A Modern World: How to Make Your Time Online a Positive Experience

A few years ago, I would have said I hated the online world. Social media was constantly making me feel unworthy and feeding my self-critical thoughts, and having only then been recently diagnosed with M.E., going online made me feel more alone than ever. It took me a long time to transition my time online from a very negative experience to a positive one. But I did it, and especially with the help of creating my Mindfully Evie social media accounts, I now view the online world as a place I can go to feel connected, uplifted, positive and inspired. I can honestly say this transition into how I now feel when I come online is one of the most important things I have done for my wellbeing these past few years.

While many of us are aware of the impact the online world is having on our mental well-being, not enough of us are being encouraged or know what to do about it. In this blog post I’ll be sharing all the things that have helped me make this positive transition in the hope that you can achieve it too. There are two main ways to change how social media and the technology world impact you. The first, the internal factor, is to change your perspective. The second, the external factor, is to change the way you use it.

The Internal Factor – Change Your Perspective:

  1. Self-acceptance – For me, self-acceptance has been the biggest thing that helped turn my time online from a negative to a positive experience. When I suffered heavily from self-criticism, nothing was good enough. Every photo I posted I would constantly refresh to see how many likes I had, I would change my mind about the photo and decide I no longer liked the way I looked in it, and I would constantly question why I couldn’t look like how others did in their photos. My time online, especially on social media, only helped to feed those self-critical thoughts further and it made me feel even more un-worthy. Skip forward to the present day where I now always turn to self-compassion instead of self-criticism, and all those worries and things that used to occupy my mind no longer have any hold over me. If you’re finding your life online is preoccupying your mind and you think about your likes/followers/appearance often, this is probably the biggest and most important step for you. This internal change towards self-acceptance will have a profound effect on both the way you perceive and use social media. Self-acceptance is a very hard and long progress, but it’s so vital and important for your wellbeing, and until you can achieve it, it’s likely places like social media will only increase your self-critical thoughts.
  1. Don’t compare yourself to others– When you are online, it’s so easy to compare yourself to others. But it is so important to recognise that even if you did have their life, their body, their job, it wouldn’t necessarily make you happier. We often believe our happiness comes from these external factors, but our happiness comes completely from within. Furthermore, every single person in life is working on a different career, a different social life, a different romantic life, and thus there is no need to compare it to your own as it will always be different.
  1. Focus on what you’re doing– Do you ever have those times when you’re online and you think to yourself, am I not doing enough? Do I have enough friends? Do I go out enough? Why am I not travelling at the moment? Am I successful enough? Should I be making more effort with my appearance? And you know what, we all need to remember one very, very important thing. What someone else is doing, is not what I am doing, someone else’s goals, are not my goal’s, and therefore our priorities in life are going to be very different.Just because they are doing something you are not, does not make what they’re doing better than what you’re doing.They don’t share your goals, dreams, or passions. All those things are specific to you and you alone. Don’t let what other people are doing affect what you think you should be doing and practising. As soon as you start staying focused on your own path, you’ll find you become a lot less focused on the path of others. You know your dreams better than anyone – so believe in them and believe in yourself.
  1. Remember social media is not reality– A photo is just that, a photo. It is a snapshot of someone’s life and therefore not the full reality. Having a chronic illness has really helped change the way I perceive people’s photos on social media. For me, I always post photos full of colour and life because I like them to bring happiness and joy to people’s feeds, and I also feel like this reflects my mental reality. My physical reality however is far from these photos, but I’m okay with that. Occasionally I feel like I need to remind people of this, but I’m also working on not having to explain everything I do. Having this insight though means it translates into the way I see every other person’s photos. If I see a lovely photo, the likelihood is I’m already questioning if this is a re-post, taken from a few years ago, or if it has anything to do with that their doing right now, and the answer is probably always no. The truth is we really don’t ever really get to see someone’s “real” life online. Social media is like a canvas. You can choose to create/portray your life however you want to. Therefore, people will choose to share their highlights. They will often put up the best pictures of themselves looking like they’re having “the time of their lives”, when the reality could be so far from this.
  1. Stop worrying about what other people think– It’s very easy, especially on social media, to get swept up in wanting others to like and accept us, but many of us are spending too much time and energy worrying about what other people think, which only results in us feeling unworthy. The key to help you stop worrying about what other people think, is to feel more self-love and self-acceptance from within. When you start living from a place of genuine love and acceptance, you will learn that what other people do, say, and think about you has nothing to do with you, it’s all to do with them! Knowing you are being true to yourself online means you can stop needing others “approval” as you already have your own.

