cyber 3

“I’ve never had so many friends; I’ve never felt so alone.” –Postsecret

The digital age is among us, bringing with it unlimited sharing, anonymity and pseudonyms. The façades we create on our Facebook pages are stripped of all structural integrity and remain a flimsy projected image of our ideal self. We’re logged in, checked in and ready to connect.

The dangers of the internet are plastered on the walls of our retinas with campaigns of cyber safety, pleas for the prohibition of pornographic imagery and an abundance of anti bullying paraphernalia. But in all the warnings about who you’re really talking to on the other end of optical fibres, or how many years your Grindr friend really holds under their belt, we neglect the biggest danger of all; ourselves.

While social media sites, like Facebook, promise to connect you to friends and the world around you, the outcome can be quite the opposite, creating ostracism from friends and isolation from the world. Of your 700 Facebook friends, how many could you count on if something went wrong? How many would you meet up with for a coffee, or a chat? Instead, we obsess over other peoples’ lives, or at least the façades they create of happy, perfect lives. We count the friends they check in with, and as our digits fill up, our hopes empty. Beneath this tableau, lies a person too insecure to just live in the moment they are in, and so they incessantly assure everyone they have friends by posting photos, checking in, and making alluding statuses until suddenly it becomes a competition; an endless cycle of everybody trying to prove just how OK they are.

The truth is, it’s ok not to be ok all the time. You don’t have to have 700 friends to actually have friends. And mostly; you don’t have to prove anything, to anyone. One solid friendship is infinitely more valuable than 700 false ones. Social media feeds off social anxiety, and sends depression and mental illness victims into further isolation. But it doesn’t have to. Behind the façades lies the potential to connect, and inspire. And from time to time we need a mask to hide behind to get through. Sometimes you need to make the decision; if I can’t say this to someone in person, should I really be saying it? It’s easy to disassociate that what you’re typing or texting is ending up in the possession of someone else’s eyes; someone else’s feelings. So by having tricky conversations in person, you can see the reality of your words, and leave bullying, harassment and excessive criticism out of play. This also leads to more successful relationships, which leads to a happier you.

There is value in the cyclic updates of mundane activities. It does feel good when someone recognises to the world that they spent time with you, or they like your photo. But it feels better, especially in the long term, when you close your laptop, open your door and go and see people.

If you’re like me, it’s quite likely you use the internet as procrastination to just about everything. So here’s some ways to turn your procrastination into a positive use of time (and yes some of them involve stepping away from the computer).

cyber 8

Avoid tricky conversations and seeking help over the internet

Even a phone call is better than a message, no matter how hard it may be. It’s ok to reach for help, with sites like Beyondblue calling them on 1300 22 4636, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. While asking someone on Tumblr might seem like a great idea, the people behind these blogs generally have no experience in mental health issues, and can sometimes be disadvantageous. Postsecret is a great website to get things off your chest anonymously, without confronting people, however it’s only a starting point. Conversations are key.

Learn a new skill

Over the past three months I’ve learned how to; fold a shirt perfectly in three seconds, make an origami turkey, sew a wall hanging for our bills, grow potatoes from an old potato, bake an amazing citrus tart, and found cool websites to practice my French skills. Whenever you learn a new skill, teach it to someone else, in person.

Turn off your technology before bed

Studies have shown that having your screens and phones on wake up your brain, and by turning them off an hour before bed, you get a better rest and decrease anxiety levels. Use the time to read a book, talk to your family or flatmates, or simply relax.

Try meeting new people by joining a group

Instead of following a blog, stalking a profile, or using an app, join a group to meet new people. Whether it be a soccer club, youth group, string ensemble, or book club; if you’re doing something you enjoy you’re bound to meet similar people. If you are meeting someone you’ve met off the internet; always tell someone where you’re meeting, and go to a public place like a café the first time. If they don’t want to buy you a cup of coffee, they don’t deserve your time.

Think before you send

Once you click send, those words are forever stained in cyberspace. If you say the wrong thing in a conversation, in time it will be forgotten; if you write the wrong thing it’s there to haunt you both.

Here’s one more for good measure: instead of posting a status about all the things you hate, tell the world what you like. Post a picture of some flowers growing in your garden, update your status to a thing that made you smile that day, or share your favourite quote. While the internet can be an isolating place, we can use it to send a little bit of positivity into somebody’s day. We can build up some support behind our façades.

– Sophie Florance

(Photos Cameron Wisth )

This post is brought to you by Truth 4 Youth on behalf of It’s There For Life.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply