ABYSSAL Writings

Here, you will subject yourself to my ramblings.

These are think-pieces and personal experiences, and shouldn't be taken as factual truths. I'm not an expert in anything.

Social Media: The Effects of Growing Up Online, and How We Can Use It For The Better

This was actually a final project for a college english course I took. The date in the link of this is Feb 24, 2024 to not make it weird in RSS, but the actual pub date of this project was April 23, 2020. As part of our final, we were allowed to submit it in the form of a blog post, so I shared mine on tumblr, where you can see the original post here (or here if you prefer dashboard view).

It certainly is a trip looking back at my thoughts on this years ago, like a time capsule. While it may not be 100% how I feel today, most of it still resonates with me. Beware, this was a research paper so it is LONG. Here is the original text, unedited:


I used to struggle with self control when it came to being on social media. Social media blew up and became a huge thing for seemingly everyone to have right about when I was growing up and going through the critical developmental stages of adolescence. Myspace was just before my time, it had left its glory days before I had any social media. But then came Facebook. And then Instagram. And Vine, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. My generation was the first to experience having social media from a young age and all the way through our teenage years, and then finally reaching adulthood. I never had anything like social media before. I barely had a phone and any contacts to message before switching to a smartphone and then having social media accounts, and I think that contributed to me not knowing what healthy limits were.

It came and went in phases. There would be a period of time where I would unintentionally spend hours on my phone every day, just scrolling through Instagram. I wasn’t using it in a meaningful way, like connecting with friends and family, I was just scrolling. Mindlessly, endlessly.

I realized at some point, probably in my early years of high school, that this was an issue. It wasn’t horrible, but I still was spending more time than I wanted on my phone, and throughout the years, I have become better at being mindful with how I consume and use social media, and I have noticed that I have become so much more present in general. I don’t know if this was directly because of the healthier relationship with social media I have now, or if it was just coincidence in timing. I was lucky that I wasn’t too negatively affected by social media, but many people have raised concerns on how it may affect our mental health, and I decided to look into it more and see if I could help even just one person with this.

Mental Health: Social Media as a Stressor

Social media platforms were created to connect us with our friends and family. That’s the “social” part of it. However, social media has become a place where people typically showcase the best parts of their lives. Some call this the “highlight reel” on social media. These snapshots of fleeting moments in our busy lives only show the internet what we want it to show. I am aware that there are exceptions though, such as spam accounts where people share their more vulnerable moments with a private following of their close friends and sometimes family, or social media personalities such as Trisha Paytas who share many vulnerable, not so picture-perfect moments publicly, but the average user doesn’t tell their friends and followers everything that’s going on behind the scenes. Therefore, the majority of posts don’t accurately portray our lives. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing - we all need boundaries and privacy - however, this can sometimes make users feel as if they aren’t enough, or that they aren’t doing enough.

Humans have a habit of social comparison. We do it naturally because it’s a way for us to “estimate one’s past and present social standings” as Tahir M. Nisar, an associate professor at the University of Southampton, wrote. Many people compare their own lives to the lives of others as a means to evaluate themselves and to measure whether they’re doing well or not (Nisar 55). This has been a generally known fact for a while, but when I conducted my own research via online survey, I asked the participants if they ever found themselves comparing themselves or their lives to those of others they see online, and 47.9% of them said “yes, often”, while 43.8% said “sometimes”, and a mere 8.3% said “no, never”. Comparing yourself to others is natural, and it isn’t always a bad thing, but for some it can become a dangerous rabbit hole.

Jeff Cain, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky, wrote that these comparisons “often result in envy, depression, reduced happiness, etc. because they perceive others’ lives more favorable than their own.” I’m sure most of us have experienced this at least once before where we wish our lives were more like someone else’s without even realizing it. It can be a hard thing to not do! The problem here is that that can lead to us setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves, and then us being too hard on ourselves when we don’t reach that level.

Some of the unrealistic expectations we may place for ourselves can be physical appearance. 8.3% of the participants in my survey said they often photoshop their appearance for social media, 10.4% said they sometimes do, 10.4% said they do but only rarely. This is one thing that needs to change.

A good sign is the rest (70.9%) said they never photoshop themselves. In recent years, body positivity has grown and become a more developed movement, leading the online community in a more positive direction. This is a great use of social media, using platforms to share positive, helpful messages to bring together a community and to spread awareness and knowledge of a particular topic.

