Sometimes, the online world can be a positive space; it lifts us up. But sometimes it’s not-so-positive, and can drag us down. It’s up to us to make our online space a place that we enjoy. We’re largely in control of the things we see. Creating a space that helps rather than hinders our mental health, can have a big effect on our overall mood.
Balance Within Our Online Space
Curating a positive online space doesn’t mean that we have live in denial and avoid all of the bad stuff in life. The joy of our online space is that we can curate it in a way that suits us – whether that’s somewhere filled solely with silly things that make us laugh, or somewhere with a mix of positive and less-positive stuff.
Some of us might want to use our online space as a place where we can completely switch off, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We might choose to follow positive or funny accounts and nothing else. Muting any words associated with things we don’t want to hear or talk about, can prevent these things from appearing on our timelines.
Others might want to stay in touch with the news, but to a point. We might want to hear or read views that are opposed to our own because we’re interested in trying to develop our thoughts and opinions on current affairs. A good debate might be something we really enjoy. We might feel as though it’s important to understand events unfolding in far-away countries that aren’t being spoken about in our country’s press.
Even if this is the case, and we want our feed to be fairly current-affairs-heavy, we can still add in some light-hearted accounts. Having lots of ‘heavy’ stuff on our timelines can start to affect how we feel over time. It’s important to have a good balance.
Sometimes we almost feel as though we have a sense of ‘duty’ to be aware of what’s going on around the world.
A graphic video of unrest in another country might appear on our timeline. Often, we want to look away, but feel as though we ‘shouldn’t’. The people in the video can’t turn the situation off – so we shouldn’t either. We ‘should’ keep watching it because it’s the least we can do.
Turning off the news, graphic videos, unhelpful TV clips, or whatever else it might be, doesn’t mean that we don’t care. The people involved won’t know whether we’re watching/reading it or not. It’s not our ‘duty’ to keep watching and reading stuff that leaves us feeling awful.
As much as caring about others around the world can be important, we have to care for ourselves first. If we’re feeling awful, and struggling to manage our health, then we need to spend our energy on ourselves until we’re well enough to help others.
Part of looking after ourselves is turning off videos and closing sites that bring our mood down. We can also choose to digest the news in a way that suits us; perhaps watching videos and seeing photos could be replaced with credible news sources which we opt-in to receiving daily digests from, by email, instead.
Expectations And Boundaries
Sometimes our online space can become intense and stressful.
If we feel as though people are expecting things from us, such as regularly scheduled posts, or immediate replies, then it can start to weigh heavily on us.
The pressure that we feel to live up to those expectations can feel astronomical and overwhelming. If we’re already struggling and then we’re scrabbling around attempting to compose coherent responses to messages and write inspiring posts, it can end up pushing us into panic attacks or tearful puddles.
Being really clear about our boundaries can help to reduce the pressure we feel. Telling those we speak with not to expect an immediate reply. Setting a ‘bedtime’ mode on our phone, so that once it gets to a certain time of night, the notifications stop coming in (or turning them off, always). Being honest with those who follow us that there might be times when we don’t post – or just posting as and when we feel in the first place, avoiding a regular posting schedule altogether.
Posting and replying to people on our social media in our free time isn’t our job. We’re not being paid to do it. There is no reason at all to push ourselves to stay on top of it to the detriment of our mental health. If social media is our job and it’s being detrimental to our mental health, then it might be worth speaking to our employer, or re-jigging some of the work we’re doing to ease some of that pressure.
Connecting Through Our Online Space
The internet can be a great way to connect with one another.
We can chat, video call, and play games with friends and family who live all over the world. It can be lovely to connect with them, share pictures, links, and ideas. To fill our online space with one another’s news.
We can also ‘meet’ others online who have similar interests to us or experience similar struggles. If we’re living with something we’re finding tough, then connecting with others online who’ve been through it, or are going through it, can help us to feel less alone. We can curate our online space to be full of ideas, coping tools, books, and articles that might help, and so much more. It can provide us with some hope.
Online safety is important. We do need to be aware that people aren’t always who they say they are. If we choose to meet someone ‘in the real world’ who we met online, then it’s advisable to follow advice around it, to let a friend or family member know what we’re doing, and to meet them in a public place.
Using Our Online Space To Inspire Us
A positively curated online space can inspire us.
There are some incredible people and accounts online. Some share the most magnificent pictures. Gorgeous scenes that inspire us to get out in our garden or go on a walk. People who are overcoming obstacles; accounts that give us hope. Interviews that spark new ideas. Stories that capture our imagination.
Following these accounts can encourage us, help us to believe in ourselves, and inspire us to try new things.
Laughter can be such a tonic.
Sometimes it’s nice to scatter some accounts to our online space which make us laugh or smile. Whether they’re full of dogs being goofy, children’s wisdom, or comedians we enjoy, there are lots of funny accounts out there.
There are times when big events happen in politics, with the weather, or locally to us, and they affect a lot of people. Some of us cope with these things using humour or memes. So long as they’re not offensive and they don’t hurt anyone, there’s nothing wrong with laughing at ourselves, or the situation we’re in (even if it’s objectively not particularly funny).
We might feel guilty for laughing. As though we shouldn’t be laughing when we have depression, or when there’s this or that going on. But laughing can be good for us. As long as we’re not hurting anyone, it can be a really healthy thing to do.
Filling our online space with long articles containing big chunks of text can be overwhelming, particularly when we’re unwell. But following accounts relevant to our interests on sites and apps that create shorter, more concise entries, can avoid that problem.
There are so many accounts sharing all sorts of interesting information, whether our interests include History, Baby Yoga, or Cat Psychology. Reading, watching, or listening to small soundbites or information enables us to maintain our interests, and keep our curiosity piqued without the anxious overwhelm of long articles or books.
There are also lots of accounts based on mental health and wellbeing. Many of them share positive coping strategies that we could use to help us manage various aspects of our mental health. This could be all sorts of things, from ways to wind-down panic attacks, to self-care ideas, to exercises we can do from our bed when we’re struggling to get up. Following these accounts can introduce us to new ideas which we’ve never tried before.
Muting And Blocking
Most social media and email accounts now offer us the ability to mute and/or block people and specific words or phrases which can turn our online space into a safer, more-positive space.
Blocking people can be particularly useful if we’re receiving abuse from someone, or if they’re contacting us inappropriately. Receiving horrid messages can have a huge impact on our mood and self-esteem. It’s often tempting to reply, but blocking these people can be a more effective way of putting an end to it. In some circumstances, we might need to speak to the police for advice and screenshot the messages we’ve had as evidence, but we can still block people to try and prevent any further contact.
Muting can be handy if we don’t want to see what someone’s posting, but they’re a friend or family member who we don’t want to offend. People don’t usually know when we’ve muted them, and it doesn’t usually mean we can’t see their posts, it just means that we have to make a conscious effort to go to their page to read them rather than them appearing on our timeline.
We can also mute certain words or terms. This one’s particularly useful if we want to avoid content on a particular topic. For example, if we have a fear of spiders, we could block terms like ‘spider’, ‘spiders’, ‘arachnids’, and ‘SpiderPhobia’.
Our Favourite Accounts
To kickstart our positive online space curation, we’ve gathered a list of some accounts we love. Some we love because they’re funny, others are thought-provoking, share good news stories, help us to feel less alone and/or inspire us. Sharing is caring when it comes to positive people to follow!
Please help us to help others and share this post, you never know who might need it.