I’m a big believer that social media brings people together; it can connect us in so many incredible ways, it’s a tool for change and helping people to feel seen and heard - but it can also sometimes prove to be a challenge...
Spending more time at home during lockdown has meant more young people are now averaging up to five hours online a day - with social media making up a large portion of that time. As a creator on TikTok and Instagram, I’m online a lot! It’s so important for me to balance my screen time and find ways to ensure my experience online stays positive.
Having gained 16 million followers over the last 18 months, here are some of the lessons I’ve learnt from growing up online.
Spread positivity wherever you go.
When I was 10, I loved experimenting with my mum’s chunky DSLR camera. I'd film videos of myself (back in the days before “selfie mode”) to make my family laugh ... even if the content was shocking and they were just pretending to enjoy it! I also studied performing arts and media, learning about working in front of and behind the camera- and that's what brought me to where I am today. I call myself a ‘professional weirdo’ by title and trade. I’m still driven and love to create videos for social media for the same reasons I always was: to help put some positivity into the world and make people smile, laugh or simply have something funny to share with their friends.
Believe in yourself.
To be totally honest, I wasn’t always that confident! Social media gave me a new way of connecting with people. I’ve suffered from really bad anxiety for many years and there were times I could barely leave my room, let alone the house. I like to be the goofy one, so I would make short videos to share with my group of friends and they suggested I upload them to a video app called Vine. The first one was only seen by a few of my mates, but the second one quickly racked up over 100,000 views in a couple of hours; I had gone “viral” and my phone was going wild with notifications!
Don’t try to please everyone.
As my following grew, so did the odd negative comment. These ranged from people criticising my videos, to personal attacks on how I looked, what I was wearing, how I spoke or what I ate that day. Luckily, I realised that we’re all different and that’s what makes us all so special! I encourage everyone not to feel upset by reading unkind comments about themselves - you will never be able to please everyone and you are perfect to the people that matter - your friends, family and loved ones! That’s what I keep in my mind.
Every now and again, those negative comments pop back up and I question whether I want to keep posting videos, but you can’t let the negative voices win.
We’re not able to control everything that’s said to us online, but there are things within your power that can help you feel positive and better able to cope with them. My dad always told me “to be grateful for one thing every day”, so I started using that mantra each morning and let the positivity build from there.
I was kinder to myself; focusing on the thousands of positive comments and connections I’ve made online and using Instagram tools like blocking and comment filters to weed out those negative comments when they popped up.
I also began to work with charities like Cybersmile, to help young people dealing with similar issues to me around bullying online. While anti-bullying tools on sites like Instagram are a great first step, sometimes time away from your phone and talking to someone you trust is the best thing you can do for your own wellbeing.
For me, by speaking to my family and friends when I’d read something upsetting, I never felt like I was dealing with it on my own. It's so important to have a good support network around you, and to share your problems with others to get a fresh perspective. However, I know for lots of young people that’s not an option, which is why helplines like Cybersmile’s are such a vital support system.
If I’m happy with what I’ve created, and it has brought joy to someone else and made them smile, then I’ve achieved what I set out to do- and that is certainly something to be grateful for.
Holly H is working with charity Cybersmile and Instagram on their Bullying or Banter? No Offence campaign, to get people talking about when banter goes too far and setting personal boundaries online. To learn more about how to set your own rules of communication online, visit: https://www.cybersmile.org/news/cybersmile-and-instagram-announce-banter-or-bullying-no-offence-report-and-campaign-focused-on-offence-and-personal-boundaries
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