How talking on the internet helped me overcome social anxiety disorder

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Did you know that February 2nd is Time to Talk Day? It’s a great opportunity to start conversations about mental health all over the UK, from schools to homes to workplaces.

About Time to Talk Day

Sadly, many people who suffer from mental illness feel ashamed to talk about how they feel and this just simply shouldn’t be the case. It only takes one small step to ask for help, and just a quick chat with someone who understands can have a huge impact.

time to talk

If you know someone who might be suffering, or if you have a mental health issue yourself; I urge you to use today as a chance to open up about the real issues surrounding mental illness and help end the stigma surrounding the subject. With that in mind, I wanted to share my own personal story today.

Many of you already know my history with depression and anxiety, but what you may not know is how social media has helped me overcome social anxiety in the past few months. Don’t get me wrong; it took me years of therapy and medication to get to this place, but every piece of social interaction online added up to help me along the way too.

Snapchat

If you follow me on Snapchat then you’ll know what I’m about to say. I LOVE TO TALK. Not to other human beings of course – that would be way too much interaction – but to myself on my mobile phone.

When I moved away from Glasgow I realised Snapchat stories was a great way to keep my friends updated with what I was up to everyday, as we now live hundreds of miles apart.

Whilst everyone else is pouting whilst using the puppy dog filter (OK, I do my fair share of that too) I’m giving my viewers the low-down on my mental state as it changes. Sometimes I’m laughing about haggis in an American drawl and other times I’m just talking about my low self-esteem.

It’s a great form of talking therapy, and lots of people have told me they find it helpful to see that other people are going through mental health issues too. It’s made me more open to talking about these subjects in social settings and basically owning my mental health problems instead of pretending they don’t exist.

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Twitter

Tweeting was not something that came naturally to me. I’m not quick-witted enough to construct jokes that fit into the strict character limitations and my spelling has let me down on more than one occasion.

In 2016 I started using it to promote my blog, and before long had been sucked into various communities (mental health, blogging and Birmingham) and was having conversations with total strangers on a daily basis.

I’ve used it to find new friends, decent WordPress training and a local social media seminar that I would otherwise never have known about. It’s made me go out and make real-life connections with people I’m met online, and without that initial meeting online I honestly don’t think it would have been possible.

I’ve also created my own chat on Twitter where we talk all about body positivity. Plucking up the courage to do all of these things has been a total revelation for me after several years of avoiding social outings and talking to new people.

Instagram

I spent a lot of time taking photos of my food before I realised it’s not really the best use of my Instagram account. I have a history of disordered eating and was obsessed with food for about two years whilst I ate a very restricted diet to lose weight.

I still love food and taking pretty pictures of my salads (I’m a blogger, it’s basically compulsory) but I’ve loved using my Instagram as a way to showcase random thoughts and emotions that happen throughout my day. I’ve tried to spread positivity through my account and that’s had a knock on affect on my mood, meaning I’m generally a little happier thanks to the interactions I make online.

I’ve conquered my fear of talking to camera thanks to Instagram stories and I even did a live stream a few weeks ago. This has made me more confident about talking about mental health in public and I genuinely think I could talk to anyone about it now!

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Blogging

The most powerful tool in my quest to shake the shackles of social anxiety has ironically been the thing that I do all on my lonesome. I sit quietly in bed, at my desk or in my local coffee shop and tap away on the keys of my laptop writing for no one but myself.

During this time I feel free to say what I want. I can explain in detail how I feel about the world, how depression has affected me and how painful yet important my journey has been.

I can do all this from the comfort of my own space; without worrying about how I sound to others, stumbling over my words or trying to maintain eye contact whilst I divulge my deepest and darkest thoughts. I can express myself on my own terms and although it may seem like a one-side affair, it’s really not.

I regularly receive comments and private messages from women who understand exactly how I feel. It’s a wonderful, comforting feeling to know that we are all struggling in our own way and that we’re not alone.

The process of exposing myself online has given me the fearlessness to say many of the things I write about on here in real life. I can now introduce myself as a mental health blogger without the fear of ridicule, because I’ve successfully created a community of supportive people online who I know resonate with what I write about.

The chances are that many of the people I meet in real life will also understand so now I can proudly state who I am and what I stand for, and that is a wonderful privilege.

