Person scrolls through Instagram on their phone while keeping one hand on their laptop keypad to scroll through news sites.

In the aftermath of traumatic events in our community and across the country, it can be tempting to give in to endless scrolling on social media or news sites. However, checking every notification and reading every headline can have a negative effect on our mental health. 

Here are four things you can do to take control of your feeds and improve your well-being online. 

1: Set a time limit

Allow yourself to take a break from social media and news. Limiting the time you spend on social platforms and news sites can help you ease stress and anxiety. It can also help free up some of your time, so you can focus more of your energy on activities and hobbies you actually enjoy. 

One way to decrease your time on social media is to designate phone-free spaces. For instance, you may decide that the areas where you do schoolwork are phone-free zones. This could include classrooms, study spaces and your desk area. By keeping your phone out of reach, you may find that you’re able to focus more on class or other tasks more easily. 

Connecting with friends is another great way to take a break from online updates by focusing on the people you’re with. Spending meaningful time offline can help you disconnect from your feeds and reconnect with loved ones in your life. 

2: Create boundaries

We all have different expectations for how we interact with people and how we want them to interact with us. Boundaries are a helpful tool to give us agency over our physical safety, communication, emotions, energy and time. They can also help us live by our values and determine what is and isn’t okay.

Setting boundaries online may look different for everyone. Choose boundaries that reflect your values and protect your well-being. Here are a few examples of boundaries you can set for yourself and others on social:

  • Give yourself permission to not read the news. Remember that emails, news and updates will still be there tomorrow, so you won’t miss out on anything by skipping the news cycle for a day or two. You can always go back to read it if it was something really important or that you need to see.
  • Traumatic events can trigger a range of emotions, and not everyone will respond the same way. It’s important to remember that arguments made through comments or messages online are unlikely to change anyone’s opinion, especially if the other person is committed to engaging with people in a rude, disrespectful or hostile way. Sometimes it’s best to not engage, and it’s okay to let someone have the last word to spare your mental energy.
  • After a traumatic event, it is common for people to ask questions or request updates that may feel invasive or triggering. If this happens, give yourself permission to say no or walk away from situations that make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. You can also ask to change the topic of conversation away from current events or other topics that negatively impact your emotional health. 

Remember that we can’t control what other people do, but we can control how we respond to it. Boundaries are just one of the many ways to do this.

3: Focus on things within your control

Just like we can’t control what other people say or do online, we can’t control what the news chooses to report on. If we get absorbed in the news, we may start to feel overwhelmed. When we engage with news in this way, we may lose our sense of control.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by news stories, updates, details or outcomes, it may be time to take a step back and refocus your attention to things that are within your control. Sometimes it can be helpful to create a list. Here are a few examples of things that you can directly control:

  • What time you go to bed and wake up
  • How you spend your free time (hobbies, interests, etc.)
  • Daily activities like going outside, taking a walk, eating regularly, etc.
  • What you choose to read or post about
  • How much time you spend on social platforms
  • Notification and privacy settings

Instead of focusing on what is outside of your control, focus more of your time and energy on the things in your life that you have a say in.

4: Mute or unfollow

It’s important to remember that we have the power to control what appears on our feeds. If your social platforms feel hostile, overwhelming or are negatively impacting your mental health, it may be time to hit mute or unfollow. 

Muting can be a great tool to hide disturbing posts or rescue yourself from heated debates and discussions. If you don’t have a close relationship with someone, unfriending or blocking them may be good options. This will remove them from your view entirely and stop any notifications about their posts, comments and messages. Remember that muting and unfollowing don’t have to be permanent. You can always refollow or unmute people in the future as things change.

Campus resources

If you or someone you know is struggling, there are resources available that can help.

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (for students)

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) is here to support undergrad and graduate students who may be experiencing impacts from the recent events at King Soopers, Atlanta and other mental health concerns. Students can access crisis services by calling 303-492-2277 or visiting the CAPS Crisis Support page.

CAPS is also providing drop-in services through e-Let’s Talk, which allows you to connect with a counselor virtually for free. Due to the current influx of appointment requests, CAPS is encouraging students to call or use e-Let’s Talk if you’re not able to schedule a screening appointment right away.

Students can also build valuable skills related to stress management, mindfulness, distress tolerance, self-care, relationships and healthy living by signing up for one of CAPS’ free virtual workshops, which are available throughout the week. 

Office of Victim Assistance (for students, staff and faculty)

The Office of Victim Assistance (OVA) provides free, confidential counseling, advocacy, information and referrals for all CU community members, including undergrad and graduate students, staff and faculty. They specialize in addressing current and past life-disruptive events, including but not limited to, crime, trauma, gender-based violence, experiences of bias, harassment, discrimination, abuse and violence.

For 24/7 support, same-day appointments and consultation services, please call 303-492-8855. OVA also provides free and confidential drop-in services virtually through their e-Ask an Advocate program.

Collegiate Recovery Center (for students, staff and faculty)

The Collegiate Recovery Center (CUCRC) offers free peer-to-peer support meetings and community for students, staff and faculty who are in recovery, interested in recovery or who are recovery allies. The CUCRC is here to provide a space for CU community members to connect, find support and process traumatic events in a healthy and productive way. 

Don’t Ignore It (for students, staff and faculty)

Don’t Ignore It provides resources for students, staff and faculty to explore your options and learn how to help a fellow Buff in need.

Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (for faculty and staff)

The Faculty and Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) provides free, confidential counseling services for CU Boulder faculty and staff through brief individual counseling, workshops and groups. They can also provide assistance to faculty and staff for personal and work-related concerns. 

The Real Help Hotline (for faculty and staff)

The Real Help Hotline provides access to professional counselors who can offer assistance finding local resources as well as immediate crisis counseling. This program is free, confidential and available to all employees 24/7 at 833-533-2428

View all traumatic event resources