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Practical Tips for Staying True to Yourself While Navigating Life Online

Navigating the uncharted territory of smartphones and social media is daunting. Pioneering this new technology that has transformed human connectivity, communication, and access to information is no small feat. These platforms give space to creatively share our truth with the world. At the same time, they open avenues for divisiveness and loneliness. Research indicates the rates of anxiety and depression are growing at an exponential rate. The question then, is how do you charter the online territory while maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself?


Post to proclaim your truth.
It can feel like rejection when we don’t get the response we hoped for in a post or comment we share online. In those moments, remember why you posted it. If you thought a video was really funny, less likes shouldn’t keep you from laughing. If you’re proud of how you look in that First Day of School picture, don’t let comments or a lack of comments be your mirror. Ninety-nine people can tell you that you look amazing, but if you don’t believe it for yourself, you’re going to be looking for that one-hundredth person to make you believe you are good enough. Proclaim your truth and when the haters start talking, (they always will) don’t justify their negativity with a response. Your voice, your story, your presence matters. Embrace it, own it and celebrate it.

There are no take-backs online. Remember, what you put on the internet is out there, FOREVER. Even when you use SnapChat, you don’t have control over someone saving a photo you intended to last a few seconds. You no longer have control over a photo once it is shared or shown to other people.

Think about why you want to post something before you post it.
Go through old posts, saved stories or messages, and think about the motivation behind what you shared. Do you remember feeling a specific way based on people's responses? How do those posts and messages make you feel about yourself? Would you post or share again in the same way you did before?                                                                                                                                             

Disable comments
We challenge you to turn off the comments section for your posts for the next week or two. Compare how you feel after posting with the comments on vs. with the comments off.

Parents, set the example
Come up with boundaries as a family that everyone agrees to follow. If your teen sees you texting and driving, you can’t expect them to put down their phone when they get behind the wheel.

Limit your time on your phone to 1-2 hours a day.
A recent study found that a large majority of teens struggling with the harmful effects of social media are those spending more than 2 hours a day online. Be aware of when you are actively participating and when you are scrolling to pass the time. If you need a 10-minute Tik Tok break from studying, set a timer. We all know how easy it is to plan to take a quick break, and an hour goes by before we look up from our phones.

Utilize the Screen Time app in your settings
This tool shows you how much time you spend daily in each app. We’re often on our phones way more than we realize. With the data in front of you, you can make adjustments to your habits to meet your time goals.

The Focus App is your new best friend. The various settings allow you to schedule time to be away from your phone. An automated message responds to incoming messages that you are unavailable while you work, sleep, drive, study etc.

Live in the moment
By setting healthy boundaries, you’re free to be fully present in your physical life. How many times has the excitement of a new activity been replaced with frustration and anxiety because you can’t get the perfect photo? Did you spend more time coming up with a caption than you spent enjoying being in the moment? Intentionally have phone free experiences. Make an agreement with your friends or family to make a few memories that belong just to you. If you’re in a group, make sure everyone in the group is comfortable with photos of that experience going online.

Reality > Creativity
The creative potential for online storytelling is remarkable. Just make sure that you aren’t distorting the truth of who you are, what you look like, or an experience for the sake of aesthetics.

Fully alive, authentic living does not need a filter to convey its truth.

 

Sources:

Abi-Jaoude, E., Naylor, K. T., & Pignatiello, A. (2020). Smartphones, social media use and youth mental health. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l'Association medicale canadienne, 192(6), E136–E141. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.190434

Columbia University Irving Medical Center & Albano PhD, A. M. (2021, May 20). Is Social Media Threatening Teens' Mental Health and Well-being? Columbia University Irving Medical Center. Retrieved February 11, 2022, from https://www.cuimc.columbia.edu/news/social-media-threatening-teens-mental-health-and-well-being

 


WRITTEN BY Kinsey Eix (she/her/hers)