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Online Negativity: How It Affects Us and How We Can Deal With It

Lukas Grigas

The online world can be a vile place. We’ve all seen it: a comment section so mean it might make your laptop catch fire, or the never-ending feed of awful and even devastating news. Admit it — negativity online affects us. Today, we’re trying to identify how exactly it impacts us and how we should respond.

Social media: the worst thing about the best thing ever

Online life is life. Sounds exaggerated? Well, here’s a stat for you: the average American adult spends almost 7 hours a day engaging in online activities. It’s safe to say that the internet is here to stay. Just as it is safe to say that any activity to which we devote 7 hours a day will surely have some kind of effect on us.

When we talk about negativity online, we mostly refer to one particular part of the internet – social media platforms. As of 2021, 3.96 billion people worldwide use these platforms. Unfortunately, a large portion of the time on these platforms is dedicated to arguing and consuming content, which is often negative in nature. The American Psychiatric Association found that more than one in three adults see social media usage as harmful to mental health. Additionally, almost 25% of teens view social media as having a negative effect. When it comes to effects, the American Psychological Association reports that the rate of teens and young adults reporting symptoms of major depression in a given year increased by 52% from 2005 to 2017. These are stark numbers, and they have real-life consequences.

Studies have also shown that one in six teenagers have experienced some form of abusive behavior online, which mostly happens on social media platforms. The excessive use of social media has been linked to stress, anxiety, and depression. It’s not that surprising when you think about all the stuff we’re exposed to when scrolling through our feeds.

  • Find out what digital stress is and how you can deal with it.

How to combat online negativity

Life on the internet can be tricky. On the one hand, it’s the most amazing thing ever: infinite information, instant communication, entertainment on demand, shopping without ever having to leave the comfort of your home, and so much more. On the other hand, you got a constant stream of bad news and a bunch of trolls and haters just waiting to make your day miserable. Dealing with the negative side of the internet may not be fun, but it has to be done. Here are a few ways to help you handle online negativity on a daily basis.

Limit online time

This might be the most effective way to avoid negativity online. Seems simple enough? Not really. Since we live in the digital age, it might be quite a challenge. Try and do your best to limit your time on social media and devote more time to real-life get-togethers instead. Nowadays, smartphones as well as laptops allow you to set precise limitations on how much time you can spend on any single application.

Disable app notifications

It’s hard to resist the constant buzzing, beeping, and dinging of your phone alerting you about news stories, messages, instagram uploads, and everything else. We’ve all fallen for a notification that drove us down a rabbit hole only to realize hours later that we have wasted a tremendous amount of time in the comment section of a random website. There’s no shame in that, but turning off notifications will help you regain control of your time and focus.

Report harassment

If someone is making you uncomfortable, harrasses you, constantly leaves negative comments, or is even threatening you on social media, don’t hesitate to report them. Most social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, allow you to report users who act in an abusive manner. Most platforms also have the options to block or ignore, which you should also use.

Unfollow accounts that spread negativity

Social media thrives on negativity (have you seen “The Social Dilemma”?). So, it’s up to you to make the choice of what you come across on your feed. Unfollow any accounts that make you feel angry, sad, or generally bad. Accounts focused on spreading negative content don’t add anything of value to your life.

Follow accounts that spread positivity

Don’t forget that the internet can be a catalyst for the positive. From adorable animals to inspiring quotes, the online world is filled with social media accounts and websites that bring joy and positivity to their followers. Here are a few that the friendly folks at NordPass would love to share with you:

Practice mindfulness

Experiencing FOMO and comparing yourself to others is a frequent occurrence on social media. It can keep you dwelling on the negative side of things since it makes you focused on what you could be and what you could do differently. By practicing mindfulness, you can learn to live in the present moment, which will lessen the impact of FOMO and negative thought patterns. Finally, practicing mindfulness can improve your overall mental well-being.

Fortify your online security

Nowadays, online security feels like an overwhelming and complicated endeavor. Whether you're answering emails, browsing the internet, or buying things online, it seems like there are dangers everywhere you turn. A cybersecurity incident like a data breach can surely ruin your mood for months to come. By taking steps to improve your online security, you will be able to feel safer on the internet. Consider adopting a password manager such as NordPass to boost your password security. To protect your data, we also recommend securing your network with a VPN like NordVPN.

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