The Internet and My Mental Health – Mental Health Post #5

Hello again, Friends!

Today I eat a huge piece of humble pie, and I talk about something I am extremely ashamed of. I talk about some great things, too, but I’m mostly embarrassed and disgusted by my actions, and I am almost hoping this doesn’t get any views.

*This is actually May 9th’s post, I’m just running super late! I’d also like to note before I really get into this: I tried to make this post as accurate as possible, however, as I’ve previously stated, I have sponge cake for a brain and I didn’t keep great records at the time, so the order of events may be slightly off. *

The Internet can be a wonderful, or a terrible place.

I’ve personally seen both sides, and both sides have made an impact on my life.

I really got interested in the Internet when I was about ten, I think, when everybody was in the Webkinz craze. My parents bought me a Webkinz chocolate lab and I believe I named it Miley and that was the beginning of my Internet “addiction”. From Webkinz, I found Horseland (a virtual horse game), and from Horseland I discovered Howrse.

Howrse was the first website that allowed me to talk to people that weren’t on my friends list. There were no special codes to put in or anything, I could just open somebody’s page and start talking to them. This presented a problem when I started talking to people on a regular basis because they wanted a name.

My mom and I had discussed Internet safety, and I was terrified of being abducted (as you probably should be!) so I became Maddy and all was well for quite some time. I made some great friends on that website, and I still miss them to this day.

I honestly don’t remember how I ended up on Twitter the first time, but I did. I had long since outgrown the name Maddy (this was a few years after I started on Howrse), and decided it was time for a change. That was when I became *Hannah.

*Names changed from this point forward to protect the identity of the other parties involved.*

Hannah was actually the name of one of my closest friend’s older sister (funnily enough, Hannah is actually my best friend in the world now!) but I didn’t know her well enough to feel like I was stealing from her. Besides, it was just a name.

Nobody paid attention to me on Twitter until I became an Allstar Weekend fan, then I met some of the greatest people I’ve ever met in my life.

Even at this point, I was still afraid of being kidnapped, and I changed a lot of details about myself. I never intended for my name change to spiral into full-on catfishing.

For those of you who don’t know what “catfishing” is, it’s when you become someone else on the Internet, usually with the intent to decieve someone. Catfish use different names and often different pictures, and trick others into believing that they are somebody else.

Hannah was everything I wanted to be. She was older than I was, she was more popular “in real life”, and she was a lot of fun! Everybody seemed to like Hannah, and I loved being her.

I wish I could tell you what posessed me to start the James lie. James was supposedly Hannah’s best friend, and she/I talked about him a lot to my online friends.

One of my online friends, Ariel, asked me to get James to create a Twitter, and I thought, “Okay, sure, he can have a Twitter for a day just to meet my friends and then I’ll make sure ‘he’ doesn’t use it anymore.” But I found myself really liking the James persona, and everybody else LOVED him. They probably liked him more than Hannah, actually. So James stuck around for quite some time.

I can’t even say I felt bad about James at first. He was fun, too, and really, he was still “me”, so I was able to rationalize it somehow.

It was when I started the Greg profile that things started to get messy. Greg started as a way to tell one of my friends I disagreed with them, without them being mad at Hannah or James. Greg was supposedly James’ best friend, and he was definitely loud and controversial. Greg wasn’t afraid to say all of the things Hannah (and I) was afraid to say.

There were more plot holes in my fictional world than I can even recount but within a few weeks, a couple people died, somebody tried to kill themselves several times, somebody had a horrible car crash and almost died, somebody got a tattoo, and somebody broke both of their legs and was in the hospital a lot. There was probably more.

As I became more depressed in real life, Hannah became depressed (James remained constant, he was my “fake happy” profile, basically) and she posted some very, very dark things on her Twitter account to vent, and one of her friends, Michelle, became worried about her, because Michelle also suffered from depression. Other friends were there for me, too, but Michelle was there most, she was the most involved and she listened to most of my whining and crying.

