News stories at the moment aren’t the most uplifting. Climate change, political uncertainty, and the rise of suicide can leave even the most optimistic people feeling low if they consume too much news, especially if we are stuck in a rut with what we ourselves can actually do about it.
Last week was World Mental Health day, which serves as a useful reminder for all of us to reflect on what we can do to help our own and others’ well-being. Many people believe the Internet and social media to be significant contributing factor to the rise in reported mental health challenges.
Reflecting on this, I started thinking about the intense volume of negativity there is flying around on the internet these days. It’s so easy to share our opinion; to criticise or shame others, all while hiding behind the comfort of our own computer screen.
Even though I am prone to worrying and over-thinking myself, I am a committed aspiring optimist; and I pondered what I could do as an antidote to this negativity. I thought about a message I had recently sent online to a writer, commenting on how I loved the tone of voice and writing style of their new blog. Could sending people positive ‘anti-trolling’ messages be a small thing I could continue to do to try and counter-act the trend for cruel words online?
I recognise that sending people positive or encouraging messages is not groundbreaking, and it’s certainly not solving the original problem of online bullying and trolling – but if my messages of genuine gratitude or praise could have a small positive impact on someone’s well-being or self-confidence, that’s a difference I’d like to make.
Since coining the somewhat clunky term of anti-trolling I have gone on to message:
- A previous line manager of mine, saying what a positive and long-lasting impact they had on my career
- An author to thank her for being so open and generous by sharing her mental health challenges publicly
- The founder of the amateur dramatic group I went to as a child saying how being part of the group many years ago raised my confidence
None of this is going to change the world overnight and bring about world peace. I also recognise there is a slightly selfish motive for sending these messages – as doing so actually boosted my own mood and left me feeling much more positive for the rest of the day.
But in a world where everyone can be a critic, and personal attacks on individuals are commonplace, it felt empowering to take 5 minutes out of my day to do something small and easy to try and put a bit more positive energy back into the world.
If you want to give anti-trolling a go, here are some tips to get you started:
- Be genuine: Nobody likes a suck up, so only message people who have had some kind of positive impact or influence on you. This can be a big influence, for example a teacher you had a school, or a small impact, for example an Instagram post that cheered you up when you were having a bad day.
- Be specific: You’re sending this message as a personal gift, not to give an over-the-top ego rub. Rather than stating you love everything about the person and what they do, highlight either something specific they did, or the specific impact if had on you. Do they provide you with confidence and motivation that has helped you to achieve your own career goals? Do their words inspire you to try new things or push your comfort zone?
- Don’t expect a response: Give this gift of positivity unconditionally, without the expectation of receiving anything back. You may get a response, which could be an added bonus, but don’t expect this. This is especially true if the person you message is in the public eye – they may have a policy of not responding to individual messages to avoid getting into online conflicts or accidentally encouraging a superfan to become a stalker! Trust that your message will be received and appreciated, and that that is enough for you.
Want more support for your mental health and well-being?
Take a look at this guide to support and services on Mind’s website.