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“5 Things We Can Each Do To Make Social Media And The Internet A Kinder And More Tolerant Place” With Author Sherianna Boyle

Verbal on line attacks can feel worse because people don’t typically hold back. It is so easy to throw out a one liner that really stings. On line attacks also have a broader audience meaning more people can see the exchange and this can be really damaging. In real life, particularly in person you can […]


Verbal on line attacks can feel worse because people don’t typically hold back. It is so easy to throw out a one liner that really stings. On line attacks also have a broader audience meaning more people can see the exchange and this can be really damaging. In real life, particularly in person you can see the person’s face, feel their energy and this may get you to back off or modify a bit. You are less likely to have a wide audience and it can be overwhelming knowing those comments can never be erased in the on line world.


As a part of my interview series about the things we can each do to make social media and the internet a kinder and more tolerant place, I had the pleasure to interview Sherianna Boyle, author of Emotional Detox for Anxiety. Sherianna is an adjunct Psychology Professor, and author of seven other titles including Emotional Detox: 7 Steps to Releasing Toxicity & Energizing Joy. Sherianna offers Emotional Detox services, workshops and yoga retreats at world renowned centers such as Kripalu Health & Yoga and 1440 Multiversity. She has been featured in Yoga Journal, Psychology Today, BuzzFeed, First Women, Prevention Magazine and more. Her books and resources can be found at www.sheriannaboyle.com


Thank you so much for doing this with us Sherianna! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I started researching and exploring the idea of tapping into emotions as medicine several years ago. After putting together the research, pitching my ideas to Simon & Schuster, I was faced with one of the biggest crisis of my life. What started as a curiosity for wanting to know more about the power of our emotions, quickly evolved into a practice for healing and rebuilding my own life. I refer to this practice as the C.L.E.A.N.S.E Method which is featured in Emotional Detox books.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Once the seven steps were put together, things started manifesting in my life like crazy. The strange part was, my life on the outside looked like an absolute shit show. If I told you the things I was going through you probably would have felt sorry for me. However, despite all of that, I felt like I was literally watching my life transform before my eyes. Within one year of putting the seven steps down on paper, things I had dreamed about came to fruition. This is how I discovered emotions (when processed) are incredibly powerful.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Oh gosh, I remember contacting a big time agent never expecting he would call me back. I mumbled some pathetic message on his voice mail and then cringed when I realized I couldn’t take it back. He actually called me back, I was so shocked, I felt a loss for words. I was so unprepared for that conversation.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Emotional Detox is like a tree with many branches. Emotional Detox for Anxiety is releasing in December 2019. The Emotional Detox Podcast was recently launched and I have started jotting ideas down for the next Emotional Detox book. I am also launching an on line Group Autumn C.L.E.A.N.S.E Series which is going to be really cool.

I believe teaching people how to feel (rather than react to) their emotions is the key nurturing health, love and peace. The way I see it, is we are in a time of healing. All this reactivity you see on line and in the media is an opportunity to heal. Rather than try to fix, or control it, I say, take advantage of what is happening. These emotions which have been suppressed for centuries are attempting to transform into something new. The universe is attempting to provide freedom for all. Our emotions will lead the way.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. Have you ever been publicly shamed or embarrassed on social media? Can you share with our readers what that experience felt like?

Yes, as a writer you open yourself up to the world of reviews. Since my subject matter (emotions, anxiety, trauma) tends to trigger peoples stuff, I do occasionally get someone who might share a few harsh words. I do my best to try to receive the constructive criticism. I think what is difficult is when someone criticizes the way the book was edited. I work so closely with a few editors who are top notch. I guess I get a little protective of my editors as I know the amount of work they put into the project.

What did you do to shake off that negative feeling?

Well, in the Emotional Detox mindset you don’t shake anything off you digest, process and feel it. I find once I feel my emotions, I am able to put my attention on the positive reviews which far outweigh the negative ones.

Have you ever posted a comment on social media that you regretted because you felt it was too harsh or mean?

The only thing I do regret is about ten years ago I responded to one of my hair stylist posts. She had posted something and for whatever reason I felt the need to tell her that I would not be returning due to my husband’s accident. At the time, I was in a crisis and had no business posting anything. However, looking back I realize that must have been hurtful to her. She and I had gotten close and I guess it was my way of saying things had changed on a dime. I assumed she knew the critical condition my husband was in. Later I would find out she did not. I regret handing my situation that way.

