“I’d lick your sweat.”
It was the middle of the day, I was eating my lunch and I found myself staring at my phone in total shock. What had I just read? Did I mistake it for something else? I clicked backwards on Instagram Stories to double check, and I was mortified to see that I wasn’t mistaken.
A moment ago, I had been applauding a video of my friend Talitha having successfully achieved a pull-up challenge milestone. Lifting your bodyweight once is a very impressive feat for anyone, let alone multiple times. Straight after her video was a screenshot of a message from an unknown follower, however, what she had been rewarded with wasn’t congratulations, but rather an invasive, vulgar and very direct message written in a disturbingly aggressive sexual tone.
Talitha Tan is a popular personality and a successful singer with passions for both fitness and food. Talitha’s popularity is not hard to understand seeing she is blessed with an endearing personality briming with positive vibes. If you visit her Instagram page, you will be met with her infectious smile and a variety of posts with one thing in common – they are all enthusiastic and encouraging in nature, whether in the form of delicious meals to try, new songs for our enjoyment or inspiring workout habits. However, what she exports in feel-good factor is not always reciprocated, instead she is an uncomfortably regular victim of Internet harassment.
“I get a lot”, she revealed as I tried to develop an understanding of what I was seeing unfold far too regularly on my Instagram stories. “And I think I could say the same for 99% of girls on social media. They send me a bunch of dick pics or random porn GIFS. I ignore them, but sometimes it’s just never-ending spam”. I was truly taken aback, however, what really saddened me was her revelation that she was used to it, in fact she had “just kind of came to terms with how humans are just horrible creatures”. For a young lady, who dedicates so much of her free time to creating feel-good factors for others to enjoy, to become so desensitized by sexual harassment seems desperately unfair.
As time passed I learnt that Talitha wasn’t the only friend I had suffering from such abuse, with more and more alarming screenshots appearing on my social media feed. PR guru, DJ and trendsetter Ira Roslan posted an inappropriate and unwarranted message she received from one of her followers. I was surprised it was an all too regular occurrence that left her feeling “disrespected, disgusted and shocked!”, she shared. “It feels like the sender has no respect for my person, my boundaries”. The fact that innocent women were being disturbed during their day-to-day life is disgusting, and even though the senders don’t get a response from the women they stalk, it doesn’t stop them. “The persistence of these senders is shocking considering their attempts are always ignored”, Ira sighed.
Over a third of Malaysian women have experienced sexual harassment, with the All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) reporting an increase in online sexual harassment during the movement control order (MCO). Despite the cases I have cited mostly arising from Instagram, it is not alone as a medium facilitating abuse. Wild Ginger’s Editor, Aida Azrin, recently shared that the Reddit group r/MalaysGoneWild, which was exposed for sharing leaked intimate images of local women and underaged girls without their consent, had still not been taken down. She was shocked to find a subreddit with men she had never met asking each other for her pictures, but was even more appalled that after reporting it, Reddit had said it didn’t violate their Content Policy. “It’s terrifying to know that such a big platform actually enables this predatory behaviour through their own policies. What kind of unsafe community guidelines do they have to still allow women to be violated?”, she said.
Social media companies have attempted to restrict access from strangers to their intended targets, with the presence of the secondary inbox allowing the recipient the chance to vet their messages from unknown entities. Images are blurred, offering a good filter from inappropriate senders. Yet there are still glaring incompetencies, such as the ability for users to mask their identities by using fake profiles, and limited controls to stop this from happening. AWAM has urged the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and police to take sterner action to protect women.
Whilst everyone I spoke to, who has experienced this harassment, revealed a joint sense of belief that the social media companies should keep increasing their efforts to combat such antisocial behaviour, what is more apparent is the general consensus that this isn’t a technological problem – the core issue is a human one, and it isn’t just limited to sexual harassment, it also overlaps into using social media to pass judgement onto others. “There are just so many horrible human beings out there”, Talitha remarked, “people just feel like they have the right to tell us to be who they want us to be because it’s what they expect us to be, and we get sh*t on when we’re not what they want us to be”.
After hearing all of these stories from people I admired, I began feeling greatly unsettled on their behalf. If these online abusers felt so comfortable launching verbal abuse from the shadows of anonymity, what would stop them from gaining the courage to do so in public? Recently, media outlets in Kuala Lumpur reported harassment arising from organised police roadblocks.
Talitha admitted feeling fearful at times, “I do feel unsafe. As much as I want to be this independent strong woman, I really don’t know what people are capable of”. Ira pointed out that she no longer feels comfortable to post in real time, to avoid being traceable and easily located. “The effect of these messages makes me think about whether I am sharing too much on my account”, she stated, debating taking her profile private. The acts of these Internet bullies were diminishing the social aspect of the media.
