Friday, 7 December 2018

The Downside Of Having An Online Presence: Negativity, Handling Stress & Returning To Therapy



It's been a little while since I wrote a mental health update, so as the year is drawing to a close I thought it seemed like a good time for one.

2018 has been a year full of change for me, and I feel that my social anxiety has improved massively.

I don't think it's something I'll ever be completely cured of - just this evening I went out for a group meal with a bunch of people I don't know well.  I certainly felt anxious, and self conscious for most of it - and I'm already replaying all of the conversations in my head convinced I said the wrong things or sounded like a weirdo - but the huge difference is that I still went.

I knew I felt nervous, I knew I'd probably struggle to make conversation and feel comfortable, and I knew I'd feel paranoid that nobody liked me - but I went along anyway. And I knew I'd get through it.

This is a huge step forward from where I was a year ago, and I think that becoming part of the home education community locally has been the biggest factor in my progress.

Now that Tyne is relying on me to get out and socialise him within that community, I can't make excuses or opt out - and this has meant putting myself in far more social situations with other parents than I ever have done previously.

In a way, it's had a bit of an "exposure therapy" effect on me....the more I've done it, the less I've worried about it and the easier I've found it each time.

But it's not all positive....I have been having some downward spirals in my mental health lately too.

For the past 6 years I've been sharing my life online.

I write blog posts about my life experiences, make videos talking about some of the most personal parts of my past, and I regularly talk on Instagram Stories about all sorts of aspects of my private life including my financial struggles, my mental health issues and therapy experiences, and my physical health struggles too.

I'm pretty much an open book, and it's been my choice to do things that way. I don't have any interest in holding things back or not being completely upfront, I have no desire to put on a public front or pretend that I'm anything I'm not.

And on the whole - my experiences have been overwhelmingly positive.

But, as you'd probably expect, there are have been some negatives.

Recently, I've started to feel more troubled by the presence of Hidden Haters in my online space.

These people aren't directly trolls - they don't leave vicious comments on my content or send me nasty messages - but they take a more passive aggressive approach to let their dislike of me be known.

For example - this week I mentioned on Instagram stories that I had been getting one person "Thumbs down" my videos within minutes of them going live, so quickly that they wouldn't even have had chance to watch them.

I made a joke of it on Instagram stories - I mean of course dislikes aren't nice but they're still engagement which helps my YouTube stats so I'm not losing any sleep over them - but what bothered me was this....

After I shared that story - a further 5 people took themselves over to my YouTube to deliberately Thumbs Down that video.

They did that because they saw that the dislikes were "getting" to me and their reaction was to try to kick me while I was down. To make it worse. To make me feel more disliked.

And what bothered me about that is the realisation that there are people out there, silently watching my stories and following what I talk about, all while clearly disliking me.

People who choose to keep following me and watching my content, despite having an obvious problem with me.

And that makes me feel uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.

Of course it's a fact of life that not everybody can like you. As a people pleaser I find this difficult to accept but I know it's completely inevitable.

But the difference is - when you meet people in life that you don't get along with or who simply don't warm to you for whatever reason - you can keep them at a distance.

You don't invite those people in to your home, to watch your kids play or to listen to you talk about your life problems or worries and fears.

So to realise that this is exactly what I'm doing is disconcerting.

Of course I realise that it's incredibly naive of me not to have had this realisation before now.

And I'm aware that a lot of people would say that by having an online presence and "putting myself out there" - I have to expect some backlash, or some haters.

But this attitude really irritates me.

Because why?

Why, just because I have a presence online, do I just have to accept that people see me as fair game for their abuse/nasty messages/cruel treatment/whatever else?

Why, just because I'm sharing content online, do people think that means they have an automatic right to be able to tell me their opinions on my life or me as a person?

Personally I think we excuse too much of people's poor behaviour and lack of humanity by adopting a victim blaming attitude rather than look at the way we see fit to treat our fellow humans.

Instead of attacking someone you follow online or choosing to criticise them ,why would you not choose to simply bite your tongue and adopt that age old approach of "If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all"

I believe that too many of us use the "I have a right to voice my opinion" line to cover up our desire to be unkind or dismissive of other peoples feelings, emotions or way of life.

The fact is, your opinion is not always necessary to give. If what you're doing or saying to somebody doesn't serve any purpose other than to make you feel better, then is it really necessary?

Perhaps it simply doesn't bother some people to know that their words and actions are negatively impacting someone else's day, but I would rather do everything in my power to avoid that.

So where does this leave me and my online presence?

Do I choose to close myself off more and share less of my life? Be more of a closed book, to avoid letting those hidden haters in?

I don't really know.

But I do know it's a shame that it's something I need to think about.

You only get one life and it's pretty short in the grand scheme of things, I will never understand why people choose to waste even a moment of it following someone they don't like online and negatively engaging with their content.

But that's just me.

As for where 2019 will take me on my mental health journey, I'd really like to continue to work on managing my anxiety.

I'd love to finally take my driving test and have the confidence to get behind a wheel, it's a goal I set myself every year and never reach so I'd love to finally be able to achieve it.

I think that returning to therapy would definitely be beneficial at some point too. Whether traditional or trying a form of online therapy to fit in with my busy schedule perhaps.

And lately I've actually been thinking about studying counselling myself - I'd love to learn more about it and look to work with mental health in some capacity in the future.

So that's where things are with me, thanks for reading if you got this far! Here's to 2019!



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