The internet is a dangerously seductive place.
I was born into the first true generation of kids raised on technology. I received my first DS in primary school, I was reading books on a kindle before I was ten and had been exposed to the benefits of technology in school since I started at four years old.
Electronics have been with me every step of the way as I grew from a child into my adolescence.
At ten I saved up all I had and I bought my first I-pod touch, generation 4. I had been watching the other kids play games on their own devices for the past year or so and I was desperate to have my own, to fit in with their world that I believed I was missing out on.
On my very first I-pod touch I downloaded Facebook, Kik, created an Ask.fm and started paving out my new virtual footprint. As the years went on these sites became an integral part of my life. This was how people my age connected. There was virtual event invitations for birthday parties, group chats for group assignments or catch-ups, your birthday - primarily remembered because Facebook sent reminders to all your friends and snapchat - for everything else.
I was so entwined in technology from such a young age that the profile that would be out there of me based on my interactions with the internet would be expansive. Every email sent from the early days of MSN to my "boyfriend" in NZ is catalogued and stored and that scares me a little. I'm not embarrassed to say I have done too many dumb things on the internet to count and the thought that there is a record of all of that somewhere is terrifying!
But as a whole, the internet is not nearly as bad as social media.
Social media was at the root cause of my depression as an early teen and continues to be a battle that I face when I check my socials every morning to catch-up on the world. And I'm going to tell you why. Well, at the very least I'm going to tell you my experience, run through some startling facts about the negative impact social media has on pre-teens and teens and offer some healthy solutions that I wish I had implemented when I was young. The opinions shared here are wholly my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my peers, but they may well resonate with others.
My first real experience with social media was through Facebook. Before I was 13 - the legal age to create a Facebook account - I had a Facebook page. Like most kids I knew I had lied about my age and created an account so that I could be a part of the online world of my peers. But my first experience was not pleasant.
A bit of a nobody in primary school I wasn't particularly liked. My early years definitely shaped some of that dislike but towards the end of my time in primary school I started to get viciously bullied. The type of "no-one wants to be your friend" bullying that shaped how I viewed myself through others eyes.
This initially was just at school. Once I created my Facebook page however, this bullying started to come home with me. A girl I knew from school started sending me messages through Facebook telling me that everyone hated me, that I should kill myself and that I had no friends. In hindsight, comments like this reflect more on the person that said them but at the time this floored me. It was like usual bullying and teasing but worse. I couldn't get away from it at home and it ate away at me.
This spread to MSN and Kik and soon I was being bombarded from all angles with hateful messages.
In 2013, while living in Darwin this hate extended to being public on my Instagram. A girl I went to school with starting leaving similar messages of hate, calling me fat, ugly, having no friends etc. under all of my Instagram photos. It was devastating.
I wasn't alone in this regard. The Cyberbullying Research Centre reported that 34% of students in their study reported they had been cyberbullied in their lifetime. 64% of those students reported that it had affected their ability to learn and feel safe at school.
That is an extraordinarily large number and it reveals dangerous trends that are emerging in our younger generations.
Cyberbullying leads to feelings of depression, anxiety, exclusion and self-hatred. At a time in young people's lives where they are at peak hormone levels, their insecurities are raging and their resilience to this sort of behavior is at its weakest they are experience detrimental treatment.
My experience of cyberbullying wasn't unique but its affect on me personally shaped a lot of my views on myself and those around me for the remainder of my time at school.
It led to complicated cycles of self-hatred and depression followed by anger in levels I couldn't control. I had a fierce mistrust in those who wanted to befriend me and even less of trust in compliments - especially those shared through social media platforms.
Unchecked - these feelings I had about myself developed into a deep depression. At thirteen I was in so much pain I considered ending my life, and attempted to do so. The social media accounts I had continued to feed my dislike of myself by showing me pictures of people who were "better" than I could be.
I was significantly affected by social media.
In my darkest state I sought out platforms such as Instagram to speak with strangers who felt the same way I did and together we continued to feed each other's dangerous tendencies and continue to dwell in our depressed states.
If my mother or my best friend hadn't noticed the cuts I was making on myself I'm not sure I would have made it to today to be able to talk about this.
It took outside intervention to see the mistakes I was making.
I took my first social media detox at this point.
Over the past 5-6 years I have continually battled with my depression. There are periods of self-hatred that I go through regularly. At these times I know to delete my social media apps and avoiding fueling these emotions by comparing myself with others online, being influencers as well as people I know who are "skinnier", "prettier" or "hotter" than I believe I am.
I've learnt about my tendencies over the years and I know that I tend to seek these things out in order to hurt myself.
Because its so easy to do. Everyday when we check out social media accounts we see hundreds of beautifully edited phots, six pack abs, yoga retreats, perfect teeth and bodies and we compare ourselves to see how we stack up.
We post our own edited perfect pictures in the hopes of others noticing and commenting, liking and stalking our pages to tell us how great we are and validate our existence.
But at the same time, although I know that social media is unhealthy for me and my self-worth I struggle to pull myself away from it.
Because the sad part is a lot of my friends wouldn't remember my birthday if it wasn't for Facebook.
Barely anyone would see my blog if I didn't promote it online.
I'd have to answer all the intrusive "you don't have snapchat?" questions.
And I would feel like I was missing out on my friends and families lives because without social media I would never find out about it.
So, I've made it about balance. I keep the accounts, occasionally I post on them but mostly I delete the apps for stretches of time until I feel its ok for me to look.
I make it through my giving myself the most minimal dose I can.
I think the mental health benefits of avoiding it almost outweigh the problems it brings me when I do look every day. But I won't be able to avoid it forever. It's a perk of my generation. I was raised on the "like" button. I was raised on swiping and double tapping and it's always going to be a part of my childhood.
But I won't let it define my adulthood.
Till next time,