Sometimes, living our lives on the internet can be a terrible thing. Trolls, mansplainers, misogynists, racists, political bullies, passive-aggressive family members, and negative-Nellies all make it difficult to enjoy anything, especially on social media.
Navigating the online minefield can take the last of our sanity, and many have chosen not to log in at all. It is worse for people who struggle with a mental illness. We tend to be highly sensitive.
But, it’s not all bad. The web and social media can be a terrific way for us to connect with others who are also fighting mental battles. We can get support, information, and advice from professionals. We can engage with others who have intimate experience with mental health concerns.
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the internet for a long time now. I’ve been talking about my journey online long enough that I am considered a mental health advocate. I get advice, and I give advice. I connect with others and help them find the resources they need when they don’t know where to turn.
But I admit that the hate and negativity that breed on the web is very hard for me to process. Like most other people, I want to respond to injustice and idiots who think their opinion is the only one which matters. But I am only one very sensitive gear in the machine and I’ve learned that as much as I would like to fix everything, sometimes I have to pay attention to my own sanity and ignore most of what I see.
How do you get the best of the web, without falling prey to the worst? How do you benefit if you have a mental illness? What should everyone be aware of when living a digital life?
Navigating the minefield
In 2019, most of our activity on the internet seems to surround social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Pinterest all play in part in keeping us connected and informed. We form our opinion of events and ideas from places like Medium and Reddit.
There is a way to stay healthy in mind when we interact all day with a constant flow of information from our timelines. There are ways to get the best out of a battlefield of negativity and misinformation.
Pick your battles
If you spend enough time scrolling, you are bound to come across something that irritates you. Whether it’s the latest lie from Trump, a news story about another school shooting, or an annoying family member posting a meme directed at you, sometimes we have to make intelligent decisions about what we should or shouldn’t respond to.
It’s understandable that we want to fight against injustice. It’s great that you want to stand up for the little guy (or girl). But if you are fighting battles of your own, should you be adding another heaping helping of negativity to your plate?
There are times when we have to stand up, but do yourself a favor and don’t throw a grenade into every battle you come across on social media. Learn to turn your head and move on. Most times, these “discussions” are an excuse to get a reaction out of others. Trolls will love if you paint a bullseye on your head and jump into the fray.
The more people that get upset, the bigger the bully feels, so don’t play into their ego.
Cleanse thoroughly and often
We “like” a lot of stuff, don’t we? It can get out of hand because the algorithms start choosing things to show you. You like a story about pollution and climate change, and suddenly you see promotional stories for climate change deniers. Watch a video about the new platform of the latest presidential candidate, and Fox News stories are popping up all over your feed.
I like to go through and clean my feeds about once a month. I unfriend and unfollow people who are negative. I unlike pages that aren’t bringing enjoyment to my scrolling.
I won’t drink a green juice to cleanse my liver, but I will block a troll for posting pro-Trump propaganda!
Engage with people and posts that make you smile!
When you are online, even on social media, seek only the positive messages and people that bring joy to your life. You will find whatever you look for online, so if you are interacting with the things that make you feel good, you will get good things in return.
It’s a far better thing to surround yourself with wonderful people. If you’ve only ever rubbed shoulders with negativity, you will notice a dramatic difference.
Some people spread happiness and bliss, and many only deal with gloom and doom. Who you align yourself with will impact what you see when you open social media.
Don’t forget that you must take care of yourself
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of everything that goes on online and social media. It will take over your life if you let it. If you have problems with your mental health, it’s in your best interests that you keep your online activities to a manageable level and take care of your health!
Don’t put off important self-care because you want to vegetate in bed and scroll through Twitter. Pay attention to your habits. Eat healthy meals. Get exercise. Take care of your hygiene. Be social in person. Make time to rest.
Try doing all these activities without your face buried in a phone screen.
Take time to recharge your batteries. I tend to work long hours. The rest of the time I’m involved with promoting my work on social media. If I don’t rest my eyes and stretch my body often, I get headaches and fatigue. Anxiety and depression creep up on me from nowhere.
Take the time to rest and relax, especially if you are prone to mental difficulties.
Balance is key
In everything you do, the key is to have balance. It’s a yin-yang thing — you can’t have positive without the negative. Be aware of how much negativity you are letting in and balance it with healthy activities.
Try to be positive, but don’t be a Pollyanna. Allow a few dark thoughts, but don’t be a Debbie-downer. Balance is everything!
Those of us who are sensitive have the issue of trying to sanitize all our feelings, so we don’t feel too much. Don’t go overboard, because feelings are what make us human — even the negative ones. Don’t be afraid to feel a little fear and outrage with your joy and ecstasy. Try to be a little uncomfortable once in a while.
The key is balance.
Don’t be a hermit
In this age of technology, don’t feel like you have to deny yourself the pleasure of exploring online. Even though there are a lot of negative things that happen online, there are also some very positive ones.
The bad will inevitably find you, so search out the good wherever you can.
It’s great to be alive in this time. Don’t let anyone tell you that a digital life is all bad.
There is good in everything. You just have to find it.
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Jason Weiland is a writer, blogger, vlogger, and mental health advocate living a dream life in far-away destinations he only dreamed of as a kid. He talks about difficult issues but has never lost his sense of humor or willingness to understand others and help when he can.
He would love to connect with you on social media.