The External Factor – Change How You Use It:

  1. Follow inspiring people – I love scrolling through my Instagram feed reading quotes that really resonate, seeing beautiful and creative images which inspire, and reading the thoughts of people that I follow. There are some incredible people online and there is nothing better than having them pop up on your feed. For the most part, it makes me super happy to click like and comment on every single picture as I scroll down my feed.Joining supportive and wholesome groups on Facebook or having an entirely separate account on Instagram dedicated to connecting with people in the chronic illness community or simply people with interests similar to your own is another amazing way to enjoy your time online. Having your news feed flooded with meaningful, uplifting, inspiring posts by people you admire can only bring inspiration in your own life and as a result, it may propel you to make positive changes or do some good inspiring deeds of your own.
  1. Switch off when you feel on edge – I’ve gotten into a routine where if I start to feel anxious or on edge about my time online, maybe I’m questioning why someone hasn’t messaged me back or I start questioning the amount I share online, I immediately come offline and don’t go back on until I feel ready. This is a ritual that was very hard to do at the beginning, but it has become a lot easier with practise and is now something I do almost automatically. The reason a lot of us would find switching offline so hard is because we feel an obligation to stay up to-date. But you know, you can choose not to feel that obligation. You don’t have to reply to every text/email straight away. You can sometimes just let them wait. We can risk our social media getting stale. And if our friends are friends they will understand when we need some headspace. And if they aren’t friends, why both getting back to them anyway? You always have to always put yourself first, and remember, the world won’t end if you don’t check your phone or social media for a day.
  1. Be selective– We all have those social media accounts that don’t sit well with our gut when they pop up on our feed. It might not be anything about this social user personally, but their images, personality, morals or their lifestyle just leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Maybe their images are a little too perfect, maybe their captions appear a little ungrateful for the things they get to see and buy, maybe they’re too negative and are bringing you down. Or perhaps, they have a body you would die for, while eating unrealistically exquisite food, or living a lifestyle you could only realistically achieve with a lottery win. To put it simply, their images or words just don’t make you feel happy anymore. Whatever it is about that person’s feed that you don’t like; ask yourself why you’re still following. As soon as you realise that you care more for your own mental state than for this person’s attitude at you unfollowing, your time online will become a much happier place. You can still follow lots of people with insane lifestyles and incredible bodies, as long as they inspire you and you enjoy their photos. But when that changes and you find that all you’re doing is comparing or feeling down on your own photos, your own body, your own lifestyle, then it’s time to unfollow.
  1. Recognise when your mental health is more vulnerable– While generally I am very good on social media and can see it for what it is, there are those times when doubt still creeps in, especially during those periods when I am feeling particularly vulnerable. For me, I find December a very hard time of year. It’s my birthday, Christmas, and New Year’s, and while that is great for someone who can enjoy it, I can’t. Many people with chronic illness often find holiday season and special occasions very hard. As I can recognise I am more vulnerable during this time period, I take the necessary steps to help myself in advance, which is coming offline for the entire period. Another time to avoid social media is when you’re on your own or feeling lonely. Although this may sound ironic, seeing other people “having the time of their lives” while you’re stuck at home on your own doesn’t often make you feel very good, so next time you’re on your own try switching offline.
  1. Create a balance– It is so important to create a balance online. Too much can be dangerous, but not going on it at all may be socially isolating in this modern day and age. The biggest way to help you create a balance is to avoid scrolling. I stopped scrolling around a year ago and it’s made a massive difference in my life. Not only has it made me more productive, but it’s made a big difference to my overall happiness level. Some ways that have helped me to stop scrolling are:
    • Turn off all notifications, this is essential. This way you won’t be tempted to keep checking Instagram every time someone likes a photo or follows you.
    • Practise app minimisation. Get rid of anything you don’t use or don’t want to use, especially on your phone to avoid those late-night scrolls.
    • Delete any social media platform you don’t like.
    • Get the app “moment” to see how much you’re using your phone. The reason why I love this app is because it will tell me every other minute how long I’ve been on my phone so I’m constantly aware of how long I’ve been on it.
  1. Be Positive– If you want to use social media in a positive way, the first thing you can do is to be positive on social media. Share the happy pictures with the cheesy grins, share the fun announcements, achievements, and things that bring you genuine joy. You attract what you put out there, so don’t rant about the negative things in your life as that will only attract negative people. That isn’t to say you can’t be honest online, especially when times are tough, but just remember there is a line between being negative and being honest, so make sure you know which side you’re on.
  1. Be yourself– Always, always be yourself online. It’s so easy to want to be more like someone else, to want to be less “you”. But if you pretend to be someone you’re not, especially online, you won’t ever get to find your tribe or be able to make true online friendships.

A few little extra hacks I’ve discovered to help you:
  • Turn off the “active” button on Facebook messenger and Instagram. This way you won’t know when others were last online and they won’t know when you are/were, therefore helping to take away the pressure to having to respond straight away to someone and eliminating the paranoia you can feel when someone doesn’t message you back even though you know they’ve been “active” recently…
    • Instagram, to read how to turn off the active button click here.
    • Facebook messenger, to read how to turn off the active button off click here.
  • There seems to be a lot of “politics” on social media which means there are certain people you feel you can’t unfollow/unfriend. Luckily on Facebook you have the option to turn off notifications from people you don’t want to see so they never appear on your newsfeed, all without unfriending them! To read how you do it click here.

I really hope this post inspires and empowers some of you to look at how you use your time online and assess whether it’s making you feel worse or better, and if it’s the former, I hope this post can help install some of those changes you can make to turn it into a positive experience. Make your social media and time online a place that makes you motivated, encouraged, inspired and most importantly, truly happy.

Metta, E xx

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