[SKIP TO THE SECOND POST IF YOU WANT]
I just thought I’d join in on a journal, to hopefully inspire our other members to share their progress, and to document mine as well as post some thoghts about NoSurf that don’t fit specific threads or aren’t worth opening one about. I also find it interesting how specific journals from specific people can fill out a certain subtopic of internet addiction. Mine will be NoSurf with mental illness.
Introduction to the topic
I’ve recently read some threads in the subreddit about people on there suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, and generally specific smartphone or internet use is linked to depression because of the constant comparison our minds do when we see others seemingly more successful or more socializing than we are. For others, depression or other mental illnesses even drove us to excessive internet use.
The internet can distract us from our feelings; it can make us feel better through seeing cute, informative or funny stuff, and sometimes it sucks us in through groups that validate us - either getting too invested in (and reliant on) online support, or indulging in venting in the self-deprecating online meme culture that mentally reinforces the symptoms and thought loops that make us worse. It can make us feel better about ourselves through receiving validation in forms of likes, follows, clicks, and views, and make us feel less lonely when we feel alienated and disconnected in real life and surrounded by people who don’t understand (or we think they don’t). The internet is also a great distraction for when we witness a fight, or there is tension and/or abuse at home. In a permanently abusive home, the internet is a great constant escape to avoid it.
Excessive online use is a pitfall in itself through reasons mentioned a lot on here, the website and the sub. But especially for mentally ill people, it can be even harder.
It happens so fast that you base your entire self worth on how your internet persona is received, and a disagreement, or a flopping post, or online hate can quickly turn serious (ex. driven to suicide); online space is many mentally ill people’s only safe space, so if that gets invaded or destroyed, consequences are fatal. We might even obsess about what people think about us more than mentally healthy people do, to the point of panic attacks and anxiety.
Additionally, some online spaces for mentally ill people blur the lines between support and romanticization of mental illness quickly, and instead of owning one’s symptoms while working towards recovery, you are consciously or subsconsciously urged to be the sickest, the worst, the one most suffering in those environments. It can quickly become a competition about who had or has it the worst. It’s easy to only focus on the negative there - especially when only focusing on the negative is giving you access to a community, to feeling understood and liked. It’s easy to build an echo chamber for yourself.
Even if we are active in communities that aren’t about our mental illness, we are easily recruited into questionable online spaces or mobs/movements because mentally ill people like us are often directionless, hopeless, unsure about the future, missing a cause or reason for their life, and are devoid of a community in their real life. It is easy to go down dark paths online because of a community we feel is accepting us and giving us a cause to fight for, a cause to stand behind and talk about, a cause that unites us and connects us with others while distracting us from our real lives, or our illness and symptoms. Maybe it even makes us feel productive and like we’re taking control of our lives, like we have a chance to making it better because of this. There’s a reason for usual sects’ and cults’ pickup strategy, after all.
Not only questionable online spaces can suck you in, but predators online can have an easy game with you. Gaining your trust and blackmailing you with it, threatening to leave and scaring you with losing the only person you’ve trusted with sensitive info and vented to, demanding a kind of pay-back for being nice to you… these are all things that can happen to you in a vulnerable state online, and a lot of us mentally ill people lack the skill to set boundaries or have them respected (especially when we have already faced abuse) or to advocate for our needs and say no. That means our vulnerability online can leave us worse off, and victims of abuse are easier to get into abusive dynamics again.
Reducing internet use, therefore, is especially good for mentally ill people, but also a lot harder. It means distancing yourself from your support network or the only people that, in your eyes, understand you. It can rip you away from the validation you need but don’t get or can’t attain in real life. It rips away something that soothed some feelings, and distracted you from the difficult situations around you. If you’re in a country without sufficient mental health care or where mental health care costs an arm and a leg, you can’t afford it and reducing internet use might make you feel like you’re losing the only ““treatment”” place.
And: People with social anxiety, for example, usually have most or all of their friends online because online communication is easier to them than talking in real life; so controlling their internet use means effectively being lonely and losing connection with their friends (or, in the worst case, losing their friends altogether). It can be awful to miss out on a lot of the chats, not finding time to read the chat backlog, not getting references and inside jokes anymore until you feel like a stranger looking in, like the odd one out.
Even if you didn’t broadcast your mental illness online: It can be hard to let go of the perfectly curated online persona where you only showed your best side and got to be the you without mental illness, to accept the real you and start using the time to work on the real you instead of the fake you you had control over.
But it’s important to take control of your habits, take a look of how you spend your time, and start taking actions to get your life back together, and start on a track of recovery.
It’s important to cut sources of stress, anxiety, and reinforcement of negativity off - which can be people and content that’s only about debates and online fighting, negative news, online spaces where recovery is frowned upon or discouraged through encouraging getting worse, people trying to pressure you and disregard your boundaries, content that makes you feel like you’re not good enough or a loser in life, etc. It can be equally important to cut addictive elements that seem positive at first glance out too, so you can stop over-indulging on online life to feel happy, and learn healthy and other coping mechanisms or start changing things in your life.