When I first got social media at the age of ten, it was for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to fit in, I wanted to have triple-digit ‘friends’ and I wanted lots of likes.
I hoped for all the things I never got in the real world: popularity, compliments and confidence. I didn’t get any of that, though. My only ‘friends’ were my family, a couple of real-world friends, and some of my mum’s friends (who only added me because she asked them to). I didn’t get any likes and it certainly didn’t fix my confidence issue.
I’ve also experienced cyberbullying a few times, which led me down a very, very dark path. I ended up trying to take my own life when I was 18 because I felt so ashamed and worthless.
I hoped for all the things I never got in the real world: popularity, compliments and confidence.
Thankfully, things got better. I went through therapy and learnt more about my worth and value as a person. Eventually this was reflected on my social media. I started to de-clutter my friends and followers, deleting the people I didn’t want there, and blocking everything that was damaging my self-esteem or causing me to question my worth.
I realised I was following accounts and people that made me feel bad about myself - all I saw was their highlight reel, which made me feel like I was never doing good enough. I was following people I’d never talk to in real life and people that were never engaging with me. I eventually realised I needed to take ownership of my feed.
I realised I was following accounts and people that made me feel bad about myself.
These days, things are very different. If anyone posts something negative or comments something negative on my wall or my posts, I delete it straight away and unfollow them. I follow pages and accounts that make me smile, laugh and feel inspired. I follow accounts that inspire me to eat better, exercise healthily, look after my mental health and try new things. I follow lots of pages that make me laugh with memes!
I’ve found a tribe of people on my different social media accounts that support me and engage with what I post - people that lift me up instead of bringing me down and make me feel connected rather than isolated.
I found them by going to events, sharing my Twitter with people I trust and engaging with them online. My main passion is campaigning for better mental health services and awareness of mental illness, so I started to connect with people I met at conferences or training events. Gradually, my network on social media grew and now it’s full of supportive and kind fellow campaigners and activists, instead of people that I used to follow who brought me down. It’s such a relief to be able to post on social media not just about the highs, but also the lows in life, and know that I will get support.
You don't owe anyone your online presence and you don't have to scroll through for hours in case you miss something.
I also follow positive accounts and I click through the suggested pages to find ones that inspire me. Social media is there to connect us, and I’m finally using it for that reason.
If you’re struggling with your social media, remember that it’s okay to take a break! You don’t owe anyone your online presence and you don’t have to scroll through for hours in case you miss something. Take time to practise self-care and remember that you’re amazing, valuable and loved with or without millions of followers.