Can you describe the evolution of your decisions? Why did you initially write the comment, and why did you eventually regret it?

I initially wrote the comment in response to the trauma I was facing. I knew life would not be the same for a while and that getting my hair done was no longer a priority. I think it was my way of letting people know I would be out of commission for a while. I regret it because it closed the door to our friendship. I wish I told her how much I appreciated her before letting her know I would be taking a break.

When one reads the comments on Youtube or Instagram, or the trending topics on Twitter, a great percentage of them are critical, harsh, and hurtful. The people writing the comments may feel like they are simply tapping buttons on a keyboard, but to the one on the receiving end of the comment, it is very different. This may be intuitive, but I feel that it will be instructive to spell it out. Can you help illustrate to our readers what the recipient of a public online critique might be feeling?

The way someone talks or the things they are thinking about (often expressed on line) are often indications of unresolved life events. For example, if a person was bullied, they may have unresolved feelings of insecurity, powerlessness, unworthy or shame. They might go on line looking for reassurance, support or even a release from what they feel. Instead, they may be re traumatized (meaning this triggers an earlier time in their life) when they had a similar feeling (e.g. being bullied) by harsh comments. This can leave them feeling hopeless, frustrated and depressed.

Do you think a verbal online attacks feels worse or less than a verbal argument in “real life”? How are the two different?

Verbal on line attacks can feel worse because people don’t typically hold back. It is so easy to throw out a one liner that really stings. On line attacks also have a broader audience meaning more people can see the exchange and this can be really damaging. In real life, particularly in person you can see the person’s face, feel their energy and this may get you to back off or modify a bit. You are less likely to have a wide audience and it can be overwhelming knowing those comments can never be erased in the on line world.

What long term effects can happen to someone who was shamed online?

The long term effects can be similar to someone who has been abused. As a result, they may live a life where they feel uneasy, anxious, and difficulty trusting others. This can impact their health, self-esteem and attitude. People shamed on line are more likely to be negative or engage in self-destructive behaviors such as drinking, over eating or posting negative comments.

Many people who troll others online, or who leave harsh comments, can likely be kind and sweet people in “real life”. These people would likely never publicly shout at someone in a room filled with 100 people. Yet, on social media, when you embarrass someone, you are doing it in front of thousands of even millions of people, and it is out there forever. Can you give 3 or 4 reasons why social media tends to bring out the worst in people; why people are meaner online than they are in person?

People are meaner on line because they are getting triggered more easily. Without personal connection there is no buffer. Personal connection creates a feeling. The more you feel the less reactive you become. There is little to no feeling on line. If there is a feeling notice how it dissipates quickly, this is because it didn’t fully land inside you. Think of it this way, seeing a picture on line and then being there in person are two very different experiences. When you are there in person you are more likely to embed and integrate the feeling inside your memory. There is less feeling on line and therefore more reactivity (triggers).

If you had the power to influence thousands of people about how to best comment and interact online, what would you suggest to them? What are your “5 things we should each do to help make social media and the internet, a kinder and more tolerant place”? Can you give a story or an example for each?

I suggest you get to know the signs of when you are being triggered. Triggers usually are most recognized by bodily tension and accelerated thinking. If your thoughts are firing off and you write a post you could be doing more harm to yourself and others. Triggers happen because your body is remembering a feeling you never allowed yourself to process. Feelings such as fear, anger, and resentment. When you post something back without feeling your emotions first, you could be traumatizing yourself and others who are having a similar trigger. Here are five things:

