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Seven Digital Self-care Tips for Safer Internet Day 2024

To mark Safer Internet Day 2024, which encourages digital citizens to commit to a collective practice of creating a safer internet, we’re sharing seven tips for establishing and nurturing your digital self-care practice. These tips are a few among many included in our Founder and CEO’s book, How to Stay Safe Online, which was published by Penguin in 2022.

What is digital self-care?

Digital self-care is about understanding online abuse and how it can cause trauma, which is what we’ve been working on at Glitch since Seyi Akiwowo founded the charity in 2017. We’ve spent plenty of time looking at the scope of what online abuse is and exploring the context in which online abuse is currently thriving. Now we need to collectively use this knowledge to better protect and empower ourselves and others. Remember that you have agency. You are responsible – not for the abuse, but for your behaviours, thoughts, reactions and interactions when it comes to technology and engaging with others. You are responsible for your intentions. You can make a conscious choice to seek out joyful content, as well as create joyful content yourself. And the even better news is that you’re not on this journey. Across the world, the conversation about online abuse is becoming more mainstream and more digital citizens than ever are concerned with creating the internet we need and deserve. (Joining our community of digital citizens is also a great way to be part of campaigns to hold governments and tech companies accountable!)

Here are seven ways to get into a sustainable digital self-care practice

One: Set, refine and update your intentions

Ask yourself how you want to exist online. How public do you want to be? Are certain accounts going to be exclusively personal and others public? How will you – and won’t you – tolerate being treated online? What are your guiding principles for how you treat others? By sitting down and setting out your intentions and values, you can get a firm grasp on what your time spent online should look like. Take some time to consider the person you do and don’t want to be online. Write your own set of guiding rules, if it’s helpful. Equally important to identifying your online values and principles is holding yourself accountable when it comes to following through. Check in with yourself regularly, and reflect on whether you’ve been living by your code of conduct on different platforms. If you have, great. If you haven’t, don’t beat yourself up. Show yourself some grace and compassion, and identify ways to do better moving forward.

Two: Reflections and check-ins

Continual learning is critical. Over time, you take information from your environment and draw lessons from it. And you’re not always going to get it right! It’s why you have to have compassion for yourself. Self-care is about accepting that you aren’t perfect, that you can grow and that you are always deserving of love. You’re a work in progress, and that’s great. When it comes to existing online, it’s important to listen to your body and honour how you feel. To trust in your intuition, and know when to react to a negative comment and when to switch off your phone and conserve your energy. Taking time to check in with yourself allows you to analyse what’s happening – online and off. In the moment, it can be difficult to comprehend why you might act a certain way. But if you give yourself the space to think and feel, you might find what triggered you and why. From here, you can work on a much healthier response, giving you more control over your (digital) life.

Three: Bring your street smarts

A big part of your digital self-care toolkit is being proactive. Reacting to the online abuse or harm you’re currently facing is vital, but preventing yourself from facing it in the first place (where possible) is just as crucial. Most women do this offline because we’ve learned from a young age that it’s the safest course of action. ‘Thanks’ to the patriarchal society in which we live, there are ways women have been conditioned to navigate offline spaces. We don’t jog alone at night. Where possible, we arrange to be picked up from a well-lit train station after a night out. We have our phones primed and ready to record any incidents on public transport. We don’t leave our drinks unattended when in bars or nightclubs. We know, too, that doing all of this isn’t a guarantee of safety; it’s an attempt. It’s frustrating that we have to do all this proactive work offline, and it’s even more infuriating that we have had to start doing it online, too. But we’ve mastered it in one form, so it’s about bringing our street smarts into the digital spaces we inhabit together.

Four: Curate your timeline

Something we often forget when existing online is that our social media accounts and online spaces are exactly that: they’re ours. As such, it is well within your power to curate much healthier social media profiles. Ones that have only the content you want to see. This step is about avoiding content you think could be harmful or triggering to you. You’re under no obligation to allow strangers to run rampant in your online space, and you don’t need a good reason to block them. It’s time to unfollow all the social media accounts that don’t work for you any more – and to actively and intentionally like, comment and share on content that aligns with your values, brings you joy and improves your mental and emotional health. The algorithm is vulnerable to our intentions and we can and must make it work for us.

Five: Set boundaries

How to create boundaries in our online space is such a valuable lesson. Consider your offline boundaries – would you accept someone constantly tapping you on the shoulder in person? Probably not. So why accept those constant nudges online? A huge part of digital self-care is deciding what to be bothered by and resisting the temptation to be bothered by everything. For most people, that’s easier said than done. Some days you will feel strong enough, others you won’t. There’s no playbook. There’s no one way to deal with online abuse. You have to decide how you want to act and be unapologetic in protecting the space(s) you create and curate online.

Six: Manage your time

I know what it’s like to feel like you need to be attached to your accounts 24/7. That if you take your eye off them for one second, you’ll miss out on the most important story ever. And when you’re facing online abuse, it can be tempting to go back and fight your corner, or read one more terrible message. But you can leave. You can step back. For yourself, for your family and for your friends. The most crucial part of your digital self-care toolkit is the ability to do that and say no. To make the choice to walk away when the situation gets too much for you. If you’re constantly in fight mode, you have no time to heal. So, take regular breaks (apps like Opal are very helpful!), manage your notifications (remember that notifications are quite literally designed to be addictive) and, when necessary, walk away.

Seven: Build and nurture community

It’s imperative that you have a network of people you can go to, even if you’re fortunate enough never to experience abuse first-hand. It’s always better to pre-empt the occurrence of abuse and have a circle of people you know you can trust and who will understand. Building this community for yourself is about identifying the people you want to learn alongside and grow with. It might be loved ones from your offline life, or anyone you’ve met in online communities who share your intentions and values, or a combination of any other online or offline acquaintances. They should be supportive individuals you want to surround yourself with – both while things are good and you’re thriving online, and if things turn sour and you need direct support and guidance. This community should be a safe space in which you can share tips, as well as acting as a support network as and when you need it. It might be who you go to when you want to be consoled after receiving abuse, to hold you accountable in keeping to your online values and principles, or for backup when you’re taking some much-needed time out.

These seven tips for building and sustaining your digital self-care practice are from the book How to Stay Safe Online, which was written by our Founder and CEO, Seyi Akiwowo. You can buy your copy here.

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