The Kat Life

how I'm choosing to live my best life

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Katherine Moon
Katherine Isabella Moon
Meow, hello there, my name is Katherine, but you can call me Kat; because I basically am a cat. Anyways, I am a 26-year-old, lifestyle blogger, with an INFP-T personality type, from the United States. I love fashion, the color pink, cats, dogs, and spending all my time on my computer. I'm often seen wearing cat ears headbands.
The Kat Life
The Kat Life

how I'm choosing to live my best life

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Best And Worst Ways Social Media Has Impacted My Life

Gold iPhone with pink ribbon
Photo courtesy of Dominika Pecková on Unsplash

Ever since I got my first computer in my room with high-speed internet, I spent a lot of time online, and even more specifically on some sort of social media site; although when I was younger many of them were more targeted at kids and young teens and had stricter rules to protect the safety of children while still allowing them to connect with others who have the same interests and make new friends (we need more sites and app like this now honestly). Either way though, whether I was on Zwinky or on MySpace (yes, that was a thing), watching YouTube videos, or if I was using an IM service like AIM or Yahoo Messenger (okay I really feel old now), I was spending most of my free time outside of school on some sort of social media website. And I still do this now as an adult; just now I use Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, WeHeartIt, Facebook, YouTube, and a few others now instead of MySpace and the online games. 

I'll be honest, I know I spend way to much time on social media and the internet in general. Although I think that may be due to the fact that I was an outcast in school, and didn't leave the house much; as I didn't really have anyone to spend time with in real life. All that being said, I've spent enough time online to see both the bad and the good sides of social media. Seriously though, while older generations, in particular, and the media often portray social media as a bad thing, it's not all bad; and can even be beneficial if used in a positive way. Don't get me wrong though, social media can also be extremely toxic if used in the wrong ways, and it's nearly impossible not to stumble across nasty things from time to time; and they definitely should be talked about, but the positive side of social media shouldn't be forgotten either. So today I'd like to go over the best and the worst ways that social media had affected my life personally.

The Best and Worst Ways Social Media Has Impacted My Life

Before I begin, let me just say that this is based on my own experience on social media; and that your experiences, or someone else's story or experiences may be completely different; like I said, unfortunately, there's a lot of nastiness out there as well. It's also worth mentioning that I actively avoided (and still avoid) online contact with anyone who bullied me in school or in real life. I also choose not to interact with people who have nothing nice to say on the internet, and if they don't back off I typically just block them, to try to keep the negative or toxic interactions to a minimum. As a matter of fact... I'd actually like to include a quick little thing on how I try to avoid negativity and how I handle "trolls" at the end of this post, so stay tuned.

Anyways, let's get on with it...

The positive ways that social media has impacted my life

It has made it much easier for me to find my tribe, and there's a community for just about everything

Best friends
Photo courtesy of Adrianna Calvo on Pexels

As I've said before, I was a bit of an outcast in school, and I didn't have many friends where I live; and because I live in a small town where "everyone knows everyone", it's not easy to make friends, as everyone already seems to have an opinion about you if you're the "different" or "weird" one, even if you've never actually talked to each other. Then along with that, there is also the struggle of finding people that would be genuine friends. It can also be a struggle to just find someone to talk to about specific things you're interested in with if your interests aren't all that common, or aren't common among people in your area. Then as an adult, it's just hard to meet new people in general; as no one wants to just walk up to random strangers and start talking to them like you would as a child, as that is just way too awkward and not to mention uncomfortable (often for both people involved).

Anyways, getting to the point here, social media has made it a lot easier for me to make genuine friends, and to connect with people who have similar interests; even as an introvert, with a bit of social anxiety. Seriously though, the connections that I have with people that I've met through social media are actually deeper than most of the connections I have with people that I know IRL (though you definitely still have to watch out for fakes); even though most of these people don't even live in the same state or even country as I do. Oftentimes my online friends are by far more supportive than people that I know in real life as well, including my own family at times.

Let's also not forget that there is a community for just about everything where you can connect with others with the same interests. Whether it's a fandom, a hobby that you have, or connecting with people with similar goals, values, or ideas, there is a community for everyone and everything; and thanks to the internet it's not too hard to find.

I can connect with the things I enjoy, learn more, and easily discover new interests

Girly work station
Photo courtesy of The Girlloop on Unsplash

Like I said above, there is a community for just about everything, and I absolutely love exploring these communities and getting lost in the things I love; whether that be a fandom I'm apart of, or just connecting with anything that I enjoy. I absolutely love learning more about the things I'm passionate about, whether it's something I didn't know about a show that I watch or someone that I follow and I'm a fan of. And I especially enjoy learning more about my hobbies and how I can become better at them! I've said before that the internet is a great tool when it comes to teaching yourself a new skill, and for whenever you just want to learn a little more or need a little inspiration. You may also discover something completely brand new along the way that you never knew existed, or just didn't think you'd enjoy, that can quickly become one of your biggest passions!