Despite the undermining effects that these abuses have created for far too many, I was inspired to hear of the efforts that women were taking to protect each other from these vile and unwarranted aggressors. Ira hasn’t sat back and allowed the online deviants win. Along with her friends at Brand New Waves Running Club, they have taken proactive efforts to combat this unsettling feeling by creating a community environment for women to run within that feels safe. BNW is a collective that meet all over KL and allows individuals to enjoy the thrill of public exercise in a welcoming and encouraging environment – one that many women wouldn’t have engaged with before due to the fear of running alone, unwelcome victims of cat-calling, wolf-whistles and derogatory remarks.
During my time writing this article, I was alarmed at the prevalence of online sexual harassment, not just in general, but alarmingly amongst my own close friendship circle. Too many people were being inappropriately disturbed with messages with zero restraint, and it was concerning to witness its correlation to potential safety fears. I hope that in understanding that it exists, and that it is far from harmless, those on the receiving end will feel comfortable to speak up, and look for help from the social media companies, and indeed the law agencies, in a bid to clamp down and stop the perpetrators. Despite its shocking regularity, we cannot accept that this is ‘normal’, and the first step is to be aware that it is occurring, not allow it to simply exist in the background. As friends, we should offer a support structure to listen to those in need, and attempt to use our social circles to put a stop a very anti-social problem.
As I sat down to write this article, I already made my first mistake – I had my phone in plain sight. Instead of diving right into work, it was like a reflex to reach for my phone and get sucked into social media. I began mindlessly scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, TikTok for good measure, and the latest digital distraction – Clubhouse. It was only after getting a glimpse of the time (which we don’t seem to see even though it doesn’t leave our screens), and realising that I was officially off-schedule, when I quickly ran to my room and put away my phone. Now here I am writing with no digital distractions.
Like many other Malaysians, having to spend most of my time at home has made me more dependent on my phone. It did not come as a surprise to me that compared to other South East Asian countries, Malaysia had the highest upsurge in Internet usage due to our strict social distancing measures. Our phones placed the entertainment and connections that were separated from us, right at our finger tips. It doesn’t help that some of us have had to work unsupervised from home – turning off auto-relax mode was already hard to begin with.
Here are 6 tips that have helped me tune into what I’m doing without any digital distractions:
- Put your phone away!
No, not next to you with the screen faced down (unless you’re that disciplined then #goals), but in another room. Hopefully when it’s out of your sight, the urge to check it will leave your mind too. If your excuse is, “What if I get an important message?” – use a desktop version of the messenger-app, but keep it running in the background.
2. Schedule time to use your devices
It’s time to take back control and let your devices know when they can have your attention. Start with short, frequent breaks, like 5 to 10 minutes after every hour, and work your way up from there. You’ll soon be able to break the habit.
3. Replace your screen time with other tasks
Before reaching for your devices, ask yourself, “Why?”. It could be to do research, reply a message, or simply just take a break. But if you want to use it just for the sake of using it, ask yourself, “What else can I do during this time?”. Turn to your to-do list – you’ll find that you actually do have the time to wash the dishes, fold your laundry, workout and read.
4. Turn off notifications
If it’s something you don’t need to know right now (like who liked your picture), you don’t need to see it right now. We’re constantly distracted by pings and pop-ups, but most of these are unimportant information and interactions.
5. Delete apps you don’t use
Sometimes, when we’re bored, or basically just looking for a distraction, we start opening apps that we don’t use (there’s no need to check in on Snapchat, that ghost is doing fine). Delete, declutter, go Marie Kondo and let go of all the apps that no longer spark joy.
6. Journal when you wake up
Here’s a bonus tip that’ll help with your mental health too! When you wake up, grab your journal instead of your phone. Start scribbling down the first things that come to mind, or if you need prompts – “How do you feel about today?”, “Set an intention for the day”, “What are you grateful for?”. This sets us up for a more positive and productive day rather than losing ourselves, and a lot of time, scrolling through our devices in bed.
Digital distractions will never go away (they may even get worse), but by following these tips – we hope you’ll feel less overwhelmed and more focused on important and meaningful tasks!
What is digital wellness?
Everyone knows that taking care of your physical health is important, but what about your online life? We’re spending more and more time connected to the internet in some way or the other, from watching Netflix on your smart-tv, tracking your steps with a Fitbit or even sending messages through WhatsApp—seriously when was the last time you sent an SMS or (gasp) made a phone call?
At first glance, digital wellness might seem like something to do with device health—using secured sites, changing passwords frequently, avoiding suspicious downloads and links; you know the drill. But in actuality, it refers to keeping a balance of your mind and sense of self as you navigate the online world.
Why is this important?