Coping: Social Media Used as a Distraction

When I conducted my research, I asked the participants what the main reasons/purposes were that they used social media for, and the majority of them said something along the lines of “to connect with friends and family”, and many said they used it to pass the time, to stave off boredom. Sometimes, users will go on social media to distract themselves from negative emotions such as sadness, loneliness, anxiety, stress, etc. Although not a permanent solution, it’s a temporary relief, and this can be helpful. Sometimes, social media can be a distraction from important things though. I know I definitely get distracted from studying or doing homework by checking social media. I’ve already done it once while writing this, yikes. But don’t worry, it’s not all bad!

Ahmad Mushtaq, an academic Vice Chancellor at Alberoni University, and Abdelmadjid Benraghda, a professor at Universiti Malaysia Pahang, found that students mostly used social media to “improve their knowledge and information.” They found that social media was actually a useful tool in education, because it allowed students to find information easily and connect with peers and instructors.

In my research I asked if participants find that they get distracted by their phone and go on social media while doing tasks such as homework or watching movies, and a whopping 77.1% said “yes, often” while the remaining 22.9% said “sometimes”. No one said “no, never”. This may be connected to how many people find it difficult to focus. Using apps that don’t allow you to check your phone for a period of time can help reduce the amount of times we get distracted by social media. One of my favorites is an app called Flora, where you can grow a little tree for staying off of your phone for the chosen amount of time.

Addiction: Excessive Social Media Usage & Reliance

When we think of addiction, we often think of substance abuse, but it can also happen in areas such as social media usage. Within the millennial generation, substance abuse has actually decreased, but smartphone use has increased and continues to do so. Researchers believe that “those susceptible to addiction have simply shifted to a new drug: smartphones” (Cain 739). Cain also writes about how “neuroimaging studies show that Internet addiction...shows similar increases in activity in brain regions associated with substance-related addictions”. Several studies have indicated that as levels of depression and anxiety of an individual increase, they become more inclined towards social media addiction (Simsek 115). One study showed results of a “positive relationship between social anxiety and social media addiction” (Baltaci 78). Although my study was not nearly extensive enough to determine if any of my participants suffer from social media addiction, I did find that the majority of them spent 3 or more hours on social media a day. In fact, four of those participants responded that they spend 9 or more hours on social media a day.

One thing that many users have experienced is FOMO (the fear of missing out). I have experienced this myself, especially in middle school and early high school. A user who experiences FOMO may feel that if they don’t check their phone, they might miss out on conversations, like in group chats, or things like recent events, opportunities, etc., so it may cause them stress or anxiety if they don’t regularly go on social media. On the other hand, some people get stressed/upset when they do go on social media, because they see photos or posts in general from an event or get-together that they either weren’t invited to or couldn’t make it to. Because of these negative feelings related to social media, FOMO has been associated with unhealthy smartphone use (Cain 739).

That was a lot, so what do we do?

Ok, so I know that was a lot of information, probably too much for a blog post on tumblr, but since I wrote all that out anyway, what do we do with it?

Although there were many negative responses indicating that certain uses of social media had harmful effects on mental health, including studies and results that I didn’t mention, there were also results that showed that many people felt indifferent with social media, and it was sometimes even beneficial (such as the academic use of it).

Those who spent longer amounts of time on social media tended to also feel more negatively when using it, and felt better when they used it less, so I would recommend monitoring your usage time and being careful of spending too much time on it. “Too much time” is very subjective though, so perhaps logging how you feel in relation to how long you spend on social media can give you a good idea of what a good amount is for you personally. Spending more time doing things with our hands/bodies, like physical activity or hobbies, can be very healthy ways of spending our time instead of being on social media. It can help distract us from the urge to check our phones, a distraction from a distraction if you will.

When it comes to content consumption, we all must be careful of what we expose ourselves to. Reducing or even completely cutting out certain content that stresses or upsets us can help tremendously. This can even mean unfollowing certain people who’s posts may make you feel upset, even if you know them personally, were friends at some point, or are just acquaintances. Even though it may feel awkward or even mean to do that, it might help in some cases.

Maybe you could relate to some of the things I wrote about in this post, maybe you didn’t relate at all, but I just want to thank you for reading all the way till the end, and I hope this helped share interesting information that can be useful to you.

Back to Top of Post

I wanted to share this here as well, in case my blog disappears or I lose access to it one day. Here, it will always be on my hard drive, github, and possibly even archived somewhere on the internet.

Sadly, because I wrote this in my school's Office drive, I don't think I can access my submission anymore which also has the sources, but if I find them I will add them here.

Online Community Boundaries


Everyone has different ideas on how much is too much to share in online spaces. The line to be drawn depends on what kind of online space we're talking about. For example, sharing sensitive, personal information anywhere on the internet is generally a bad idea. Things like where you reside, your place of employment, credit card information and social security number are probably things you don't want to be posting or sending anywhere online. However, things like health issues, traumatic situations, financial matters, and familial drama aren't necessarily bad to share online, but they are things you should be cautious of where you share.

