Finding Yourself in the Age of the Internet

by Christy Gualtieri

“Everyone on the Internet…they are not having a great a time as you think they are.”
– Portlandia

Young woman with laptop at home.

When I was a freshman in college, our class was the first in our school’s history to assign each student a laptop computer.  We had to bring (more like drag, it was as wide and thick as a shoebox) it to each class, where our teachers were instructed to assign us tasks on it; and eventually, we were expected to use it to complete and turn in our assignments.  We did that, but we also discovered the first social medias – group chat rooms like ICQ, and message services like AIM.  We agonized over what to write as our perfect “away messages” – messages that would automatically pop up if we weren’t around our computers.  We pored over movie quotes and song lyrics that we thought defined us best, and we set those as our profile quotes.  We needed to identify ourselves using outside resources, and that’s what we presented to our world.

It seems so innocent, doesn’t it? Who wants people to think we’re losers? Or worse, who wants others to see us as out of touch, irrelevant?

It still carries on today – maybe you recognize it in yourself.  The things we share on Facebook – do we think twice about sharing that article we really like, or second-guess the thoughts we enter in that status prompt? Instagram has an option for posting your photos unfiltered – but it’s only one option.  There are myriads of filters that help you tweak your photo to perfection – or what you think your Instagram followers might find acceptable.  Pinterest gives you the option to create “secret” boards – boards that you can keep private so you can pin images and quotes to them that you like, but you think others might find unacceptable.

Living in today’s age of the Internet is such a fascinating thing, the way it must have been fascinating living at the cusp of widespread electricity or when people were stupefied by the first wireless communications.  Society is held captive by these new inventions, but no one’s really sure yet how it impacts us as a whole.

These days, I’ve been thinking more and more about being present in my own life, and I’m finding that being constantly connected to the Internet has become more of a detriment.  It’s neat to catch up with friends, but it’s also strange to know all this information about them without actually talking with them.  But I have friends who love it, who can effortlessly glide from leaving Yelp reviews of their haircut to Instagramming their awesome-looking dinners to updating Facebook with their next weekend’s plans. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s interesting to see how social media impacts our lives.  It’s becoming something that I feel I’m not needing anymore, but it’s so hard to break the habit!

How do you feel about social media? If it stresses you out, you’re not alone.  Let’s try something together: if constantly being online is negatively affecting your life, try to have two set times during the day where you’ll check your sites — maybe a half hour in the morning, and one in the evening.  Try it for a week, and then post in the comments how you feel.  Do you feel better? Worse? More bored? Less bored? Anxious? Afraid you’re missing out? Let’s talk about it, and try to build each other up!

Until next time, be well!

Christy GualtieriChristy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!