Social media, is a boon and a curse at the same time. While it may have its cons like cyberstalking, bullying, trolling and even catfishing, it has helped me come out of the bubble of anxiety and loneliness. In all, it has connected me with people who I would have never met in real life because of my weak inter-personal skills.
Moreover, as someone who suffers from anxiety, it has helped me interact with people without feeling judged. So this is the story of how I met my closest friends online and overcame my mental health issues.
From a very young age, I have felt misunderstood and always had problems gelling well with people. The drawbacks of it were social isolation and being bullied for not getting along with a lot of people. There was a lot of name-calling and slurs thrown my way.
When Facebook was first introduced, I was unsure whether I should try it out because I always felt excluded. However, I made up my mind to change this, and social media took me by surprise. Over time, my networking skills helped me not only to find new friends, but also get opportunities I otherwise would not have.
During my social networking journey, I have met people online who made me feel comfortable in my skin. I have shared some of my worst fears and problems with them, without feeling insecure. I also met many of them in real life, which proved to be an enlightening experience in itself. While some were better in reality, others had misrepresented themselves online.
From a very young age, I have felt misunderstood and always had problems gelling well with people. The drawbacks of it were social isolation, and extreme forms of bullying because of not getting along with a lot of people.
However, these experiences have only helped me become a good judge of character. There have also been times when I have talked at length with my friends about things we never shared with anybody else, but at the same time never felt the need to meet. It has helped me connect with people at deeper levels. I no longer feel the need to change myself for anyone.
My most recent experience
There was this girl I met on Instagram a few months back, and we talk about the strangest of things. However, I feel it is weird that we have not met. But I do not expect her to meet me in reality because the kind of bond I share with her is good enough. My parents have often asked me why I spend so much time on social media. Well, the answer is pretty clear. Social media is replete with people who have a story to tell, and through these unfiltered stories, I can gauge a person better. I guess it is easier for us to share things online because we feel that there is no pressure of being judged, something which often accompanies a friendship when you know someone in-person.
I have overcome my introvert nature with time, and this has helped me in real life as well. I have become more confident and outgoing, and do not care much about what people think about me. My offline persona is now much like my online persona; I have become assertive and do not face any social isolation today.
These online friends that I have made have become an integral part of how I have built myself up from a girl who was constantly bullied in school, to someone open and vocal about her opinions. It is but evident that these friends have become a part of my real life as well and have encouraged me to be myself. We can vent to each other about our lives and how stressed we are, but at the same time enjoy each other's company.
My offline persona is now much like my online persona; I have become assertive and do not face any social isolation today.
The ability to make friends online has helped me be better at sustaining relationships and as a result, I have befriended a lot of people offline as well. This transformation in me has given me the power to overcome any hurdle placed in my path. I no longer care what others think about me or say behind my back, because I am confident in who I am as a person. I have a loving group of friends, who reciprocate my interests, and do not need external validation from a bunch of people who do not know who I am.
People are quick to judge you by your looks without getting to know you better. But online, the more you chat with a person, the better you connect. There are no assumptions and judgments before you begin interacting. There is no liability to make it work. It just happens with time, with no conditions attached. However, one should be really careful before opening up to complete strangers. Since social media is also a breeding ground for abusive and toxic people just like in real life, one needs to be cautious and patient while cultivating new friendships.
The best advice I can give to people who are suffering from anxiety is to be yourself. You'll find people who understand that and empathise with you, but that takes time. Also, beware of fake accounts. It is easy to spot them by searching them on other platforms and checking their bio and timeline thoroughly for any warning signs. If that is the case, make sure to not share your personal details. Virtual reality is a weird and fun place to be, as long as you take your safety very seriously.
Saumya Rastogi is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author's own.