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06 November 2017

A Hitchhiker's Guide to Staying Sane on The Internet

The internet is big, sometimes bad and almost always a little scary - but it's also great.

I wrote in my most recent personal post about the fact that I've grown up on the internet in a very immersive sense; I started this blog when I was thirteen, and was using Instagram, Twitter and the like before any of my friends were and before most of the world was. That seems strange - and I distinctly remember a commenter on a post from several years back when I was still in my early teens telling me I really should get off my computer and go outside and play. My response now is identical to the one I gave back then; let children create an environment they're proud of. There is no point telling a young girl with an interest in fashion to go and play football outside - if I'd heeded that persons advice and left the blog behind, I wouldn't be a nature expert or a happier person. In fact, I expect I'd be incredibly lost.

The internet was a path for me to find what made me happy - it saw me through an interest in fashion design, styling, medical school, law school and eventually helped me realise that what I really wanted to get down and dirty with was words (not literally, I'm not the next E.L. James). It gave me a platform to launch a magazine, and meet like minded people - to me, that sounds like a pretty great childhood. I think a lot of people assume that using the internet from a young age might make you weird, or deeply unhappy - but I that is not necessarily true at all. It's not about being on the internet - it's about how you use it. It can be an overwhelmingly positive experience, filled with great encounters and projects if you understand what you're using - and why you're there. And, if you know just when you need to log off.

Blogging from such a young age has helped me develop a tentative appreciation of the online world - I understand what goes behind a 'perfect' image, and how easy it is to hide behind a selfie smile when really it feels like the world is crumbling. In January, people told me I looked great because I dropped a dress size. The reality was that I'd lost weight because my mother was in the hospital, and I was exhausted. Even things that look 'attractive' or '#goals' might have arisen from a less than savoury event - weight loss because of a family trauma, a holiday to recover from a break up, a pregnancy announcement after several miscarriages. A picture might tell a thousand words, and heck - someone might write a thousand words, but there is always more. It is never the full story. Saying you want someone else's life based on their online content is like saying you want a romance like Jack and Rose after only ever watching the first 20 minutes of The Titanic. Sure, you can have the passion - but I'd really advise watching until the very end before you hold to that statement. There are some...strings attached.

Behind eight years of photos and words are things the internet will never see, and that I don't want it to see. It's vital to set boundaries with what you share so that your IRL life stays yours, and your internet life is what you want it to be. Maybe that's a perfect blog filled with gorgeous images, maybe it's a very down to earth instagram with some real talk and a healthy side of 'unflattering' images. Maybe it's neither, maybe it's both. We can turn to social media and point the finger when it comes to unhappiness, but it's so much more productive to remind people that social media, and the internet, are not reality. No one expects a twitter account to encapsulate the vast variety of human experience, or every life detail - no one wants social media to do that. That would be an absolutely manic Twitter account. Behind every image is a hundred bloopers, and an angry lady asking you why you're taking pictures in front of her very aesthetic front door. Part of the skill behind social media is curation, and exclusion - knowing what your audience wants, and what you want to give. Reserving your private life for yourself is a reminder that most people are doing the same - putting their best face forward, not every face. Blogging was always seen as the platform of real people - and maybe for a while it was something close to that, but to expect it to ever accurately represent real life is absurd. That wasn't what it was created to do - it's always been about those snapshots - whether funny, beautiful or sometimes sad. Social media is a story - and you can be as descriptive as you like, but you never touch on every last detail when you're telling a story. That would take forever - people would get bored very quickly.

We often joke about 'oversharing' - but there is value in keeping your private life private. I'm guilty of saying too much sometimes, and I always feel overexposed after I've let something slip that would have been best kept to myself. It's a trial and error process, and even after so many years I still make this mistake. It's up to everyone what they reveal to their readers, or followers - but I've always found that keeping certain aspects of my relationships, home life and friendships to myself means that when I log out, I have somewhere entirely separate to escape to. My online life is distinct from my actual life. The pressure to be perfect in that actual life simply doesn't arise when you have a good understanding of just how easy it is to keep reality separate from the internet.

It's not just the big things - sometimes it's as simple as just not sharing what I do with my weekends, or my free time. Discovering how much you want to share, and where your comfort zone ends, is a good place to start when the pressures of the online world become exhausting. Create your offline world - make it nice and cosy, with some metaphorical candles and maybe a good book or podcast if you want. Put just as much thought and love into it as you do those bits that you share online. Make sure there is somewhere else you can go when the internet stops feeling positive, and starts to be overwhelming.

It's not all about inhibiting and holding back - social media might be the place you butterfly the heck out. Instagram might be where you crack all the best jokes, too shy to let loose in person - you have endless opportunities to create an online persona that you're more than comfortable with. But an online persona is just that - online. The real you is so much more interesting, and important, than you could ever convey - so look after them.

H&M pants and jumper, GIVENCHY bag, CONVERSE sneakers

1 comment:

  1. This post was a very interesting read, I loved your tone, it is quite smartly written :)


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