Social Media can be a toxic place or an emotional life line!
Social media can be a toxic place to hang out - only this week I vowed to take a break from Twitter, finding the cacophony of arguments and outright nastiness was badly affecting my wellbeing. A number of online ‘support groups’ I joined at the beginning of lockdown feature very little support and an awful lot of borderline bullying. Yet despite the negatives, it is also social media that has provided an emotional lifeline for me, and many others, since COVID-19 entered our lives.
At the beginning of lockdown I panicked. The concept of staying at home, being unable to pop to a mate’s for coffee, enjoy our annual camping trip with friends, or have a meal with my parents in their home, seemed impossible to manage. Since separating from my husband a year earlier my friends and family had been my lifeline, helping me to recover and form a new life and I feared the loneliness and boredom of being forced apart. Like many others I reached out through technology in these first days and weeks: group WhatsApp and Messenger chats, sharing jokes and memes, quizzes online and Zoom calls. They were a great comfort and a source of fun and support. Other people clearly felt the same need to connect with others despite being unable to meet physically. I felt that my skills as an Ollie coach were needed now more than ever, and so I decided to set up a small Facebook group for my friends. I put out a post on my main Facebook page asking if others would welcome a "safe and friendly space to seek support and advice for coping with anxiety and to encourage emotional well-being". There was a very positive response and within a couple of days around 25 of us had a little corner of Facebook to gather in. And then I began worrying - what on earth was I going to post every day to keep my new gang interested, engaged and feeling supported? As it happened I needn’t have worried - after a couple of weeks of sharing motivational quotes, Ollie techniques for overcoming anxiety, and tips for sleeping better, the group took on a life of its own.
Although most of the people in the group knew me (a few were friends of friends) most didn’t know each other, but soon people felt comfortable enough to post their own thoughts and ideas. Sometimes it would be sharing their fears and worries about coronavirus, opinions on the latest developments or useful articles on mental health. Sometimes funny memes, poems, photographs of daily walks and new puppies.
Members have asked for advice on birthdays presents to buy when all the shops were closed, how to get a better night’s sleep, or for book recommendations. Friends have shared images of paintings they’ve created, rooms they’ve decorated, their gardens, knitting projects and recipes.
One of the best things we have done is to share a daily list of three things we are grateful for. There have been times when it’s been hard to find anything positive but reading others’ gratitudes - for a beautiful garden to sit in, seeing a bird alight on a windowsill, chatting to a friend online, seeing a rainbow, a grandchild’s achievement - has never failed to raise my spirits. Over the last eight months I can honestly say this little group (50 members now, of whom around half regularly contribute and others simply enjoy reading) has been a daily joy - visiting it is the first and last thing I do every day, and seeing a notification pop up that someone has posted always gives me a lift. One of the most joyful things has been seeing my friends - a mixture of old school pals, work colleagues past and present, fellow Ollie coaches, and ‘mum friends’ - getting to know and like each other, sharing their personal stories, listening to each other with care and empathy, offering thoughtful and sensitive advice, having fun and keeping each others spirits up. This week we had our first group Zoom call - after two hours we were still chatting away and planning our Christmas party! In an online world that can often feel full of angry voices and confusing information, I would highly recommend creating a little oasis of friendship that reminds us that, despite the challenges we face, there is still kindness in the world, and much to be grateful for.
Claire Robertson, Ollie Coach
Claire Robertson is an Ollie Coach and NLP practitioner with a degree in psychology. She runs a private practice in the West Midlands, in the heart of Shropshire, working with children, young people and adults. Claire is also a university lecturer specialising in business, marketing and supporting students, has two children, and enjoys reading, crafts and walking.
To get in contact with Claire, email Claire.email@example.com
To find out more about Ollie and his Super Powers and how to become an Ollie Coach go to email firstname.lastname@example.org