It has helped me to really open up my mind and learn more about the world

Flowery heart
Photo courtesy of Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

When you grow up in a small town, that's surrounded mostly by other small towns and farmland, and a couple of (relatively small) suburban cities, you're rather sheltered; especially when you don't usually travel that far away from your hometown. It's actually extremely rare that I venture more than 45 minutes outside my hometown. That being said, when you live in a small town like mine, you don't generally know that much about the world outside of what you're used to; aside from what they teach you in school (which can sometimes be quite limited). It's also not uncommon for the majority of people in a small town like to think pretty much the same way as others in the community, and not to question it too much, and to even judge you if you do question it or want to challenge it. This may actually be a part of why I was an outcast, now that I think about it, as I have always questioned and openly challenged certain opinions and ideas that were usually just accepted (or not accepted) where I live.

Being on social media, where you see posts from people that live all over the world and come from all different backgrounds, has opened up my eyes to a whole new world outside my small town, in more ways than just one. It has shown me that it's okay to think differently and that it's never a bad thing to be open-minded. Nor is it a bad thing to just dream big, and chase after those dreams, and that you don't have to stay in a small town state of mind. 

I know I'm not alone, no matter what I'm dealing with

Best friends
Photo courtesy of Becca Tapert on Unsplash

When I'm going through a difficult time, or just struggling with something, big or small, or maybe even seemingly silly, it's always nice to know I'm not the only one dealing with it. Although it's pretty much common sense in a world with well over 7 billion people that there's likely someone dealing with something very similar, sometimes a little reassurance that you're not the only one is still nice; as well as having a way to learn how others are handling the situation. Thanks to social media making the world a little bit smaller, it's not too difficult to find stuff that you can relate to in almost any situation; as well as information on how you can handle it or get through it, hopefully in a positive and healthy way.

That being said, social media has done a lot to open up the discussion about mental health and has helped in destigmatizing asking for help if you feel you need it, or even just talking about it. There are even websites out there where you can get therapy online, and even websites where you can just talk about something to get it off your chest for free such as 7 Cups Of Tea (not affiliated or sponsored); just know that free listeners on 7 Cups, or any other free site, are not necessarily trained professionals (and usually aren't), and that not all listeners will be great. On that note, I don't think I even need to remind you that not everyone on the internet, in general, is positive or friendly; so watch out for that, but know there are a lot of good people out there as well.

Back to my main point though, sometimes just having someone or something (even if it's just a meme) that you can relate to can help; even if just a little. 

It's much easier for me to communicate what I'm feeling and express myself

Woman looking at phone
Photo courtesy of Samantha Gades on Unsplash

It's always been hard to express myself verbally, especially when it comes to communicating what I'm feeling, or trying to explain anything important; not because I'm bad with words, but more because I've always been rather shy and introverted, and verbal communication has never been easy for me. For as long as I could remember I have had a difficult time expressing myself verbally and preferred writing, being creative, or expressing myself in some other way. So needless to say, the fact that social media provides us with a place where we can easily express ourselves in many ways has really helped me to find other ways to express myself, and has provided me with an outlet to express thoughts and feelings that I would otherwise suppress.

I really appreciate the fact that we live during a day in age where I can put just about anything into writing through a text or a direct message/private message rather than having to say or explain certain things verbally, and with the help of emojis I actually have an easier time showing emotion through a text than over the phone, or even in person. I've actually been told on multiple occasions that I'm very easy to understand through my texts, but not so much when it comes to anything face to face. 

My options feel way more open

Woman in cherry blossom garden
Photo courtesy of Antonina Bukowska on Unsplash

Coming back to the fact that the internet has helped a lot in encouraging me to have an open mind, social media has shown me that there are are plenty of options out there when it comes to choosing a career, how to go about your career, and how you can live your life in general. You don't necessarily have to take the traditional route if that's not where your passions are, nor do your dreams have to seem sensible to others for you to chase after them and give them 100%.  I have always looked up to self-made YouTubers, bloggers, and influencers who have created the life they wanted using their creativity, and didn't just follow the traditional or sensible and safe path; as they just put their all into something that others may have viewed as being crazy and made something from what they are passionate about. And as someone who has been a dreamer since early childhood, and never stopped being a dreamer (despite being told countless times to "get real"), this is something that I truly admire.

I love that today it is possible to find success in other ways than just working a regular 9-5 job and that you can build your own brand just by doing what you love, and putting hard work into something you're passionate about; even if it's not the easiest thing to do, and often quite the contrary. Still, it's nice to know that you don't necessarily have to settle for one of the "fastest growing careers" (unless that's where your interests and passions are and that's what you want) to live a good life and find success.

