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FIRST PERSON: Falling Out Of Love With The Internet

I’ve been using the internet daily, and under my own name, since the mid 90’s. It’s been the biggest invention in my lifetime, I include the miracle blade that cuts through rocks or cans in that too. If you need a knife that cuts through rocks then you wanna perhaps consider a higher grade of meat! In truth, the internet isn’t only the greatest invention it’s perhaps mankind’s greatest achievement since landing on the moon. As you can tell, its fair to say I bloody love the internet. Or at least I used to.

Over the last few years, my ‘user experience’ has got progressively worse. Sure, Myspace was fun, until the spammers took the place over (free Macy’s Gift Card anyone?) Facebook was entertaining enough until the requests to tend to my friends virtual farms started to exceed the number of things I had to do at work each day. I sought refuge on Twitter and again, that started off ok until the people that irritated me on Facebook discovered it. Things somehow got worse, though, and Twitter became a place it was socially acceptable to make rape or death threats towards people whose opinion you may have disagreed with. Disappointingly, the advent of social networks quickly spawned anti-social networks.

For my own part, I experienced a degree of online abuse and bullying. My crime being that I had the audacity to go to the police after I was threatened online and then physically attacked by someone who disagreed with my views. I scaled back my online presence but it was hard to see the internet in the same way again. Suddenly I seemed to be picking fights everywhere. I didn’t mean to, it was just hard to see people being sexist, racist and downright evil online and not saying something. That would usually lead to yet more racist, bigoted cretins giving me abuse. As someone who suffers from depression and social anxiety that was the last thing I needed.

So I’ve made the decision to go completely offline for a bit. It’s not a decision I’ve taken lightly but I’ve found recently that the days events online were leading to me feeling in such a low mood that they impacted on real life too much. It’s not just the personal grief I’ve got that has led me to this decision either, but also the general vibe that exists on social media these days. I’ve spoken before about ‘lad culture’ but I find it utterly gross. All too often it’s simply sexism and misogyny dressed up as ‘bantz.’

Celebrities once used Twitter to interact with their fans and each other but all I see these days is the constant shilling of whatever crap they are releasing this week. And everyone, myself included, is just so self involved. That’s what social media seems to have nurtured in all of us to the extreme.  Long gone are the days of you taking a simple picture of the Eiffel Tower.  Nowadays, a photo is apparently worthless without shoving your own grinning face into the bottom of the shot.  We think nothing of sharing a photo of what we had for breakfast with thousands of strangers. We are constantly being asked ‘what are we thinking?’ without anyone checking if anyone else is even listening. Egomania rules, and I’ve had enough.

I feel I’ve used the internet for good over the years. My blog over at antmeads.wordpress.com has reached thousands of people. I know for a fact it’s helped people and been a direct influence on some seeking help for their own mental health issues. Nothing I’ve done makes me prouder than that. I’ve tried to help causes I care about such as CALM, I’ve given my time freely and spoken as openly and honestly as it’s possible to do. For the 30 months since my breakdown and subsequent suicide attempt I’ve laid my life bare online. Sadly some of the information I’ve shared has been used against me. Not much hurts more than being mocked for your mental health problems when it’s you who has put that information out there.

So whilst my blog remains online, i won’t be posting there for a while. I’ve closed my Twitter and Facebook accounts and deactivated my old email address. I’ve decided to see if it’s possible to live a life with as little online presence as possible. I feel that when my friends talk about their lives I really want to be listening. I want to chat to people, to their faces, and have things to tell them that they haven’t already seen online. I want to engage people in the way we used to, before social media made everything a blur. I want to see if I get more done offline.  Since quitting social media I’ve signed up to volunteer for a couple of causes I believe in. I’ve set up more coffee dates with friends for a catch up and most of all I’ve felt slightly better. Because that’s the purpose really, to see if leaving behind the relentless chattering of the modern internet, sees my mental health improve. I’ll be sure to keep all at CALM posted!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article or in the comments below, are not those held by CALM or its Trustees unless stated, and liability cannot be accepted for such comments. We encourage friendly and constructive debate, but please don't share personal contact details when commenting and exercise caution when considering any advice offered by others. We don’t allow abusive, offensive or inappropriate comments or comments that could be interpreted as libellous, defamatory or commercial and we will remove these without warning as and when we find them.

One Response to this article

  1. Ant,
    I think I can relate to you on many of the things you wrote about.
    I think that if a person has mental health issues etc etc,
    and getting on with fellow humans in the real world is “challenging and stressful”
    then the chances are getting on with people online will be Just challenging and stressful,
    and especially if the people one interacts with cannot relate to the person with mental health problems.
    I think that “we” tend to be a little more sensitive than people that don’t have mental health issues.
    and so we may go in expecting or fearing that we will be kept at arms length or even ignored.
    and so we may convince ourselves that we have to perhaps our hide our issues behind a front of being extrovert or over-friendly etc etc
    because we may believe that that will make people warm to us.
    its amazing Ant
    how mental Health issues can reduce our self esteem and confidence.
    I believe that fear plays a major part in that process.
    we may be fearful of being rejected
    and so we may withdraw from all interaction with fellow humans.
    but then we find that we start to feel lonely and we realize that interacting is just as important as eating and drinking each day.
    it gives us what we need to keep going.
    and as you can see Ant
    you may have mental health issues
    but you are still interacting and I am interacting with you.
    I hope you will never completely withdraw from human interaction and leave yourself hungry for want of company.
    your life is Just as valuable as everyone else Ant,
    and I hope that with time you will begin to believe that.
    In the mean time please continue Interacting and satisfying your natural need for company even if it via your computer screen.
    best wishes from Fred ; 0 )

    fred E Fireworks 17th May 2015 at 7:42 pm

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