Whenever people find out that I’m a person who shares some parts of my life on the internet, I’m generally met with questions about the negative impact of being online, and sometimes told that it corrodes society, eats away at mental health, seeps into the boundaries of a day and makes life generally less good.
More often than not, there is a heft of supposition there – that as a blogger, I must automatically have no boundaries (I have many), that as a journalist I might not value my privacy or that of others (I do, immensely), or that given my experience in both arenas, I might somehow have some ideas as to how social media and the online world might be made a safer place.
I’m afraid I don’t have those answers, but I do know that the internet is a mirror of society and as such of course has some shady corners. Just as there may be slightly dodgy streets in any area or places you know not to walk alone, there is the seedy, the unsavoury, and the downright cruel online, too. But take a look around, and you’ll find that there is also positivity and kindness and society to be found, which is the part I champion and hope to cultivate through my work.
Creating an online community is also the aim of Vent, a platform which offers a space for anyone (though especially young men) to, well, Vent. Started by Freddie Cocker (who writes about his experience of mental illness here), Vent shares stories, arranges get togethers and events, and encourages a conversation about mental health and illness without judgement or stigma, so I was more than happy to share some of my experiences with Freddie for his Just Checking In series.