Keep Scrolling, Wisely – The Relationship Between Online Reading and Good Mental Health

No doubt reading a book is healthy, we pick one we have interest in and we learn all about something coherently.  The experience slots neatly into our memories, often helping us for years to come – even if you are like me, and this sentence makes you tilt your head back slightly and laugh a bit thinking, “Haha, not quite. Almost, but not quite”

But as a matter of fact, years down the line (23 to be precise) I still remember that Osmosis is the diffusion of a liquid through a semi-permeable membrane, that Jaundice is the backing up of Bile into the Duodenum (for a few possible reasons) then entering the bloodstream, discolouring certain parts with a yellowish hue, and that Psychosis is a mental condition where thoughts and emotions are so severely impaired that contact with external reality is lost. 

Psychosis has nothing to do with being a psychopath.  I was about five years into my diagnosis of “cannabis induced psychosis with delusions of a grandiose nature” that I bothered actually finding out what it was.  If I had asked someone on Facebook, or landed on a fake news site, who knows what I would have found out. 

My point, if in fact I genuinely have one and am not just writing for the sake of having nothing better to do on a Saturday night (thank you anxiety) – is that there are so many people in the media, online etc. that are writing to you as if they speak nothing but the purest truth and are the most decent of human beings, but sometimes it’s lies, clickbait and is not healthy information to absorb, let alone retain.  But most of it is real and honest. 

There are a thousand splendid suns of things to read online but it is not always organised to a constructed and beneficial outcome for the reader.  We stray from the original goal of learning about Coronavirus for example and pretty soon we are looking at life hacks, memes or cute but pointless new apps that show us what we’d look like in the face in thirty years’ time.

Sometimes websites hit us with stuff we really don’t need to know, and these sites push their agenda on us.  They can be constructed for the simple end goal of getting us to subscribe to their channel or buy their product.  Last week I read an interesting blog about travel and was slightly tricked into clicking some sort of “I’d like to know more about similar future blog posts by email please” button, and I’ve received about 13 emails now, trying to convince me, in slightly intense, even threatening language, that I need to sign up for a professional blogging course, and that if I don’t my blogging will never be of acceptable quality, and all my future dreams will be unfulfilled.

Eric Cartman of South Park fame once said that using fear to get what you want is terrorism.  

And I don’t even remember what that particular blogsite was or how I got there, but at the time these types of site make you feel like you will benefit massively by subscribing, then they fail to deliver anything but pushy impersonal emails selling their products. 

I find it unscrupulous.  I try to get readers to my blog and retain them through helpful and engaging content, not by using tricks of the trade.  My blog is a hobby, and a very fun one at that.  If I was running more than one small advert on my blog it would look messy in my opinion, and I don’t have any at all. 

Then with the rest of the internet there’s the ads.  I watch YouTube a lot and I have no grief with their ads, that’s generally how TV gets paid for and I don’t consider that unscrupulous.  I must see at least 20 ads every day on You Tube.  It is my understanding that America has many more ads than the UK too. 

All this online stuff, the ads, the bombardment of tense language that most of the time we only half-notice, all to keep us there for just a few more seconds, because time is money…”LOOK HERE, DON’T MISS OUT, COME BACK TO THIS SITE AGAIN.”  In the context that I usually see it, is a slight bugbear for me.  If I ever touched upon this tactic myself it would be in a very small and honest way, probably balanced with an element of humour or an offer of something genuinely beneficial to my readers, all four of them (my blog is growing).    

I don’t think it is good for mental health, like in my youth where caring adults would claim that too much TV would give one ‘square eyes’.    

Most of the internet is safe and useful in my experience.  You Tube has some great guided meditation videos and I watch a lot of sports there too.  It’s all good fun.  I hope I don’t sound too preachy, but having a 19 year journey with mental health recovery I’m all about sharing my story and tips…

Now, in blogging, the blogger is supposed to offer his or her readers something tangible, beyond engaging content that might be interesting to read.  Like tips, but to be honest I don’t really know what to say about this subject and how exactly to make online reading produce better mental health, just be aware that the over stimulation of senses from too much online time from sensationalist or brightly coloured websites, is not all that healthy.  All in moderation though, balance it out with a good paper book every now and then.  Your mental health will thank you. 

Please comment if you have some opinions, good or bad.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Great Blog Pete. I think you are absolutely right about a good paperback. I have returned to The famous five books I read when I was 9 and that happy escapism, is worth its weight in ginger beer and adventures to Bird Island.
    I have found some very helpful sites about mental health on line but also think the individual story & journey happens when you live life – and that’s out there in the beautiful if not sometimes scary world / as far away as possible from all things mental health wise.
    Balance, it’s all about balance, whatever that means for you. At the moment, I am drinking a bottle of Corona to put two fingers up to the virus 😍

  2. Thanks for commenting Jan. I am reading a great paperback about physics in daily life. I never got into Enid Blyton, I like Bill Bryson’s books a lot, I have a couple signed copies!

    People say what they think about the pitfalls of online reading, but it’s all good as part of a balanced intake! I think learning from Google is ok, as long as you have discussions with real life people about what google teaches.

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