribe isn't all of your online friends and followers, it helps to put things into a healthier perspective. When you hop online and really think, "I don't know these people like that", it gets harder and harder for them to trigger you because…why do they matter enough to get to you in that kind of headspace? This brings me to my next point.

9. Accept Trolls for What/Who They Are


Bots. People with 10 followers. Folks with wack ass bios. Individuals who have avatars instead of pictures. People who have something ridiculous to say every time you say something. In short, trolls. They're basically folks who live to be controversial because they want to get up underneath your skin. What they say doesn't have to be right or even make a lot of sense; if they know it will get to you, they will say it.

You know what this means, right? You cannot give a troll the satisfaction of figuring out how to press your buttons. He or she isn't a significant part of your life, so why give their simple selves the satisfaction? Bottom line, if a troll truly gets to you, do some soul-searching into why. They're not worth it so why is it…worth it?

10. Have “Off” Days


Wanna know a sign that you've got a low-key social media addiction? One is if it's the first and last thing that you do on a daily basis (you wake up and get on it, you go to bed with your phone in your hand). Another indication is you can't imagine going even two days without checking your social media accounts. And here's the thing about both of these points — there is scientific evidence to support that taking social media fasts can decrease anxiety, increase positivity, boost your self-esteem, lower your stress levels and even help you to sleep better at night.

A couple of years ago, another writer penned, "What I Learned From My Two-Month Social Media Fast" for our site. Between it and other articles I've read on the topic, I haven't seen anyone say that they regretted taking time off of social media, a few times a year. It's definitely something to consider; especially if you find yourself getting triggered a lot later. Take some moments to woosah and gain your bearings. Because again, social media can be cool yet it's not worth having a heartache over — all because you've allowed too many randoms…to trigger you.

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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