Lately I have been using the internet a lot to search for information on a wide variety of subjects. However, I have come to the conclusion that sometimes searching for information on the internet is a pretty depressing endeavor. It is also something that I have found has affected how I feel about myself, my current situation, and my outlook on life. I have started to come to realize that the internet itself is not always good for a person's well being.
I have always thought that the internet was a great place for information, and I still do. However, the information that the internet is great for is not the kind of information that is clouded with negative opinion. It is the kind of information that is fact based. Sites like Wikipedia, Wikitravel, and the like provide a person with a wealth of information that expands the mind and answers many questions that one may have. However, there are many sites that make a person feel that life is a depressing ordeal, and I have begun to stay away from those sites.
Some of the biggest culprits are news websites. News stories are not just written in a fact-based manner. Instead, there is a great amount of fluff thrown in, along with the reporter's own spin. Much of this fluff is to make a person feel compelled to continue reading (or watching). News media oftentimes makes a person feel worried or tells a person that they need to continue to check back. Yet, I have found that not paying attention to these sites has not hurt me in any way. In fact, not having to worry about the possible doom and gloom of the world has helped me to feel better about myself and my life. The world has yet to end, despite all the negativity that is out there. Many news stories that proclaim that the world is an unsafe place are rarely spot on. In fact, I have been to many parts of the world that were deemed unsafe or chaotic and realized that the media was highly over-exaggerating. Newsmedia exists to make money, and money is made by enticing viewers and readers to continue to view advertisements.
The news media is not the only part of the internet that is depressing however. There are many internet forums full of people who proclaim that everything that one wants to do is a bad idea. Many people state that there is no sense on trying to achieve something because of how others have failed at it. However, very few of these sources explain why others have failed. Many websites proclaim how horrific the economy is, how unemployment is so high, or how the college educated will never find jobs. While these are serious concerns, reading about them and lamenting about them only leads to depression and apathy. Do we really need to subject ourselves to that?
I have often spoken on the subject of (a)social media such as Facebook and Twitter being depressing. I found Twitter especially to be a very depressing site. Yet the media desperately wants everyone on Twitter. In fact, almost every news source vehemently advertises their Twitter feed. Furthermore, many of these media sources have huge sums of money invested in sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. With that in mind, it is apparent that they have a financial interest in getting you to spend time on these sites.
I strongly believe that what we allow to come into our minds greatly influences who we become. I feel that I have become a stronger and more caring individual by not subjecting myself to a barrage of negativity. I have seen people break down and become totally complacent about life due to negativity. Sadly, many of these people are the type that will spend hours a day on sites like Facebook, because the imaginary world that exists on (a)social media is a safe haven from what they deem to be the harsh realities of everyday life. The cycle of depression does not end, because negative feelings continue to emerge when the individual realizes that they spent obscene amounts of time on Facebook and that they are constantly comparing themselves to their friends and family -- people who they feel that they can not live up to.
On the internet we are constantly shown these cultural myths of people who live perfect lives. We see people who are young, wealthy, and live in beautiful places. We see people with lives that we wish we had. Whether it is young adults that live in the East Village in New York and travel all around the world on their parents dime, or a business owner in his 30s who owns real estate all over the world. Yet, these stories rarely state that such lives are largely a myth. While there are many people who live in amazing houses and eat out in fine restaurants, we do not hear that they are also often unhappy or long for something more. This is because many such stories only want to present us with one side of the picture. This is not complete information. Nobody's life is perfect, yet when we spend time on the internet or viewing media that shows such "perfect" lives, we tend to compare ourselves to them. We see ourselves as inadequate. The truth is, you are not inadequate. There is no reason you should ever feel the need to compare yourself to another person, especially a person who exists largely in fantasy. Yet on the internet is it almost impossible to not compare yourself with others.
The internet has become an obsession with people. People are glued to their phones and computers everywhere. Whether it is in the classroom or at the store, people can not get themselves to look away from the internet. I do believe that there is a sociological problem with this, and I think that in the future, people are going to realize that. However, at this point in time it amounts almost to heresy to say that there is a problem with our cell phone addicted culture. People are not just staring at a screen; people are comparing themselves to others constantly; constantly feeding themselves information that is largely based on fantasy. People are continually putting negativity into their minds. We, as a society, have a problem with depression. Perhaps this is one reason why people are so depressed. When a person lives their life on the internet comparing themselves to other people and reading stories about how the world is such a horrible place, depression will follow.
Contrary to popular belief, choosing to not read negative information will not make you less intelligent. There is enough information about the negativity of the world around you at all times. Why subject yourself to more of it? If you are social in any way, you will find out that there are economic problems, that there is unemployment, or that war is going on around the world. Feeding it constantly to yourself or being glued to news media and (a)social networks is not going to make you feel better about your life or protect you. Instead, focus on the positive things that make you feel good about yourself and your life. Focus on your family, religion, the people you love, helping others, being a good role model, and achieving your goals. There is a great amount that a person can accomplish in the time that they spend viewing negative information. Setting yourself free from such a life is truly a way to make yourself feel better about the world around you.
I highly recommend taking some time and going somewhere where you can not use the internet. Somewhere where you are free from the distractions and negativity of the world. There are many places out there that are not too expensive. Consider spending a couple nights camping, whether it is in a tent or in a cabin somewhere, and keep the cell phone off. Consider staying at a bed and breakfast without internet. Plan a vacation to a primitive place. Or, consider unplugging the computers for a day, or turning the cell phone off. It is sometimes hard to unplug from the internet, but it is a truly refreshing experience. Take that time to reflect on who you want to be and what you want to spend your time doing. After a couple of days, see if you feel more refreshed. Don't think of it as a chore, but think of it is a time to meditate and to feel better: A chance to detox. Many people honestly feel that there is no problem with being glued to the internet and the phone twenty four hours a day, but there are some who are starting to wonder if such a life is anywhere near the ideal.