Seriously though, for me personally, social media (and the internet in general), has always been more of a positive thing than a negative thing for me; especially given the fact that it has made it easier for me to make friends when I have always had a hard time making friends. It's even helped me to dive deeper into the things I love, and even find new things I never would have thought I'd be interested in before. Then it has just helped to open up my mind more, in general, and has shown me the world beyond my small town, and that I truly do have many options on how I can choose to live my life in a positive way that makes me happy. 

But this isn't to say that social media hasn't had any negative impacts on my life and that I shouldn't acknowledge the ugly side of social media; or the fact that I'm a little bit addicted to it...

The negative ways that social media has impacted my life

There will always be trolls and unkind people

Girl covering face with hand
Photo courtesy of Colin Schmitt on Pexels

For me personally, this one was never a shocker to me, having already been bullied in school; though the rude comments or remarks that I've personally received online are usually laughable compared to what I've heard people say to me in real life. Another thing, it's much easier to just block or mute someone online than it is in real life (just saying), and the typical "internet troll" will get bored quickly if you choose not to respond to them; as most of them are just looking for an argument or some sort of attention. 

I do know that there are some truly nasty people out there though, and I know that for some people it's not just a few rude comments or DMs here and there; and that social media can quickly become a toxic place if you fall into the wrong communities, talk to the wrong people, or use it in the wrong ways. Which is why I'm cautious of what communities I become a part of, and who I talk to within them; and why I have also always stayed from people who weren't so nice to me in school, or in person, online, and would never so much as follow them on Instagram. 

There's even more exposure to the negativity in the world

Photo courtesy of on Pexels

I swear, it feels like it's almost a daily thing for me to open up Twitter or Facebook and be bombarded with some sort of sad news story, or to just see something that really irks me; and if it's not directly on my feed, pretty much right at the top, most (if not all) of the trends are related to it.  When I say this is almost a daily thing, I'm hardly exaggerating; typically the only days I don't see something of that nature are the days that I spend a minimal amount of time on Twitter or Facebook because either I just feel like doing something else that day, or my Wi-Fi was down all day. I'll be honest too, although I know how I feel when I start reading these stories and spending hours reading countless Tweets on the latest tragedy, I sometimes find myself spending hours upon hours doing it; getting more and more upset.

While I definitely think it's important to be informed, and to care about what's going on, and to want to help if possible, I also know that spending that much time dwelling on the negative things in the world is not great for my own mental health. Which is why I have decided to try to acknowledge what is going on, but not click on every negative or angering story I see, and to set limits on how much time I spend on reading tweets and news articles when something comes up in the news if I must read into it. It also doesn't hurt to look for some positive or lighthearted stories, and to read articles on things that just interest you and help you relax; whether it's beauty, fitness, movies and TV shows, sports, cute animals and babies, or whatever else makes you happy.

Comparison with others can easily become the thief of joy

Stressed out
Photo courtesy of Jernej Graj on Unsplash

So, recently I've heard that Instagram is experimenting with hiding the number of likes on people's posts, which I can see both good and bad in. I'll be honest, this doesn't encourage me to use Instagram all that much, when I know I should be using it a little more as a blogger; but for small bloggers like myself, and for people who just use Instagram casually (especially teens), it may not be such a bad thing, as it makes it less of a competition. Personally, I'm okay with the fact that I don't have a lot of likes, followers, or anything of that sort anywhere, because I've literally only been blogging for two months, and I only have three posts on Instagram as of writing this (seriously though, I need to work on that), so of course I'm not going to have the same engagement as someone who has been blogging for years, or has a ton of content out already. I actually like to apply that same concept to other things where I may compare myself to others who have been doing something way longer than I have as well; such as with yoga, pilates, running, drawing, web design, or anything else.

But honestly, for me personally, the comparison doesn't come so much from someone having more likes or followers than I do, having stronger muscles or better endurance, creating artwork or make-up looks that I wish I had the patience to create, or anything of that sort. It's not even so much about comparing how I look versus how someone else looks; although I think every girl struggles at least a little with this at times when scrolling through Instagram. For me, it's more the fact that I have a tendency to compare how someone else's life is in general compared to mine; especially when it comes to the things I've always dreamed of, and I'm not just talking about trips to Europe, designer bags and dresses, luxury cosmetics, or any of that, a lot of the time it's actually the things that money can't buy.

