Mental Health

How Much of Your Life Happens Online?

How much of your life is spent online, and how does that affect your mental health?

Up until a few years ago, my life was mostly lived “in the real world.” The internet was a useful tool, but it wasn’t so much a means of with others. My human contacts happened mostly in person, and I wasn’t very good about maintaining connections with people I no longer saw in person for whatever reason.

Things started to change four years ago. I had quit my job due to workplace bullying, and ended up having a relapse of my depression. By early 2017, I had cut all but one friend out of my life, and I’d stopped talking talking to my family.

I started blogging in fall 2017, and that was the first time I ever started to have a sense of community online. I had mostly stayed away from social media prior to that, aside from a brief Farmville-focused stint on Facebook a few years prior to that.

As time has gone on, the amount I was able to work gradually tapered off, and it’s now been a year that I haven’t worked at all, so that’s had a huge impact on my life outside of home. I have one in-person friend who I rarely see, but talk to or text daily. I have limited contact with my parents, and see my brother and baby niece occasionally. I used to go to dance classes regularly, but stopped a couple of years ago because I was finding it too hard to tolerate being around people. For the last year, my movement has been really slowed down, which further reduced my ability to get out of the house. Then, of course, there’s been COVID.

Now, the vast majority of my life is spent online. I’ve got the guinea pigs, basic tasks of being an adult, and contact with my brother and friend, but aside from that, I’m on my laptop. It works well for me and the limitations of my illness, but overall, it’s been a major shift in how I live my day-to-day life.

That old life has started to feel really, really distant. I don’t miss it, exactly, because I have no interest in that life now, but it’s a contrast. My life now, which is mostly online, is influenced heavily by what’s workable within the confines of ongoing symptoms of illness.

I wouldn’t have guessed when I started this blog that blogging and other writing and everything that has gone along with that would become such a big part of my life. Five years ago, I would never have guessed that a shift like this would happen.

What does your balance between in-person and online life look like?

72 thoughts on “How Much of Your Life Happens Online?”

  1. Pretty much the same here. I’m content with it much of the time, but it is scary when you think about actually needing someone, like if you have an emergency and need help from someone locally or if like happened with me recently, you have a major life crisis or the person your rely on in your real life lets you down and you have no one else to turn to in your “real” life. That is when it is a bad thing I think.

      1. I believe that I failed my assignment yesterday (through my own fault, not yours, my beautiful friend). Hopefully today’s post has corrected that. Love you, Girl!

  2. I can imagine it must feel like a huge shift for you and it does seem very contrasting.
    For me it’s quite similar as it is for you right now, except in my case there were no major shifts really. I live a huge part of my life online, which is just as much due to my mental illness and general difficulty in interacting with people, as it is because of my blindness which means that some things are much easier for me to do online or at least I can do them more independently this way. I have a very narrow circle of people that I am in regular touch offline, and most of the time it’s limited to my intermediate family. Which I am okay with as it is. Perhaps it would be easier if they could be more understanding/emotionally supportive of my mental health difficulties, but I do appreciate that I am very lucky anyway having so much of their practical support and a very good relationship with them mostly, at least with my Mum and Sofi, it used to be much better with my Dad and is quite slippery now while with my brother it’s kind of neutral. Also I realise that it’s generally quite a common thing for mentally ill people not to be understood really by their families or other people in their surroundings as mental illness is quite a complex thing to grasp for someone who doesn’t have it, so I am grateful for the support I do have from them.
    My extended family generally like to spend time together so family gatherings are a frequent thing, and so I take part in these when I feel obliged and/or able to do so. That’s usually quite emotionally taxing for me but I mostly do it for the sake of my Mum, or sometimes my grandad if it’s something like his birthday that we are gathering for, because I know he actually does care if I am there or not and would feel sad or worried not to see me, and I feel obliged to do that because of all he’s done for me.
    Other than that though, currently all the people I am in touch with are online. Either in the blogosphere, or as penfriends in different stages of friendship, so usually via email, with some we just practice our language skills, with other we exchange some pretty personal stuff, and with others we go into some fairly deep topics that interest us both. Or I also write with people on some mailing lists etc. I do the vast majority of my shopping, banking and what not online. I am an office worker in my Dad’s company and I contact his customers online whenn there’s a need for it. Just anything that I know how to do online and that is doable online, I’d rather do this way, unless there’s some real valid reason to do it otherwise.
    I often say that I feel a bit out of place in this era but when it comes to being able to do almost everything remotely, I absolutely love having such a possibility!

    1. Yes, having the opportunity to do so many things remotely now opens up so many things that wouldn’t have even been possibilities for generations before us.