  1. Never post when in a state of reactivity. Reactivity as described in Emotional Detox is how we make the uncomfortable, comfortable. It is not uncommon for the internet particularly social media to trigger old wounds, fears or anxieties. Reactivity happens when you have unresolved emotions in you looking to be processed. When you choose to process your own emotions these triggers dissipate. See the reactivity as a sign there is something in you looking to be healed rather than as something you have to act on or do. For example, let’s say someone posts about someone getting into an accident and they are requesting prayers. Notice your body if you get sudden tightness in your chest or worried thoughts start racing. Before you post take a moment and honor the emotions looking to come up in you by placing your feet flat on the floor, relaxing your shoulders and breathing in and out through your nose. This allows your post to come from a place of calm and centeredness rather than frantic and worried.
  2. Be clear about your intentions. Your social media page sets the stage for what you believe. If you have condescending or sarcastic quotes on your page this could invite more reactivity into your life. For example, if you feel politics are toxic than quit bringing it up on your social media. You may be feeding the very thing which is aggravating you. For example, I started a Facebook Page years ago called Choosing Love. I made it clear this group was nonpolitical. During the elections a couple of members posted some politically charged comments and as an administrator I sent them a private message reminding them of the policy. They apologized and took down the posts themselves.
  3. Develop a brief morning routine that does include social media or checking the internet. Here is the thing, many people wake up with anxiety. If your routine is to check your social media first thing, know you are already in a state of reactivity. The chances are whatever you come across won’t land very well on your nervous system. Instead consider a simple routine such as stretching overhead, drinking a glass of water, taking a few deep breaths or even the simple act of making your bed can break up some of that internal reactivity making you better prepared to handle what comes your way.
  4. When you see a negative or pushy post, know that person is likely in high levels of reactivity. This means they are having difficulty seeing things in another way. I say, send them compassion after all being in high levels of reactivity sucks. Listen we all get triggered, that will never end. However, the way you respond and the intensity of your triggers can and will significantly reduce when you allow yourself to feel the emotions which are coming up. One of the ways to do this is to simply breath in and out through your nose. Be sure to soften and release your back teeth. Let your breaths be natural (no force).
  5. Take breaks from checking and posting on social media. Think of the internet as similar to going to work. It is there that you hear about all the things that are going on (positive and negative). Give yourself permission to take time off. For example, if you are just checking your social media frequently (hourly) out of boredom this could be a sign you are becoming desensitized to the world around you. As this occurs, you may begin to notice signs of feeling empty, alone or dull. These are indications that you need to take a break from social media. Without feeling you will quickly deplete your energy making you more susceptible to picking up any negativity you view on social media. This is what can lead to anxiety and depression. States of non-feeling rob you from a sense of joy and peace.

Freedom of speech prohibits censorship in the public square. Do you think that applies to social media? Do American citizens have a right to say whatever they want within the confines of a social media platform owned by a private enterprise?

I do believe platforms such as Facebook have some guidelines in place regarding hate speech etc. With that said, I believe the way these guidelines are regulated need to be transparent and written in language where the layperson can understand.

Since these platforms are having such a massive impact on our societies physical, emotional and mental health I do believe it would be in the best interest for the public and private sector to collaborate with each other. There needs to be some common ground or intentions for increasing public safety, awareness and health.

If you had full control over Facebook or Twitter, which specific changes would you make to limit harmful or hurtful attacks?

My feeling is negatively and harmful intentions cannot exist in a space of feeling and connection. They thrive off non-feeling. The challenge is many people are confusing reactivity (thinking) with feeling. The more we react (which has an impulsive quality) the less likely those who are harboring negative intentions will see themselves. In other words, think of reactivity as a mirror. If you react with fear, the other person has a reflection of fear. On the other hand, when you take a moment to feel what is coming up, you change the feeling and with that comes a new reflection. In other words, attackers gain an opportunity to view themselves. When we reflect back a similar feeling (fear, anger, blame) we make it less likely the attackers will be able to see things in a new way.

I would conduct some clinical trials on feeling your emotions pre and post post. I would gather evidence on how that impacted the quality of your post, length, awareness and overall tone. I would also look at how feeling your emotions increased resiliency when viewing a “negative” post.

Based on the evidence found, I would include pop up reminders in the news feed. These reminders would be evidenced based and encourage someone to check in before posting. Something like, In a double blind study, Facebook members who took a deep breath before posting were more likely to reach out or support another community member.

I would give those who use hurtful language or attacks a private warning. Let them know their material has been flagged and that they are out of line with the intentions of the platform. If the behavior persisted then I would remove them from the community. I would also make it easier to report bullying, suspicious behavior such as sex trafficking.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The quote, “What you resists persists” is one that has been relevant in my life. If you resist feeling you will get more reactivity. I say, feel first and trust the outcome will be better than if you choose to react.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!


About the author:

Yitzi Weiner is a journalist, author, and the founder of Medium’s Authority Magazine. He is also the CEO of Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator, which guides leaders to become prolific content creators. A trained Rabbi, Yitzi is also a dynamic educator, teacher and orator. He currently lives in Maryland with his wife and children.

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