10 Ways to Stay Sane in an Overly Online World

Take charge of your online world and its effects on your mental wellbeing.

Posted Jun 21, 2020

Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

Over the last two decades, technology has progressed a lot more quickly and its accessibility to us has done the same. The Internet has become mainstream, smartphones have become the norm, and social media has become a popular way to connect. That is a lot of change in a short amount of time on the evolutionary clock for humans. That’s why it’s not a surprise if you have days when it feels like too much.

It’s harder to switch off. It’s difficult to know how to behave online. It’s challenging to deal with the critique that sometimes comes from total strangers. It’s weird to want more likes.

Should I post more or less? What should I say? Is that photo good enough? Do I look good in it? Why has she got more likes and followers?

The questions are never-ending and the self-doubt creeps in if you let it. But you don’t have to. You can learn to build a positive relationship with the online world. Here is how: 

1. Remind yourself that the online world is not the real world.

Yes, we can read the news and watch snapshots of people's lives. But, both are subjective. The news is presenting what they know to be true in the way they think will get the most viewers. People on social media are doing the same, whilst sharing highlights of their lives. Don’t mistake this for an accurate representation of life. It is simply the best bits and, just like you and me, they have their own challenges behind the scenes.

2. Start and end your day offline.

Spend the first 30 minutes of your day by connecting with yourself and your world, rather than the online world. Meditate, exercise, journal, or simply be. Whatever you do, do it for you. Do the same in the evening. Spend the last 30 minutes of your day offline and off screens. Read, talk to your partner, cuddle your pup, or simply savor some herbal tea. Your body and mind will wind down, preparing you for a night of quality sleep.

3. Don’t engage with trolls.

The more time you spend online, the more likely you are to come across negative people. These people have forgotten that there are real people behind the screens reading their hurtful comments. Do not engage with them. Instead, focus your attention on the positive voices in the mix. If you’re being attacked by trolls, block them from your page. Remind yourself that it’s not about you, it’s about them.

4. Have digital detoxes.

You are in control of your life and how much time you spend online. You can switch off when you want to. Maybe on a Sunday? Or even half a Sunday? This means no social media, no internet browsing, no email. Once your day-long detoxes feel comfortable, extend them for a whole weekend, a week, or even a month. Remind yourself that this is about your mental health. You need to allow your mind to rest to keep it healthy and happy.

5. Limit how long you are online.

Give yourself a time limit for how long you go online. Otherwise, it's easy to get lost into a never-ending journey of clicking for more. This will only lead to frustration as you waste valuable time reading or scrolling random things that don't even matter to you. You’re also more likely to end up with information overload and feeling bad about yourself, especially if you're scrolling Instagram.

6. Eliminate boredom scrolling.

You’ve finished work, you’ve eaten dinner, you feel too tired to read, and you don't want to watch Netflix. So, you grab your phone, go on social media, and scroll. Scroll without direction, without purpose, without cause. Scroll for the sake of scrolling. Stop. This is not doing any good for anybody, especially you. Instead, sit still in silence. Listen to a song. Put a podcast on. Do something that inspires or educates you, or something that helps you to connect to yourself.

7. Avoid going online when you’re feeling low.

If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or low, avoid going online. You’re more likely to get stuck into the comparison trap and end up feeling self-conscious. You’re also more likely to over-dramatize the news and suffer from feelings of hopelessness. Instead, call a friend or family member. Go for a walk. Take a bath. Watch a feel-good movie. Have a good cry. It’s ok to feel low; it's a part of being human. Just avoid the online world during these times as it can quickly become the big, bad overwhelming wolf.

8. Don’t feel obliged to post.

What you put on your website, blog, or social media is up to you. How often you post is up to you too. It’s your feed and you own it. That means you get to make up the rules. You get to decide which conversations to join or not, and which causes to passionately speak up about or not. You get to do whatever you want with it whenever you want to.

9. If you have nothing positive to say, don't say anything.

Don’t become a troll. It’s surprisingly easily done, especially if you're having a bad day or if you see someone dissing a cause or person you believe in. But it’s better not to. Engaging with negativity will only create more negativity. If you want to say something, say something constructive. Alert the person who's being trolled and they can then block them. Send a message of support reminding them that they matter and that the troll’s words don’t. This isn’t about eliminating opposing views or discussion, but it’s about doing it with respect and compassion. We are all allowed to have opinions, but we shouldn’t attack each other for them.

10. Your likes or followers are not a reflection of your worth.

Someone who has more likes or followers than you is not better than you. We are all human and we are all equal, despite the hierarchical nature of our societies. We are all enough exactly the way we are, irrespective of how our social media feeds look. At the end of the day, we are all the same and we are all one, both online and offline.