It’s no secret that social media can affect your self-esteem. Studies have shown that viewing and engaging in the seemingly perfect lives that your friends and celebrities display, can negatively influence how you view yourself. The way that these social interaction apps are structured to emphasise views and other engagements doesn’t help either, especially when your ‘likes’ can’t stack up to those you follow.
In a similar vein, this may lead to feeling increased stress and anxiety when you don’t seem to measure up. The need to constantly create content to stay relevant—even if it is for a hobby; can take its toll. The same can be said of keeping up with world issues. In such tumultuous times, feelings of guilt and exhaustion at what seems to be a continuous stream of bad news is common and understandable.
What can you do?
Limit the time spent on social media. Yup, this might seem daunting. Try this: instead of mindlessly scrolling through your Twitter or Instagram feeds for hours on end, set yourself a time to check up on things.
Mindfulness—like its name suggests, is being aware in a purposeful way, of your intentions and surroundings. Using its techniques can help your online life in a positive way, for example: cleaning up your feeds. Curating your own experience is important, choosing to unfollow and mute accounts that cause you to feel stress will make your days better.
Self-care isn’t just taking care of yourself physically, but also making sure you’re alright mentally—and in this case; digitally. Don’t feel bad about taking a step back to breathe. By setting boundaries when you use your devices, you’ll be able to develop and maintain a healthier and more fulfilling relationship with social media.
We live in a time where being busy is romanticised – from turning hobbies into side hustles and working out right after the party, there’s an unhealthy pressure to stay on the move. This has made self-care more important than ever, but usually pushed aside as a “buzzword” in another attempt to continue the grind – I mean, who has the time to sit down and meditate these days? Our idea of quiet alone time now consists of scrolling through our phones (unless we’re doing a TikTok dance, but that counts as exercising). So since we’re always on our phones, it makes sense for technology to takeover and help us stay balanced with the use of self-care apps. But what exactly are they? (Isn’t liking a few inspirational quotes on Instagram enough?)
Self-care apps are not a substitute for mental health care, they do not treat clinical conditions, but they do help to focus on improving your overall wellbeing from getting better sleep to breaking bad habits. These apps allow you to check in on yourself, giving you the much needed me-time because even you need undivided attention for yourself. Here are five self-care apps that can help you improve your quality of life – switch out the mindless scrolling for these mindful methods:
- Habits: Fabulous
If you struggle with sticking to healthy habits, hop on Fabulous – an app that helps instil new routines into your life. By providing you with daily reminders, Fabulous will help you track your goals and provide you with the advice needed to build new habits. They also offer their own step-by-step programs, such as routines to make you feel more energised or lose weight.
- Journal: Grateful
Only available on the App Store
An easy introduction to journaling, Grateful helps you start your days with gratitude and end it with self-reflection. You don’t have to worry about what to write because the app provides you with daily prompts. It’s important to check in on yourself, and not just others, so instead of talking to yourself out loud (unless that’s your thang, then keep at it) – you’ll be able to comfortably (and quietly) write to yourself and effectively organise your thoughts.
- Meditate: Headspace
Headspace is the most popular meditation app, once ranked as the highest quality mindfulness app in a study done by the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Internet Research. With the intention to make meditation more acessible, Headspace shares guided meditations and reminders to help build the mindful habit – encouraging everyone to slow down and take a moment to breathe.
- Motivation: Motivate
Only available on the App Store
Get your daily dose of motivation in the form of notifications from Motivate – the app provides empowering quotes in the form of refreshing pop-ups that will make you feel better than seeing who liked your photo. You’ll also be able to browse through their library of motivational videos and playlists for a more powerful impact.
- Sleep: Calm
The top app for sleep, Calm will help you ease your mind after a long, hectic day. The app helps improve your sleep quality, and essentially your quality of life, with the use guided meditations, relaxing stories, breathing exercises, good stretches and soulful music. They promise that when you sleep more – you’ll stress less and live better. Sounds like a deal!
These effective apps have made self-care even more easy and accessible. By downloading them, you’ll be able to slip your personal support system right into your pocket and pull it out whenever you feel overwhelmed – a remedy for stress and anxiety will be just a tap away!
2020 has been problematic, to say the least, and as much as we wish we could cancel it and let the next few months fizzle out with a growing list of celebrities (oop), we’re just going to have to stick out the bad news.
Ah, the news – a chaotic 24-hour cycle you can’t escape. With information being one click away from going viral, social media users have been breaking stories before news outlets and ending up on all your feeds. I mean, Twitter’s become the new morning paper – you think you’re scrolling through fan cams, horoscopes and cute animal videos but each time you close the app, you end up being more informed on current affairs.
