In these worrying times, social media can add to the hysteria. This IMAGE writer explains why she deleted hers over the weekend
Well, that was a strange weekend.
A new reality beckons for us all once this crisis has subsided. Many of us will never have experienced such circumstances or a time when panic was to become like a good friend whom we interact with each day.
We are living through extraordinary times.
And it is a period made all the more bizarre by social media. It hasn't been said enough, but this is the first time the world has seen such a confrontation in the era of Twitter, Instagram and their counterparts. Social media is an area we still don't fully understand. The effects of what we are consuming won't be felt for years, but we need to realise how desensitised we have become to this 'constantly on' culture.
In my case, it all became a bit too much. From AM to PM, Coronavirus was all I heard, read and wrote. The nature of my job means I can't shut off from the news cycle for too long. Unfortunately, this means my mental health can suffer in the long run.
It has never been more important to be fully informed but at what cost?
I started to notice little things. Like how each morning my first port of call was to look at the death toll and how many more people were infected. Or the way I watched stock markets plummet and saw a future living in a recession and filled with unemployment.
Twitter had been a cesspit of negativity well before the announcement came that schools and colleges were to close. In the aftermath, anger, unease, and fake authority filled every 280-character tweet.
For every positive affirmation, there was a minion of so-called experts shouting that we should be realistic.
At what point did realism become a cloak for toxic preaching?
Facebook has seen an influx of groups made for good reasons but is now stocked with rumours and fake news. While Instagram followed suit.
I felt trapped. Suffocated with information while at the same time trying to decipher what was true and what wasn't.
So on Friday, I culled each of them. The very moment I cut the chord, a weight was lifted from my shoulders. Over the weekend, I watched the news once a day, usually in the evenings. It was here I absorbed any pressing information I needed. I read the paper selectively and tried to focus on anything else other than Covid-19.
Nevertheless, I stayed on TikTok – a place where youthful joy coexists with catastrophe – and WhatsApp. All the while, wary of fake texts coming from the friend of a friend's uncle who knows someone working in a hospital.
I did all of this in the knowledge that come Monday, my mind would once again be embroiled fully in the virtual world.
Over the weekend, I was surprised to see friends and peers of mine shutting down their social media accounts too. "Anxiety is through the roof" they would tell me. Each anxiety exacerbated by a tweet or a Facebook post.
It isn't to say all social media is lousy. Beautiful stories filtered through about people helping people and videos were published of Italians making music together while they sat trapped in their homes.
However, for every good story, there were four bad to counteract it.
Taking time away made me realise that there is still a loveliness present. Things like a good book or a good song or a walk with my dad are made all the more special by our current circumstances. And maybe this is a good thing. This might just help us grab hold of the splendid things that have been right next to us all along.
Until then, if you feel overwhelmed, scared and distressed; take a break. It's ok not to be as informed as an encyclopedia. It's ok not to read the fake text. It's ok to only watch the news once and then stick your head between the pages of a good book.
Our physical health may be at risk, but our mental welfare is too. Look after it and cherish it. Do what you need to do. Being acquainted with the facts is important in times such as these, but don't let it be to the detriment of your mind.
It was a strange weekend and the weeks ahead may be even more peculiar.
Delete the social media if you need to.
It helps, I promise you.
Read more: Coronavirus: Asthma Society issues COVID-19 advice
Read more: Coronavirus update: All pubs asked to close after rise of 40 new cases
Read more: Beating COVID-19 blues: This clip of Italians singing will cheer you up