Anxiety and the Internet

There are countless studies on how the Internet and social media provoke undue anxiety. Yes, the Internet can be used as a marvelous force for good in the world, but in my mind, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Because I’m a “Millennial,” it is hard for me to remember a time when the Internet was not a prevailing force in my life. I started to go online more often when I was about 16 or 17, back when Xanga was all the rage. Reading my peers’ rants and raves caused me to feel as though I had more of a connection with them, and I could more easily convey my thoughts in writing than in speech, so the Internet seemed like it would be a useful tool.

Sometimes I wish the Internet hadn’t made things so “easy,” but at the same time, if it wasn’t for the Internet, I often wonder if things would have been harder for me. This kind of speculation is a waste of time and can also lead to anxiety, so I tend not to think about it too often. I do find that it helps when I see articles such as this one, that acknowledge the need to unplug and regain contact with the outside world.

What can be done to get out of the anxiety-inducing online world?

  • Post less often. Figure out how often you post blogs or comments or podcasts and limit it.
  • Check email less often. It’s OK to let your inbox pile up occasionally. Most of it usually gets deleted unread anyway.
  • An addendum to the previous bullet: go through your emails and see which ones you can unsubscribe to. Trust me; there will be a lot.
  • Don’t turn on your computer (or don’t launch your Internet browser). Once you get it started, it’s harder to turn it off because of the next shiny thing that grabs your attention. So don’t even get that ball rolling.
  • Avoid reading news articles or looking at the news. It’s hard when it seems like every place you enter has ten TVs all blasting CNN. Bring a book or look out a window.
  • Put your phone on silent and put it in a drawer. If you don’t see it or hear it making noise, you might forget that it exists.
  • Talk to real-life people. This is the single most effective way to get out of the online world and out of your own head.

Honestly, the most important thing would probably be to remember that not everything you read or see online is true. Sometimes just knowing is enough to take the edge off anxiety.

Characters as Friends

Way back in November 2015 (yes, this post has been sitting in my drafts folder that long), I posted something in the NaNoWriMo forums about how you can get so close to your characters that it’s almost like having fictional friends.

I know it sounds lame/nerdy/dorky or whatever, but my characters are my friends. Not in the sense that you can talk to them and they talk back, but in the sense that they are parts of you and can help you see different aspects of yourself. Real flesh-and-blood friends help you do this, too, and hopefully the relationship is mutualistic enough that you do this for each other.

Friendship is also about comfort and being able to be your true self around others. You can be yourself around your characters, and you feel comfortable enough hanging out with them even when they sometimes don’t want to go along with your nefarious fictional plots.

Do you see your characters as friends?

What Is Greatness?

Weirdly enough, when I think of greatness, I think of Tony the Tiger going, “They’re grrrrreat!” when referring to Frosted Flakes. The world (or at least our American society) seems to think of greatness in this way, too. Something that stands out from the rest, something to encourage others to consume, something that’s well known, well worth the money, well worth the time invested, and so on. You’re great if you are successful, if you manage to overcome odds and climb to the top of the pile.

Can you be great on the bottom of the pile? Can one of the “least of these” be great? I think so.

Greatness can be loud and shared with others (the world’s way), and greatness can be more unassuming and self-contained (God’s way). To me, to be great is to influence others with your actions more than with your words, because people will discount what you say when you start to do something that contradicts it. To be great is to be humble, to do the right thing without expecting a reward or praise, to live an ordinary life with no grandiose plans, to let others have the spotlight.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less. —C.S. Lewis