  3. I’m online a lot. I connect with my daughters by text and phone. Now “real life” friends are only seen via Zoom or social media. It’s funny ~ I miss playing board games in person but I don’t miss hanging out, meals, and general face to face chitchat. I guess I’m lucky? I don’t mind that I was able to spend 2020 finishing my novel and writing a lot of poetry too. I’m not sure if I want to return to many in-person events except family visits…

    1. I’m with you, Paula, on this one. I don’t miss real-life gatherings. I do wish more of them were replicated on Zoom though. A lot of my volunteer engagements fizzled with the pandemic. Some of them tried Zoom and then general disinterest caused them to dissolve.

        1. I’m somewhat surprised, Ashley (since as you say this is rare). But maybe your world is such that Zoom is not requisite, even during the pandemic.

          I would expand my statement to include that I prefer Facebook video chat, Skype, and Google Hangouts video chat to real in-person meetings also.

  4. On Sunday mornings, I get the report from my iPhone of how much time I spent on the phone in the last week. Now, my phone is usually only for texting, some email, calling and a few games, and I spend an average of 3-4 hours per day on my phone. I know that I do far more than that daily on the computer. I would guess in an average 24-hour period, where I’m asleep 6 hours, I’m probably online at least 12 of the other 18 waking hours. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I think it just is with today’s world. If I was only doing work, or only doing video games, I think that’s one thing, but the online world delivers so much these days that if you’re mixing it up, especially over multiple devices, is it that bad? For instance, I just switched to a Roku TV. So now I’m not on satellite TV, but Internet TV. Does that count as being online? What if I”m listening to Spotify through my phone on the car radio and not traditional radio? Maybe that 12 is low-balling it.

  5. I’m online a lot, I won’t deny that. But lately I think I have been moving away from online, or in addition to it. Over the last few years I’ve sloooowly been building in-person friendships at my synagogue. That’s obviously been disrupted by COVID and it will probably take time to get back into it. But I think I’ve been pushing myself out there a bit more. Also now I have an in-person relationship as opposed to my previous one being online.

    1. I think its pretty equal for me, although I am spending more and more time online, recently joined a couple of FB groups and chat to people on there.

      The only time I leave the house is to do the school run at the moment. Interactions with people there are minimal. I see a few family members, I stay in touch with some friends via text, but not seen them in person for a while.

      Most of my friends i have met online.

  6. Oh, you know me! I thrive on online friendships. It adds so much value to my life that wouldn’t be there otherwise. God bless the internet is all I can say. It’s been my saving grace. I also love meeting people in person from online, like I’ve done with Sonya and a handful of other people. I think the internet gives the possibility of connecting with like-minded souls in a way that can’t happen if you’re limited to community involvement. Online, you’ve got the whole entire world population, ya know? If I were to picture my life without the people I’ve met online, I’d feel devastated and bereft. And it’s gotten so that when someone I care about moves away from Louisville, I don’t miss them thanks to the internet! That happened with my friend Ash and my stepsister Celia, who I rarely got together with anyway but still talk to online. The internet is a wonderful place!! Well… except for when it isn’t.

  7. You are so honest and vulnerable here… <3

    I'm online all the time too. It makes me cringe at times but pretty much everything is online now, isn't it, especially because of COVID.

    I like it partly because writing/typing comes easier to me than being in a crowded, noisy environment where I can function for a limited time but then my hearing starts to impact me. I lose track of what conversation is going on and it makes me mentally exhausting. I need to be alone and in a quiet space to 'come down'.

    Covid has expanded my social circles online. TBH I tried, hard, to keep in touch with my IRL friends, but most of them don't want this texting/email thing, even if it means it's easier for me (again, hearing loss). You know, I realized after a time that the one way street is a choice – I certainly don't have to put effort in if everything I tried failed to stay connected. It's someone else's turn.They know how to reach me if they want to.

    Now, the blog and its friendships that have extended beyond are keeping me socially busy but also a bit wistful because the CHOICE to meet IRL has been taken away from me by COVID. It's all very…strange.

    Hang in there. Guinea pigs are a great pet to be entertained by and to look after. And, you can always chat with me. I'm constantly plugged in, even if it's just to listen to music. 🙂

    1. It’s telling when aren’t willing to put in any effort to connect with others in the way that works better for them.

      Choice definitely makes a difference with COVID. It adds a sense of powerlessness that feels weird even when staying at home is a good thing.

      I’ve got a guinea pig sitting with my right now, one of the three that doesn’t feel the need to poop on me by choice. The fourth, every time he comes out of the cage it’s like he’s just popped a laxative.

  8. There was a time when I was a stay at home mom (a decade ago now) that most of my life was online or watching the kids. Now I spend my time either working, watching Netflix with my wife, playing video games with my kids, or online. Granted, the pandemic isn’t helping anyone not spend time online. Family and I used to like to go out and do things occasionally, rather than sit around the house.

