Healthy Online Relationships

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Although it’s possible to make great friendships online that can help support your mental health, not every person you meet will be someone you get on with.

Consider the potential impact of your words online.
It might feel easy to say whatever you want from behind a screen but try to think about how your words could affect people, as you would want them to do for you.
Misunderstandings can happen easily online because the signs we use during face-to-face conversation, such as tone of voice or body language, aren’t available online. It’s easy for someone to hit ‘send’ before thinking how what they’ve written may come across to you.
Be respectful of other people’s views and opinions, even if you don’t share them. Try to be realistic. Just like in offline life, you are unlikely to receive all the support you need from an online relationship. It’s best to try and be realistic about what support an online relationship can offer.
Think about the impact of supporting someone else. Supporting someone else online can be a good way to improve your self-esteem. However, if this becomes overwhelming and starts to negatively impact your mental health, you might need to take a break.
Think about other people’s intentions. Not everyone online is looking for support, so it’s a good idea to be a little bit cautious at first. You may meet someone who is not ready to seek help, for example, someone who is looking for a sexual relationship when you’re not.
You may even come across someone who is looking to take advantage of vulnerable people, or who becomes abusive. If you start to feel uncomfortable about someone you’ve met online, it is best to stop communicating with them and report any inappropriate behaviour to the site’s moderators.
Take a break. If an online relationship is no longer working for you, for example, you keep arguing or they want more support than you can offer, it might be best to take a break. Social media sites and online communities allow you to unfollow or unfriend people on a temporary or permanent basis, which can be helpful if you are finding being connected to someone difficult online.

 

Here are some reflection questions:

  1. Who do you interact with through technology?
  2. What platforms, services, or websites do you use to interact with people?
  3. How have the Internet and mobile technologies (like tablets or mobile phones) given you opportunities to create or maintain a healthy relationship?
  4. How can you keep in touch with people thanks to mobile devices and computers?
  5. What challenges do the Internet and mobile technologies pose in creating/maintaining healthy relationships?
  6. What kinds of friendship drama have you seen or experienced because of things that were posted online?
  7. Are there trends that you have noticed?
  8. How has technology changed your relationships with your friends?
  9. Has technology made things easier or more difficult? Why?