Over the past week, our radio show (10-Noon on 99.9FM or streaming online at www.wralsportsfan.com) has been fortunate to have Dr. Sallie Permar join us to talk about the coronavirus pandemic and ways to ebb the spread of COVID-19. She’s a world-renowned expert in the field and you should listen to her.
Me? I’m neither world-renowned or an expert on anything, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less concerned about the health and well-being of our listeners, readers, followers, or really just any other human being out there who we may or may not ever come in contact with. We’ll never claim to be great at radio, and we’ll certainly never claim to be great writers. But we all have kind hearts, and if there’s one thing you can trust from SportsChannel8, it’s that we want you to be happy.
With the absence of sports in our lives, coupled with the crippling fear of the coronavirus, being happy is easier said than done.
As times call for us to become more personally isolated, from keeping safe “social distancing” (shout to the 2020 term of the year) to being forced to work from home, it’s important to remember the need for community. Fortunately, technology allows us to maintain that sense of community without actually physically being together. Unfortunately, that isolation also makes this virtual community a terrible place sometimes.
While the need for virtual connection to the outside world increases, it forces us to check our social timelines more often than we ever should. Mental health is every bit as important as physical health, which means that being on Twitter 24/7 is as dangerous as licking an escalator handrail at Crabtree.
Wednesday night in Greensboro, while the world around us had already decided that it wasn’t safe for us to be sitting in the Coliseum with 20,000 fans around us, Brian Geisinger and I both had to shut our laptops and take a break from Twitter. The Thunder/Jazz game had just been called off. Players were quarantined. Tom Hanks tested positive. People were mad that UNC was down 20 to Syracuse. The NBA suspended their season. Nebraska basketball was being kept in their locker rooms. There was nothing on Twitter but fear and anger about anything and everything. Sports. Health. Politics. Entertainment. All of it was infected. And it’s not much different now, a day and a half removed.
Take care of yourselves and follow any and all guidelines and suggestions being put forth by medical experts. But don’t sleep on your mental health and how social media impacts it. Here are some unofficial, very non-expert tips on how to do that:
- 1 – Don’t avoid social media
Not only is it the top source for news and information, it’s a very real and very important connection to other people. You’ll be more isolated than ever while we work together to slow the spread, so don’t cut yourself off from people to chop it up with.
2 – Curate your timeline constantly
If there’s a topic you usually follow because you like to argue, put a pause on that by unfollowing people or muting keywords. It’s important for everyone to have a balanced view of the world around them, but right now, your timeline doesn’t have to provide you that balanced view. Just follow people and topics that make you happy for now (even if that’s not me or SportsChannel8, right now … we just want you to be safe and happy)
3 – Utilize the block and mute functions
While curating the topics you follow helps you stay happy by avoiding topics that are sure to make you angry, the block/mute features allow you to help others curate their own timelines. I cover Duke sports, so you can imagine how many people “hate-follow” me because they love being mad about Duke. I don’t want you to be mad about anything, so sometimes when people consistently show up in my mentions angry about something as silly as Duke sports, I like to help them out by blocking them.
I love having back and forths with sports fans of all allegiances and 99% of the non-Duke fans who interact with me on Twitter are amazing. But the 1% of them who interact with me just because they’re mad, I don’t need that, and more importantly, THEY don’t need that.
If you have people in your timeline who angrily tweet at you because of the candidate you support or the food you like or the show you think is better than the show they like, don’t be afraid to mute or block them. You’re not going to spend time around people who are angry with you in real life, you don’t have to do it online either.
4 – Share responsibly, and be skeptical
It’s so easy to get caught up in the onslaught of news and opinions on social media that it becomes very hard to differentiate what’s fact and what’s speculation, rumor, or in some cases, tricks. Wednesday night someone posing as a Thunder reporter was tweeting updates about COVID-19 tests for the Utah Jazz by claiming specific players were in a hospital that ultimately didn’t even exist, but the news was being passed around because that’s how social media works sometimes. Understand that there are people who get their kicks by raising your anxiety, and you can unintentionally raise the anxiety of others by passing on bad or misleading information. Be careful about what you consume and what you share.
5 – Have fun
Yes, Twitter right now is a very serious place with health updates, political commentary, closings and postponements, and so on. It’s why you’re there in the first place. But don’t be afraid to jump into meaningless conversations sometimes about your favorite dinosaur or the best lunchbox snack when you were growing up. Again, you are more isolated than ever. You need to connect with people. Don’t be above taking a break from the stark realities around us with some virtual dinner party games.
6 – Be nice and be patient
Don’t forget we’re all pretty much freaking out right now, and none of us have ever been through this before so we don’t know how to act. Myself included.
In the wise words of Marshawn Lynch, take care of your mentals. Now more than ever.