The term ‘Sanctuary’ has its roots in the Latin word ‘sanctuarium,’ denoting a holy or sacred space. Over the centuries, its connotation broadened to signify a haven from harm. In our contemporary digital age, while the need for physical sanctuaries may have diminished, there emerges a pressing need for a different kind of refuge: a Cyber Sanctuary.
In today's dynamic digital realm, we are constantly inundated with a flood of information, distractions, and disruptions. These digital interactions, ranging from scrolling social media to receiving notifications, trigger serotonin releases in our brains, offering brief moments of pleasure and contentment. Such rewards prompt us to continually seek similar digital interactions, creating a reinforcing cycle. As we subconsciously pursue these fleeting moments of digital satisfaction, we find ourselves investing more and more time, tethered to our screens. Over prolonged periods, this unceasing digital immersion can take a toll on our mental well-being, leading to feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, and detachment from the real world.
The Need for Balance
"When we post on social media, we essentially open ourselves up to the world's judgments and opinions. Often, positive feedback fuels our craving for validation. This affirmation drives us to replicate actions that brought us such approval initially. However, it's crucial to remember that public opinion is fickle. Despite our consistency, the tide of feedback can shift," observes psychologist Shweta Manghnani.
However, the internet is not all doom and gloom. Like all things, it has a positive and a negative aspect. Considering its positive side on my podcast, renowned psychiatrist, Dr Pervin Dadachanji says, “During COVID, everyone was at home and there was very little interaction in terms of physical meetings. So social media definitely impacted people in a positive way because it increased your interactions with others. [It also helped you] form communities. If someone wanted a [gas] cylinder somewhere, someone on social media was able to source it for you. I also found it very useful for children, adolescents, and perhaps even adults who had social anxiety. I really found that my children, the kids who I see who have social anxiety, did very well in this lockdown period because their interactions were very much based on the written word or the media. The problem is balance. If you are using gadgets at the expense of hobbies, at the expense of meeting people, [or] at the expense of not doing your studies for children or work as an adult…then, that is a problem.”
Embracing the 'Cyber Sanctuary'
In the midst of this digital ecosystem, the notion of a 'Cyber Sanctuary' takes form—a haven within the virtual chaos, recognizing the dual nature of the internet as both a stressor and a comfort zone. Influencer and content creator Mallarie Jain, known on Instagram as “pinterestwannabee,” attests to this, stating, "There are countless communities online that foster growth. If you navigate social media wisely, it becomes a tool for holistic development. I've built a community resonating with my content, drawing folks who, like me, cherish life's subtleties."
Actively seeking and nurturing these online sanctuaries lets people recalibrate their digital experiences. These spaces, brimming with curated content and meaningful exchanges, offer moments of tranquillity amidst the tumultuous digital sphere. Whether it's through platforms that underscore mindfulness, well-being-focused forums, or apps encouraging introspection and constructive discourse, the quest for equilibrium in the online realm remains crucial.
Unmasking Social Media's Illusions
In the midst of our digital journey, it's crucial to recognise that social media doesn't always reflect reality as faithfully as we might believe. Talking about the subtle pressure social media places on its users, on my podcast, influencer Khushnaz Turner, better known as Kat Diaries, says, “It’s a curated version of somebody’s life. That’s it. [It’s important] to understand that I’ve curated that 5% of my life through seven ‘stories’ [posted] in the day. I see adults who feel like somebody is leading the ‘it’ life. People get impressed by regular people’s social lives and feel like they should want to party like that on a Saturday or they should have been invited.”
I’ll leave you with the words from a meme Dr Dadachanji drew my attention to: “Facebook is like Monopoly money.” Just as no one really believes Monopoly money has genuine financial value, we should remind ourselves that Facebook feeds aren't comprehensive biographies but edited highlights.
Listen to the full episode via Daily Mirror Online (Website, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter or Threads) or by scanning the QR Code above.