When it comes to your personal social media or website, I think that's entirely up to you what and how you want to share. As long as you have considered the risks of sharing whatever it is you want to share, I say go for it. There can still be social, legal, or mental consequences in sharing certain things, such as not getting a job because the hiring manager saw that you posted something that doesn't align with their company values, or getting threats in your inbox because you said something controversial. Still, it's entirely up to you to share what you want on your own digital spaces.

The dynamic changes when it's no longer your own personal space. Just like how there are rules and expectations for how to behave in public due to our social contract, there are expectatoins for how people are to act in online spaces as well. Because there is no governing body that enforces rules across the entire internet, it is up to us to behave ourselves and enforce rules in our own corners of the internet to foster the communities we want to be a part of.

I have witnessed a couple online spaces devolve and spiral out of control, and ultimately disbanding and leaving their communities scattered and disconnected. Both times, it was due to a lack of having and enforcing boundaries within their spaces. The one I witnessed more recently was a discord server for lgbtq+ students at a college, and I will be referring to this experience as an example. While the original intent of the server was a great idea - providing a safe online space for a niche community of people - the lack of clear behavioral expectations led to its downfall. I would identify four major things that were key in the server's regression: poor moderation choices, lack of boundaries, formation of cliques, and lack of good faith mentality.

Community Moderation

It's tough to moderate peers. As a community, it is likely that you're going to be interacting regularly with the people in it, especially if it's a place closed off with walls in a way, like a server or groupchat. This makes it feel like everyone's friends, which can be a good thing, but that can make it awkward or even uncomfortable as a moderator. In the event mentioned above, the moderators were the club leaders, who were also students, and they had busy schedules outside of running a club and moderating a discord server, so naturally, they asked for mod applicants. Their mistake was accepting pretty much anyone who was very active in the server as a mod, most (not all) of which were not equipped to be moderators. Much of it was a lack of maturity, but most of it was that these very people who were chosen to be moderators were breaking the rules themselves and adding to a generally unhealthy atmosphere. A community cannot last long if those appointed in maintaining it are contributing to negative, unproductive behaviors themselves; forget about them keeping others in check. The negative behaviors I noticed both regular members and moderators partaking in are the three named in the sections below.

Boundaries (Or Lack Of)

Because the server was for people who already had something very personal in common, people quickly became very comfortable with each other in the server. While this is generally a good thing, having a lack of boundaries and unclear expectations for the type of environment the community is supposed to be can lead to chaos. What I saw was that people were getting very comfortable with each other and thus comfortable sharing deeply personal, often triggering or traumatic details with each other. There was a channel for serious discussions, what I assume was originally intended for discussing matters like social issues as the server was centered around a marginalized community, that got overtaken by people using it as a vent channel. Some of the things shared in that channel were more appropriate to be taken to authorities, I kid you not. A lot of the other stuff shared there would be more suited for a counselor's office. My point is, while it is vital to have a network of support, the recently-made acquaintences in a public, university-affiliated discord server are not equipped to be that support group for more serious, sensitive matters. I am a believer in being there for friends and being open to venting to friends and family when appropriate, and I don't use the term "trauma-dumping" often because I want to encourage emotional vulnerability rather than isolation, but what was happening in this server was often what even I would call trauma-dumping.

You could say "What is the point of a server for a marginalized community if not peer support?", but to that I say the way that particular channel in that particular server was being used was doing more harm than help. When someone posts a deeply emotional, vulnerable, or concerning message about their personal life, those who see it will feel pressured (either out of empathy or guilt) to respond and show support to this person. While that's a nice thing to do, this unfairly places a lot of stress and mental, emotional toll on the respondants over time if this is allowed to be a regular occurance. I say allowed because mods could and should step in, but alas, I already talked about how that wasn't happening either. Not to mention, the subject matter of venting messages can and often do contain triggering topics. Perhaps the community you are in is a book club, a fandom, or perhaps, a web revival group... you're probably there to discuss and share about your common interest, and not everyone is wanting to see sensitive, potentially upsetting topics discussed at length in a space where it isn't the focus of the community. Now, say the people who see vent messages but are too drained to respond don't respond, this could leave the original poster of the message feeling even worse, like no one cares about them and they're being ignored, which can lead to very dark spirals when in an already vulnerable state. This is why a lack of personal boundaries can be harmful for all parties involved. It puts a weight to a space that may not be the right place for it. Not to mention again, the people in online spaces that have never met you are probably not equipped to help someone in distress or give the best advice in the first place.