It is important to remember that most people only post highlights of their life, and don't usually post the bad or even the "meh", and you never know what really goes on behind the scenes, or what that person is dealing with that they aren't sharing. Even daily vloggers on YouTube are only sharing a small portion of their day, and aren't showing everything

I'm terrible at actually communicating with people IRL

Woman hiding
Photo courtesy of Daria Shevtsova on Pexels

Although a lot of this likely also comes from social anxiety and being extremely shy and introverted in general, the fact that I spend the vast majority of my free time at home on my computer, and will almost always opt to do nearly everything from home that I can, doesn't really encourage me to improve my social skills. And when I do go out, I almost always wear my headphones and avoid making eye contact with anyone; sometimes I'll even look at my phone and pretend I'm texting just to avoid conversation. Which makes no sense given the fact that I actually want to make more connections with people that don't live over 500 miles away, but I'm really that uncomfortable with face to face conversation most of the time, as it just feels awkward to me. I even have a hard time ordering food (actually, eating out is another challenge for me entirely) or asking for help finding something at the store, even when I'm asked by a retail associate if I need any help finding anything. 

Now again, while this may be the result of my social anxiety and having bad experiences in school with other people, I'm not going to rule out the fact that I spend way more time on social media than actually trying to socialize with people in person as a factor in it. I actually often find myself even saying "they'll understand what I'm saying better if I just text or DM them anyways" or "I don't want to bother them, they look busy"; even if I already know them. This is something I know I need to work on and come up with a plan to work on. Even though it'll definitely have to be baby steps. 

I know I'm a bit too dependent on it

Typing on keyboard
Photo courtesy of Viktor Hanacek on PicJumbo

Like I just said, I'm not exactly good at communicating with people verbally face to face, and I do nearly everything online (even my workout videos are over the internet), so if I didn't have internet access for an extended period of time for whatever reason, I wouldn't even know what to do. Sure, I do have quite a few activities I can do while the Wi-Fi is down, but usually, it's only down for a few hours or a day, unless there's a more serious problem that we need to contact our ISP to get fixed, and they usually do fix it relatively quickly. 

Seriously though, it's pretty crazy just how dependent many of us can be on our computers, tablets, and especially our phones; especially considering the fact that a lot of this stuff is relatively new, very new. I'm only 25 and I remember when you were lucky to even have dial-up internet *cringe* at home, let alone fast Wi-Fi. I also remember when it was cool just to have a cell phone; let alone a smartphone. By the way, does anyone else remember freaking out and frantically trying to close it when they accidentally opened the browser on their flip phone; hoping it wouldn't end up charging your parents on the bill so you don't get grounded? And let's not forget waiting until after 9 PM to make phone calls, and you were limited on how many texts you could send each month (that actually wasn't even that long ago). Ah, so many memories from the 90s, 2000s, and even early 2010s. And now it's hard to imagine going anywhere without your smartphone, and not being able to do literally everything quickly over the internet, or maybe even asking Siri or Alexa to do it for you.

Back to my point though, I know that I spend way too much time on my computer (you don't have to tell me twice), and I should probably try to put down my phone once in a while and just try to spend less time looking at a screen. But again, that would require baby steps for me; although I already have gotten a little better with this. I've gotten into the habit of not using my phone, iPad, or laptop in bed and keeping them out of my immediate reach at night, and recently I've been fully shutting down my laptop at night after I take my bedtime shower, and turning off notifications (or just flipping the screen over so I don't see them light up) on my iPad and on my phone before going to bed so I won't be as tempted to look at them. I also try not to turn on my laptop right away in the morning, and try to give myself at least an hour off my laptop (which is what I use the most), although I allow myself to use my phone and my iPad so I can watch videos, listen to music, read, or browse through Pinterest (still avoiding Twitter, Facebook, email, and anything else potentially stressful); which probably kills the purpose a little bit, but like I said, baby steps. 

Before I wrap up this post I'd like to just add in a little graphic on what I do to manage the negatives that come along with spending time on the internet and stay safer online.

How to manage negativity on social media

I know from experience that social media isn't all bad and isn't as bad as many people from older generations or the media make it out to be, but it's not all puppies, kittens, and roses either. There are some nasty people out there, and you do have to be careful what you put out there, and who you talk to; and I'm going to sound a bit like your parents here, but for real, you have to be even more careful who you choose to meet up with in person and make sure you know who you're going to see is really who they say they are and doesn't have evil intentions, nor should you ever go alone. (Seriously, do people NOT think about this when they're using local apps like Bumble, Tinder, or MeetMe?) But as long as you're careful about the communities you join, what accounts you follow, who you talk to, etc, and you're using it in a positive way while remembering that social media doesn't always show the whole story of someone's life, it can be an amazing thing too.

How often do you use social media, if you use it? Would you say the effect it's had on your life is mostly positive, negative, or maybe a bit of both? And do you have a lot of online friends? How do you protect yourself from the negativity, and toxicity on the internet? I'd love to hear some more ideas on this, as I feel it's important to protect yourself online. I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Thank you for reading, and I hope the rest of your day is wonderful!
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