How to Survive: Online Mental Health
Also known as: on protecting yourself online. I’m someone who tends to compare themselves. Just about everything that I see about other people: their libraries, their relationships, their friends, their bodies, their everything. And, as it turns out, that’s not really the best way to improve your mental health when you’re functioning in the online world. Who knew, right? So here’s some things I’ve been doing in order to protect my online mental health
One of the most difficult things, and the one I’m starting out with. I’ve limited myself.
Not only in how many hours I spend online – although that is certainly part of it. But also in who, and what I follow. This is especially true for YouTube. I can easily waste away hours watching other people’s lives, and come away from it feeling like absolute crap about my own. So I’ve started to think more consciously about who I actually follow on Twitter, on Instagram, or on Youtube.
And even if I do follow someone, I’m protecting myself. Take Instagram – there’s a bunch of people on there that I follow, but I have their stories on mute. Because, while I can handle the pictures, the videos are sometimes (a bit) too much.
Or, on YouTube: I add every video I want to watch to my “watch later”. No more obligation to watch something immediately in fear of not finding it again. Another one: I don’t watch – by any stretch of the imagination – everything that’s in my subscription box. Even if I add a video to my “Watch later”, that’s not an actual guarantee I will watch the video (anytime soon). It’s a bit of a case-by-case system, really.
But again: I put limits for myself, and those limits are set right where my “feeling uncomfortable with myself”-zone starts.
Don’t take selfies
This is such a personal one, but for me? This is a big part of taking care of my online mental health.
And sure, part of this is that I’ve never liked being in photos. Not as a kid, not as a teenager, not now.
Another part of it is that I’m a fairly private person. I know I’m talking about my personal life on this blog, from time to time, and putting myself out there in that way. So, the “no selfies”-thing is almost a way to counter-act that. At least if people don’t have a face to match to the stories, I’m fine.
Or to reverse it: I knew taking selfies ànd putting myself out there was the number one way to get myself personally affected. And when it came to protecting my mental health, putting my face out there just would not be a good idea.
This is something of a double one, actually. You see, not only am I a fairly private person? So is just about everyone in my surroundings.
So I’ve made it a general rule never to mention any names. If I share any stories, I will maybe talk about “the bf” (after checking with him he’s okay with that particular story being shared). Anyone else? They’re either “a family member”, “a friend”, or “a colleague”. That’s it.
That’s about the most detail I will go into. And on the one hand, I know the people I might be mentioning, are grateful for that. And that too, for me, is a huge part of protecting my online mental health: making sure I feel okay (i.e.: guilt-free) with what I’m sharing.
That actually links in to something else: my social anxiety. Oversharing (or feeling as if I’m oversharing) has always been a huge trigger for me, and is often followed by me pulling back from whatever situation I’m in completely. And I’ve done this online as well – if I share “too many personal things”? It’s almost always followed by me going completely silent on Twitter and Instagram.
So I set boundaries – before it can get to that. And for me, having a general rule that I will not mention any names? That’s the boundary that’s helped the most.
There is no such thing as an obligation. While, sure, I have a blogging scheme and an agenda that I keep myself to when blogging? I have missed occasional posts. And while I try to upload at least three times a week, there’s already been a week in 2019 where that just didn’t work.
This doesn’t just pertain to producing online content, though. While I have still a ton of YouTubers I follow? There have been days or even weeks where I just deleted every video from my watch later simply because I knew that the pressure of watching all the contents was ruining my enjoyment of it before I could even get to the videos.
Being online is a tool, not a purpose
No matter what time it is? No matter what’s attracting me on social media and online in general? Internet is not the last thing I do before I go to bed. It is never the only thing I do in my spare time, and it is not my primary way of contacting friends.
Being online is not a purpose in and of itself. It is not (or at least: should not be) the way I calm myself down before bed, it is not the way I get the most joy out of my day. The moment being online grows too far beyond a useful tool in and a lovely road to my goals? I’m taking myself offline.
I know a lot of these things kind of come down to the same thing: know what your limits are, and then stick to them. However, actually acknowledging that that’s what I need to keep in mind at all times? And in all aspects of my online life? That’s the thing that really makes a difference in my online health.
Are any of these things you also do? If so: which ones? And how do you practice them? If not: what other tips do you have to protect your online mental health? Be sure to let me know below!