Have you found an unusual way to overcome social anxiety? Head over to Twitter and use Time to Talk Day as a way to share your story with me!

10 awesome ways to improve your social media

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If you follow me on Snapchat you’ll already know about this exciting blog post I’ve been working on! I spent the whole day on Monday at Social Day where I was treated to a wonderful array of speakers who all specialise in social media. As you can imagine there was a lot of Twitter talk, marketing mantras and Facebook philosophies. There was a hell of a lot of information on offer too. There were 12 speakers in total so it was really good value for money and would highly recommend catching an event in your area. But now for the good stuff; I’ve skimmed through my notes and I’m going to share some of the best tips I learned from the day

1. Create video

This was the most prevalent but also the most daunting tip from the day. I love watching girls on You Tube who chat away to the camera whilst doing their make up, but the thought of doing something similar just seems terrifying. What if no one watches? What if I have nothing to say? The indisputable truth is that video is our preferred way to receive information online so if you haven’t considered dabbling then you need to think about it. It’s what people want. Chances are if you have a following on Twitter and Instagram then people are generally interested in what you have to say, so just go for it. The experts recommended Periscope, but I’ve been using Snapchat to begin with as it’s broken into short chunks which seems more

2. Be kind

This might seem like a strange tip if you’re aim is to grow your business and make more money, but being ruthless on social media is a big mistake. One speaker gave a great example about how she went out of her way to help a client, and months later was offered to use her holiday home as a way of saying thank you. Although this was obviously a friendly gesture, you never know when a person online with specific skills might come in handy and save your bacon when it comes to your business.

3. People like recognition

Online it’s really exciting when you start to get new followers and comments online, but be sure to remember to personally thank those who go out of their way to follow you or share your content with others. It’s a quick and easy way to show your appreciation to all of the people who are helping you grow your presence online.

4. Creating helpful content is essential

You can write the funniest blog post about your trip to Blackpool, but if it doesn’t help anyone then it’s probably not going to get noticed. Simply changing a title from “A windy weekend in Blackpool” to “How to entertain young children when the weather is bad in Blackpool” will change your content from OK to totally shareable.

5. Use your own voice

One key piece of knowledge I took away from the day was the importance of speaking in a personal voice on social media. This means being sympathetic to others, using colloquial terms, offering support and using your own personality when you Tweet or create a status update. Even as part of a large company, signing off with your own name creates a more intimate relationship with the customer and gives your brand the human touch.

6. Remember that people buy people

Following on from the last point, you should focus on creating a likeable brand online before you start flooding your followers with links to your website. Get to know them, talk to them, offer tips, share helpful information and then when they need your service, they’ll already trust you and want to connect with you.

7. Create an Ebook

If you really want to win over your followers before you sell them anything, you should be offering them helpful content completely free of charge. Creating an Ebook is actually incredibly simple; the most basic ones are made in Microsoft Word and can be put together in less than a day if you have most of the information collated already. Simply offering a free document that contains valuable information is enough to obtain your potential customer’s email address which is helpful later when you need to target people interested in your product.

8. Use LinkedIn

I’m still working on this one. I’ve never used the website but apparently it’s a great tool especially for building good business to business relationships.

9. Create a call to action

This is actually quite a common tip, especially for bloggers. I always sign off my blogs with a question, inviting readers to share their opinions or experiences on whatever I happen to be talking about. But I’ve never really considered doing the same on other forms of social media. Once you decide what your aim is, it’s pretty simple. For example, my aim is normally to get people to visit my blog so in my Snapchat videos I’ve started giving sneak previews about my topics to get people to check it out, or I’ll ask them to go follow me on Twitter for regular updates.

10. Own a hashtag

I’m not sure exactly how I would go about this myself, but it’s a great idea for local businesses who want to connect with customers or other small businesses. Essentially, you just create your own hashtag and encourage other people on Twitter to use it as away to find information and users. The example Samantha Kelly used was a solicitors firm in Belfast who created the hashtag #BelfastHour. They now host their own Twitter chat every week and bring together a community of potential customers and other businesses in a way that is helpful, friendly and they don’t have to openly “sell” their services, the hashtag has pretty much done that for them.

So there it is; my top 10 tips to get you started on improving your social media. Which ones will you be

Add me on Snapchat for more info!