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Internet Friends Day: Finding your authentic self online

For Internet Friends Day (13th Feb 2023), Digital Content Officer Sam shared how social media benefitted their mental health.

The negative effects of social media on our mental health and wellbeing are well documented, but on Internet Friends Day, I wanted to talk about how social media saved my life.

I’ve referred to this before on the Let’s Talk Mate podcast, Solent Minds mental health chat, episode 13 – Is social media good for your mental health?

As a teenager, while I had school friends, I never really felt I could fit in as myself. I created a version of me which had friends, but I never thought I could really be my authentic self.

Whether that be as I started developing mental health problems, and anxiety became to dominate my brain, but also as I started to come to terms with my sexuality.

In my everyday life, no one spoke about mental health, so I felt I was just broken. In my everyday life, no one spoke about bisexuality being a valid option, so I felt I was alone.

It wasn’t until I found a community on Twitter that would then mould me to not only find my most authentic self, but also loads of friends who loved me for who I really was. This is where I first heard people speak openly about both mental health and various LGBTQIA+ identities.

I would speak to people across the UK, or in America, or Australia, or anywhere else in the world; People who had so many shared experiences, interests and feelings as I did. People who I struggled to find where I grew up.

Many of these friends I am still friends with to this day, I’ve travelled to meet a few, and plan to travel and meet a whole lot more. From the ages of 13 to around 19, pretty much all the closest people in my life were people I had met online.

As I grew into my 20s, it was the confidence in the authentic self I had built online which then allowed me to meet more likeminded people in real life.

For people with anxiety, developing friendships online can feel a lot easier than in person at times. I definitely found that for finding people to talk to as a whole, and on the days where you don’t want to leave your room, you can still have friends at your fingertips.

While dangers absolutely come with being online, when you are meeting people, please take necessary precautions. As well as this, I also fell into a trap of relying too much on happiness I found online, but I have now found a great balance between the two.

Here are a few tips I can give you for developing friendships online:

If you want an online community for people with lived experience of mental health issues, try Mind’s Side by Side.

Or, people who get support through Solent Mind can join Togetherall for free, who have groups you can join based on lived experiences, interests, and identities.

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