It’s this constant media consumption that has taken a toll on our mental health. The news (which only seems to get worse) has become overwhelming, but with the rise of social media activism – we fight these feelings of anxiety, and sometimes even depression, to stay updated and help those in need. But it’s okay to put yourself first.
Don’t feel guilty about taking a moment for yourself – you’re only human and no one should make you feel bad about it. Limit your screen time by setting a reminder to step away. During your break, do a couple of breathing exercises, preferably outdoors – it’s always good to get some fresh air. Talk to someone you trust or hold space for yourself, but if you still feel empty or powerless, please seek professional help, especially if you’ve received online abuse or been triggered.
As stressful as social media has become, it has been a powerful tool in fighting for change. From successful petitions and a plethora of educational posts, the Internet has started powerful movements and brought the world closer together during a pandemic and unrest. Continue keeping up with the news, standing up against injustice, checking in on others, but don’t forget to take care of yourself in the process.
What is burnout?
From a global pandemic to civil unrest, 2020 has been a stressful experience that feels long and excessive. (Am I right?) It doesn’t matter whether you work from home, are back in the office, studying or fighting for social justice – it has caused a majority of us to suffer from mental, physical and emotional exhaustion also known as burnout.
What are the symptoms?
If overwhelming events have left you feeling drained, down and disconnected from others – you’re probably suffering from burnout too. You might find yourself uninterested in what you’re doing, forgetting what you need to do (wait, why am I in the kitchen again?), easily irritated and always tired. Here are a few ways you can find motivation again.
How can I overcome it?
- Take a time-out
No work, no social media – apply for leave, sign out. You need a break from whatever’s causing you to burnout. Use this time to recharge your batteries and focus on yourself – not your assignment or creating the perfect Instagram infographic. Schedule frequent breaks during your day to breathe and relieve stress. This will allow you to be more focused and productive – working smarter, not harder.
- Get some rest
If you’ve been pulling an all-nighter studying or anxiously refreshing your timeline, you’ve got a lot of sleep to catch up on! Start clocking in 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night for at least a week. Find out more about sleep hygiene and how to make the most of your slumber here.
- Move your body
You’re probably groaning at the idea of a high intensity workout, but there are plenty of ways to get your heart pumping and blood flowing depending on how you feel. Dance, stretch or go for a walk – however you choose to move your body will help you relax your mind, boost your mood and your energy.
- Eat well
Ordering takeout has become easier than ever – with just a few taps, that extra-large pizza will be on its way to you and your favorite pjs. But the refined carbohydrates (most sugars and processed grains), can cause your mood and energy to crash. The stress and anxiety are already depleting your body of essential nutrients, so make sure you consume more nourishing food to boost your brain function, immune system, gut and hormones.
It can take a few weeks or even months to recover from burnout, but if you still feel anxious and depressed, please seek professional help.
Journaling will always be therapeutic, even as a thirteen-year-old writing “dear diary” followed by a fairly rude rant about how your parents won’t let you get a tattoo. It provides a safe space (lock included) for you to share your experiences and sit in the therapist’s chair as you reread your thoughts and feelings.
If 2020 has left you feeling overwhelmed – stressed from working at home, anxious about social distancing and saddened by the world news, journaling is a good place to let it all out Here’s how you can start:
- Download A Journal App
If you’re still not sold on writing things down – type it out. Since we’re always on our phones, self-care has become digital with mindful apps to make better use of your screen time. For beginners, we recommend downloading the journal apps Reflectly or Daylio. These make journaling super easy by asking you questions about your day, even encouraging you to use emojis – think of it as a judgement-free Facebook status.
- Follow Journal Prompts
Don’t know what to write? There are plenty of journal prompts available online to get the ball rolling. Usually in the form of questions, these short statements are set to inspire self-reflection. Here are a few to help you explore your definition of “self-love”:
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You can also sign up for our Self Care Club to receive weekly journal prompts!
- Practice Gratitude
For a more positive mindset, use your journal to list down what you’re grateful for. Do this daily and you’ll notice a shift in your perspective as you start seeing the glass half full rather than half empty. Not only will you experience less negative emotions, but by counting your blessings – you’ll become more satisfied with life too. Happy mind, happy life.
- Participate In Journal Challenges
Turn journaling into a habit by participating in journal challenges. These span from a week to a month with a list of helpful writing prompts for you to follow. Learn more about journaling from YouTuber, Lavendaire, and spread out her 30 prompts for self-discovery throughout the month:
By focusing on yourself for at least five minutes a day, you’ll be able to find solitude and clarity in the midst of a chaotic year. Writing down your emotions will make it easier for you to understand them and pinpoint the problem – allowing you to come up with healthier coping skills and better solutions. We should all strive to be more self-aware and accepting of ourselves, so pick up a pen and start journaling!