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Avoiding Online Toxic Habits

5 minutes read

- Written by Yubo Team

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We spend a lot of time online, whether it is scrolling, watching, reading, commenting, or creating, we experience a lot of interactions. We both witness interactions between others and often engage in an online interaction ourselves. While most of the time being online is a pleasant experience, it is still possible to have a negative encounter every now and then.

In fact, some online interactions and habits can actually be toxic in nature and can range from minor annoyances to genuinely stressful or harmful situations. Gen Z grew up with large amounts of exposure to the fast-changing and continually new internet landscape. Further, social media became synonymous with Gen Z when speaking about the internet – emphasizing the importance of this topic.

What are the damages of toxic online behaviors?

We’re just going to dive right into this difficult topic, so here we go. Toxic online behaviors and habits range greatly in severity and how they affect each individual. The most common negative effects of these behaviors are:

  1. Increased anxiety and depression. The internet is often a place where people speak without thinking. They speak a little too freely and often do not connect the username they are speaking harshly towards to the human behind it. The internet is a big place, loaded with information and opinions that can come at you from every angle. It can be overwhelming and often conflicting with your own personal beliefs. A combination of these realities can lead individuals to have feelings of shame, embarrassment, low self-esteem, anger, sadness, pessimism, and more. These negative experiences and feelings can lead to increased levels of anxiety and depression, which may have a long-term impact on one’s mental wellbeing.
  2. Social isolation. Despite social media being a fantastic place to connect with others and socialize with people of similar interests,  online toxic behaviors from others or even your own habits (which we will discuss later) can increase the feeling of isolation. Sometimes you might wonder, “am I the only one out there?” and while the answer is absolutely, “no,” it might not feel like that. Again, due to the vastness of social media, individuals might find themselves in virtual places that conflict with their beliefs or identity, leading them to feel ostracized.
  3. Negative body image. Social media has the tendency to promote unrealistic beauty standards across the board. Filters and photoshopping apps have also made this issue much more apparent, and images people post are curated to highlight their best looks. Seeing others constantly looking great can negatively affect our image of ourselves.
  4. Addiction to social media. Many platforms build their apps around keeping users engaged, typically through making the app experience extremely fun and rewarding. Interacting with these apps can get our brain to release positive chemicals, known as endorphins, that make us want to keep coming back for more. Spending excessive amounts of time online can lead to addiction, which can have a serious negative impact on your quality of life.
  5. Trauma. Worst case scenario, online experiences can be traumatic. While this is less common, it is just as real. Events like cyberbullying, doxxing, threats, and all hateful acts can cause lasting emotional and mental harm.

What do toxic online habits look like?

There are obvious behaviors like cyberbullying, doxxing, trolling, grooming, harassment, and stalking, which are never, ever okay. If you do notice any of these behaviors, please report them through the appropriate app features and even to your local law enforcement if needed. It is everyone's responsibility to keep the internet a safe place.

Here are some less-obvious toxic habits that you might encounter online:

  1. Gaslighting. This is the act of lying to someone in order to convince them of a false truth. They begin to question their own sanity and perception of reality. While this might sound fun to do to your friends, it is a toxic behavior that can have serious implications. There is such a high volume of information and voices on the internet that it can be hard to decipher the truth. By promoting a false truth, you are also helping spread misinformation. You can combat gaslighting and misinformation by doing your own research and sometimes unplugging from the slew of other opinions to decide on your own.
  2. Cancel culture. Cancel culture is a relatively new movement that has been commonly used on celebrities and corporations. Cancel culture is when people publicly shame or boycott an individual or brand for their actions or opinions. While you don’t need to agree and be passive about everything, cancel culture can be intense and leaves no room for learning or improvement through conversation.
  3. Doom scrolling. A common habit social media users have is doom scrolling. The world is full of issues and, thanks to the internet, we can see all the issues at the same time all in one place. This can obviously lead to feelings of dread or “doom,” as the name suggests. It is easy to think the world is ending when every news article or post is about something horrible. Of course, acknowledging the harsh realities of the world is necessary to improve it, but if you only look at negative information, it can give you a pessimistic outlook on the world and heighten your anxiety. Remember, behind every storm sits a calm, blue sky.
  4. Comparison. Finally, the most common toxic behavior we are all guilty of: comparing ourselves to others. It is natural to compare ourselves to others. However, it is never fair and often leaves us feeling bad about ourselves. Once you add the layer of social media, a place where people post highlights of their life, it can make your life feel inferior. When you look through someone's social media, you might get the impression that their life is perfect and awesome, which can lead to feelings of jealousy or a tainted perspective of your own life. 

If it's one thing we hope you take away from this blog, it's that you are now more aware of some of the toxic behaviors or risks of spending too much time online. We hope this will help you to be more mindful of how these aspects of your online experience might affect yourself and others. As always, if you are dealing with any of these, we recommend you speak to someone you trust – whether that is a parent or other family member, teacher, counselor, or friend. At Yubo, we’re also here for you too

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