Hannah tended to post things (about hurting herself) that didn’t happen because I was considering them in real life, but it was horrible of me to make my friends worry about me, and then when I finally did come clean it all sounded like I had made some sick joke, and that was never my intention at all. I would never joke about those things because mental illness and suicide and self harm are incredibly serious.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish for a time machine to take me back to the day I created Hannah so I could decide to be Paige instead. I think (I hope) my friends would’ve still loved me if I had the courage to reach out to them as me, and I wouldn’t have hurt so many people (myself included) in the process.

Michelle was my best friend for a long time. We were extremely close, and we used to stay up all night talking to each other about emotional darkness and light, and writing songs together and planning for the future. We kept each other accountable when it came to suicidal thoughts and self harm, and she was the first person I told that I was struggling with disordered eating (note, I do not and never have had an eating disorder, but I did go through a period of time where I was NOT treating myself nicely!) She was also the first person I came clean to about my identity; I was Paige, not Hannah, and I told her that James and Greg were all phony bologna and she stuck by me still. Michelle was the real MVP (To this day, I still think she is!)

We went through a rough patch in our friendship, and that was the thing that ultimately sparked my decision to talk to my parents about everything that had been going on, partially because I couldn’t handle the guilt anymore and partially because I wanted an excuse to run away from the other people I had hurt (Michelle was extremely understanding — granted, she was hurt, but she was great about it — but very few other people were) and they banned me from the Internet for a long, long time. I hated that punishment, but it gave me a lot of time to think about what I had done wrong and I learned a very valuble lesson about lying. I did apologize to everyone, and most of those people forgave me, but it’s been about six years (I think?) and I still feel awful. I will tell you for sure that I’m a lot more careful about what I say now than I ever was prior!

After that long period of time away from the Internet, my current best friend (y’know, the one whose name I stole a few years back?) and I came up with the idea for an Internet support group for people suffering with depression or any kind of emotional hurts, and I got to feel like I was making a difference in people’s lives, and all of the positivity and happy posts and projects that Hannah and I worked on sort of reflected back to me, which was epecially good for me when I was in the thick of my own mental bog; it made me feel like I had a purpose.

However, there came a point when I broke down and was tired and I couldn’t help myself so I was unfit to help others, and to be honest even though that was three years ago, I still haven’t gone back (except for a few posts here and there) but I have every intention of doing so in the (hopefully near) future. I miss helping people, and I miss listening to people’s stories.

I’ve seen a lot of good, and I’ve seen a lot of bad on the Internet, and I can’t conclusively say “it’s great” or “it’s terrible” because like so many things, there are dark and light sides to it.

 

The cons on the Internet as far as I see them:

  • You could easily get carried away in a lie like I did
  • You could get kidnapped or blackmailed or harassed in some other way
  • There’s a LOT of hate on the Internet, because people forget that there are human beings on the other side of the screen
  • Piggy-backing on those last two points, bullying can be so much worse on the Internet. I don’t think it’s possible to log into social media and spend even a few minutes scrolling without seeing someone’s comment, “Go kill yourself”, and that’s horrible
  • If you’re sick, you can google something and convince yourself you have 10,000 diseases and self diagnose and make things worse instead of just going to a doctor and figuring out what’s actually wrong and dealing with it properly
  • There is a lot of damaging and false information on the Internet
  • When you try to over-extend yourself and stay up and talk everyone out of suicide, sometimes you make your own mental state worse

The pros:

  • In certain instances when I was suicidal, I found people around the Internet to talk me off the metaphorical ledge, and when I’ve seen people struggling with suicide, I’ve tried my best to talk to them and let them know that someone cares
  • You can easily google things and find out that you’re not alone in your struggles and that in itself can be so valuable!
  • It’s sometimes easier to talk to people online than it is in person
  • You can meet some incredible people on the Internet that you may never get to meet in your every day life
  • You can see a good portion of the universe in pretty decent quality without every having to leave your bedroom!
  • It’s full of useful information
  • There’s so much creativity on the Internet. Art, music, stories, you name it and it’s probably floating around somewhere
  • Cat videos. Need I say more?

Ultimately I believe that the Internet can be a wonderful place for communication and entertainment and seeing parts of the world you may not see otherwise as long you’re careful, and if you’re not an idiot like I was.

It all depends on how you choose to use it.

 

 

Advertisement

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s