One of the great things about the internet for people with mental health issues is the possibility for connection with others. For some people, leaving the house might just be too much on certain days – however the internet means that you can still connect with friends and the outside world.
You can stay in touch through the internet, even if you lose your phone contacts or a friend moves house, whereas in the past (unless you were very skilled with phone directories) you might have lost them forever.
The internet is also good for finding out what activities and events are going on… and connecting with friends through social media means you might even get an invitation to go to these events with others.
When the internet is a dark place
The internet isn’t always so great though. People can end up seeing each other less than in the pre-internet days when people may have talked face-to-face more. Particularly during and post-war, people would knock on a neighbour’s door, perhaps lending a cup of sugar or other food items, meaning that they would look out for each other, help their neighbours and check often on their neighbours’ wellbeing.
Now the world has changed – people don’t always stay in their local communities because many move around much more for work or economic reasons. Although it can be more difficult to support one another through the internet these communities do exist – this seems to be the way the world is now going.
Internet and depression
Depression and going on social media don’t always mix well because someone who is depressed may see people writing about their perfect lives in great detail (omitting the parts such as the dog pooing on the carpet or not being able to afford anything to eat today), leading to self-comparison.
Then there is the opposite extreme where people use social media as their therapist. This can lead to people receiving unhelpful advice, sometimes from complete strangers who aren’t well equipped to help. Alternatively the internet can make people feel very lonely if no one at all seems interested in what they have to say.
Finding like-minded people
My grandmother once told me that in the future the internet would cause problems because like-minded individuals such as criminals could share ideas. Although this isn’t likely to affect most people, there is a risk that people who experience paranoia due to mental health conditions such as Schizophrenia or Bipolar could seek out and reinforce unhealthy paranoia by looking online for evidence to support their theories.
On the flipside, a more likely benefit is in helping people with unusual but harmless hobbies, such as Cosplay – costume play dressing up as anime characters – or train enthusiasts. These people can use the internet to meet and make friends, far easier than in pre-internet days when people could only go as far their feet could take them (or a limited distance in a car if they could afford it).
In conclusion, the internet can be many things to many people. Like most tools it can be used for good or for bad purposes, but ultimately how we choose to use it is the decision we make for ourselves.
Thank you to the writer who submitted this post through the Sheffield Flourish site! Sheffield Flourish aims to help people connect online and find the resources they need to build the lives they wish to lead, so we love to talk about all things digital. Anyone else have any comments on the advantages or disadvantages of the internet?