    1. That being said, I have some real connections with people I’ve made online. When I was 13, I met some people on support message boards that I still am close friends with 21 years later. I have met most of them in real life and we are all still close.

  9. I have one basic real life person, it’s my best friend. If it wasn’t for doctor appointments I don’t go out.
    I do spend time online, most of it here on WordPress. I read the posts to know what is happening around the world.
    I find it comforting to know that I am not the only one who suffers with mental illness. Maybe, that sounds strange, but, that is how I feel.
    I love communicating with everyone here!

    1. I definitely agree that it’s comforting to be able to connect with others with mental illness. There’s a difference between knowing others are out there somewhere and being able to actually connect with them.

  10. What does your balance between in-person and online life look like?

    It’s heavily skewed to living “an on-line life”, but with one difference from what that term might mean to some people. I do not (almost at all now) participate in a social media site. I was on Facebook for years, but during the past year have found it increasingly difficult to go there and interact, due to the in-fighting and crass attitudes of some folks who think their opinion is the end of the discussion. And it began to really bother me with the juvenile attitude of most who seem to congregate there. WordPress is my main ‘social’ site these days.

    I was sorry to read that your depression has taken the form (like my own) where it has made easy contact with the outside world very difficult to even impossible. I’m glad you found a community here, and a voice. We might be depressed, but we still ‘need’ the companionship (or so I’m told by the professionals I interact with in my mental health wellness efforts. Take care of YOU. What would the piggies do without you there? What would WE do?

    1. Yes, it’s nice to have the community here to add a human element to our lovely little furry friends.

      Staying away from social media of the Facebook/Twitter ilk really does seem to be crucial in having a positive online experience.

  11. Since I shared on my blog in moving to Manfield for a fresh start, it remains for me for the better.
    I have a bit more of a social circle, but I still need my quiet time, otherwise it will get too much and draining.
    Regardless of this, I would say my life is more online.

  12. I think that the online world is going to become increasing prevalent and I feel the internet has influenced my interests/character to a good degree. I think it is especially beneficial if social interaction is difficult or near impossible, and I believe online relationships can be just as strong as in person ones.

  13. This year, most of my time is swallowed up with work, Jack (not complaining about that), and keeping in touch with friends and family. So my “free-time” is being squeezed out. I am ok with that, but I think some may start noticing my blog posts have not had the same time/attention given to them as I used to be able to.

  14. It’s fluctuated for me. Since the pandemic, even interactions with people in my home community naturally have taken place mostly online. I live in a small, close-knit town, and we’ve all taken to associating with each other on Facebook a lot more. (This of course has its drawbacks).

    Prior to that for about four years most of my contact was face to face in real life with members of my community. But before that my situation in California was such that most meaningful relationships were built on the Internet. Living outdoors in congested areas lent itself to a lot of stigmatization and misconceptions as to my real identity. But I balanced that out by forming Internet-based friendships.

    1. I hadn’t thought of the internet as a way to escape the stigmatization of homelessness, but it makes sense, and is an important reason for public libraries to offer free internet access.

      1. Yes. And of course many people experiencing homelessness own devices such as smartphones and laptops as well. In urban situations, they’re subjected to a high risk of theft, but some people are adept at hanging onto such devices.

        In the urban homeless realm, one’s homelessness is often visible. There’s a barrier between those who live indoors and those who live outdoors which is often clearly “seen.” The two different social groups also interact largely with those of the same group; that is, people who live indoors gravitate toward those who live indoors — largely anyway — and people experiencing homelessness gravitate towards those experiencing the same phenomenon. So a wall is built between the two societies (if you will) and that wall is hard to get around.

        On the Internet, there is no such wall or barrier. So much of the social stigma was diffused, thanks to Internet communications.

  15. It’s complicated. Our face-to-face with people outside our home before Covid was very low. Now, with Covid, it’s almost none. Our rare errand running before Covid is down to none now. The people we live with are here nearly 24/7 due to Covid, so we see them a lot more than before Covid. Net change is seeing other humans more, even though it’s our Spouse and Younger Child.

  16. When I started blogging just recently, I always have this feeling that I needed to share something, especially when it comes to sharing my experiences while working on cargo ship.

  17. I work online and travel solo, so most of my social life and work takes place online. I definitely still work on being present though and do quite a bit of exploring.

  18. I loved reading this. It feels like you’re living my life lol! I too have struggled and is currently struggling with depression. I only started blogging recently and I’m hoping to build more of a community online. It will never replace in person community but you never know what can come of it.

  19. I do my best to try to focus most of my life on being present in the moment rather than spending too much time online. However much like yourself (especially since COVID but even before that), the contact I do have with friends or family members is mostly via WhatsApp group chats, text or phone call & I only see a very limited number of people in person these days. I’m glad you have found a dynamic that works well for. Thanks for sharing!

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