Trish, how do you find positive things online? Or is it all just doomed to be bad (lol)?
Hi there, and thank you so much for your fantastic and extremely relevant question. Given all of the hate we see online/the general negativity we’ve come to associate with the digital world, lots of people – including technologists, policymakers, and other very important people – are asking: how can we find the positive side of the Internet? Does it even exist? I mention that background first and foremost to validate your question: I can assure you, you’re not the only one wondering whether the digital world is all bad and nothing else. I also mention that background just to demonstrate that this is such a relevant, timely question – and to express my gratitude to you for asking it (again, thank you!).
With all of that said, let’s get to the good stuff: what’s the answer to this question? Well, in short, 1) yes, there’s absolutely a positive side to the Internet, and 2) I definitely have tips on how y’all can find it! Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that: the Internet, like many things, has both good and bad stuff. Finding the positive side to the Internet is all about embracing the good and rejecting the bad; it’s all about thinking about and identifying what parts of the digital world make you feel happy, fulfilled, and empowered, and what parts may you feel kinda..meh. This can take some time and work, so it’s not something that can necessarily happen overnight. But the effort will pay dividends in the form of a joy-inducing online experience.
So, how to embrace the good? Well, first and foremost, I encourage y’all to find online communities, influencers, and/or creators that affirm, empower, or inspire you. To do this, you’ll need to first identify what affirms, empowers, or inspires you. Think about when you feel happy online: is it when you get to interact with and hear from really cool people that share the same interests? Or is it when you crack up at an absolutely hilarious TikTok? Once you’ve identified what fills you up – and then some – online, use that as a guide to explore communities and follow the ones that resonate with you. In other words, try to curate your feed on your own, just a little. Help TikTok’s algorithm out! As you do this, I encourage you to be open to new types of content – maybe you’re normally on social media for memes, but then you run across an Insta account that creates graphics about an issue you’re really passionate about: climate change. Give it a follow! It just may inspire you to pursue your own Internet activism.
Which brings me to another tip for embracing the good: creating your own positivity online. I talked a bit about this in my post on Internet Activism, but you can use your skills – whether art or computer programming – to create all sorts of cool, positive content online. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in support of a social change initiative or movement (though if it is, bonus points to you!), and by creating content you love and are proud of, you can build communities, get to know like-minded folks, receive recognition, and celebrate yourself. You can also put your values – spreading kindness, not hate online – at the center of your work. Doing this myself, as the creator of Ask Trish, I can say that it’s extremely rewarding – and so nice to always have a positive, special piece of the Internet to come back to.
What about rejecting the bad? Well, I’ve got one big tip: taking the time to honestly reflect on the ways the Internet can make you feel bad about yourself and lessening the opportunities for you to have those experiences. For instance, I often find that I can feel pretty bad about myself when I’m looking at content that prompts comparison, or content that is clearly edited, filtered, photoshopped, etc….but still creates a standard I can feel pressured to meet. What do I do? Unfollow accounts. Don’t feel bad about it – you need to take space for yourself online, and so long as you’re not mean about it, being more intentional about who you’re following can be a great thing. I also have friends who feel a lot of anxiety and pressure from “like” counts on their social media. For them, the solution is turning those “like” counts off, so that they’re not constantly staring at them. Others turn off comments, or even entirely leave platforms or websites that contribute way more bad than any good. Are these solutions perfect? Nope. Are they a bit of a “band-aid”? Yes. But they can be great ways to mitigate the bad, and focus on the positive side.
I hope this week’s post was a breath of fresh air in what can normally be a lot of discussion about important, but difficult online challenges. With a little effort, the Internet can be a more affirming space for you – and I hope that, with these tips, you do find some positivity online. (Let me know how it goes in the comments of this week’s TikTok video!) Next week, we’ll take on a new topic – and that topic might just be yours! As always, I want to encourage you to share your Internet-related questions or thoughts – whether similar to this post or completely different – here. And remember, anything is on the table, so don’t worry about whether your question is “applicable”: whatever you’re experiencing, this community and I want to support you. I can’t wait to hear from you!
And finally, one last shout-out/request that you all give Ask Trish some love (likes, shares, comments) on social media! With your help, we can grow this amazing group.
I’ll be back again next Tuesday! Until then,