The biggest thing though, was perhaps the unabashed discussions of NSFW topics. I would like to reiterate, this was a public, school sanctioned organization discord server. Firstly, you don't know if everyone in the server is an adult (by the USA legal definition) and secondly, why on earth are you discussing your BDSM quiz results and kinks in great detail at great length?? Not to mention the many discussions of many other school inappropriate topics, many of which did not have to do with the lgbtq+ community, which was what this server was for in the first place. I know from discussing with other members that this was one of the biggest reasons other people began feeling uncomfortable and sometimes even unsafe in what was supposed to be a safe space. It was just incredibly inappropriate given what the online space was meant for, and could have been avoided entirely if there was better moderation, and if some of the moderators were not the very ones discussing NSFW stuff in the school server they were supposed to be moderating.

Cliques Within A Community

Another factor that led to the server's crumbling, was the formation of cliques, because as mentioned above, "people quickly became very comfortable with each other". A small number of people were extremely active, and while that isn't a bad thing in itself, they began to repeatedly throw around inside-jokes, have niche conversatoins that would dominate the chats, and constantly be filling every channel which made it difficult for new members to jump into conversation and get to know the community. It led to many - both new and old - members feeling unable to connect with others and too intimidated by the "regulars" to chime in, leading to the entire server becoming essentially a server for this one friend group. While I'm sure they didn't intend for this to happen, it made the server feel like a generally unwelcoming place as casual chatters got pushed to the outskirts and newcomers couldn't ever even surface amongst the sea inside-jokes between the clique. A simple solution to this would have been to ask these individuals to refrain from referencing inside-jokes, or to even ask them to create a private friends server for themselves as they regularly chat so much with each other anyway. Spoiler: that didn't happen.

Good Faith

This is arguably the most important quality of healthy online interactions for any online space, not just online communities. I could write a whole post dedicated to good faith (and I might!) itself. So many of the arguments and straight up fights that occured in this server could have been avoided if its participants just approached things in good faith. Like so many other places on the internet, there was a habit of automatically assuming the other person had ill intent or meant the worst possible thing they could. This would result in both parties involved in a conversation to close off their ears, make negative assumptions, take everything personally, take offense, assume the other person was doing the same, and have a generally toxic mentality which would lead to a conversation devolving into a heated discussion, which would then turn into an all out fight.

Not directing people to learn how to approach things with good faith, and allowing for arguments to break out repeatedly (multiple times by the same repeat offender) really just kills the safe, healthy community vibes.


I've always sucked at writing conclusions, but I didn't want to just write this thing off the edge of a cliff. So, that's what I think about having boundaries in online spaces and what to look out for and avoid and what to implement instead. The internet is a big, confusing place but it can also be wonderful, and the spaces we create for like-minded individuals can form great communities! Let's do our damned best to sustain them.

Back to Top of Article

The New Year - 2024

This post is part of 32BITMAS's blog carnival!


2023 was a wild ride for me. I started off the year going on a research cruise with my class, my second time on a research vessel. The first handful of months was just wrapping up my final semesters of college and doing a ton of hands-on work, which was a very welcome change and challenge since I lost two years of in-person experience during my time there due to Covid. I had never done so much in my field (marine and aquatic sciences) before these two classes I took, and I was doing research posters/presentations, symposiums, showcases, and restoration efforts for the first seven months of the year. My class even won several awards/rewards! I then was hired by my professor for a research technician position in her lab, and I spent my summer doing a lot of manual labor and some labwork at the nanoscience technology department.

Then, a major life milestone occurred in August: I graduated with a bachelor's degree and walked the stage! It still feels kind of unreal; I've been a student all my life and following the expected track of a relatively academically achieving kid, and now that's done with (I do NOT plan on going back to school anytime soon...) and I'm thrust into the real, adult world without the structure of school. In a way, I feel less prepared than I did in high school, I felt more ambitious and mature and confident then, but now that I know more about the world and have experienced academia and the research field, I am so much more aware of all the things I don't know yet and it's intimidating. I'm currently still in that post-grad limbo of figuring out what I want/need to do next, but trying not to put too much pressure on myself to meet arbitrary standards I've subconsciously made for myself.

From August to the end of the year, I spent lots of time with my family because I was going to school on the other side of the continent the last four years and missed them dearly. During this time is when I learned about the Web Revival and got into site-building!

Overall, the year was eventfull and busy and I took the chance to slow down and relax once I went back home. I caught up with some childhood friends and helped deep clean most of the house, while driving my younger siblings around to and from school and spending quality time with them.

What's To Come

There were some hard parts of the year, some deaths, and some depressive ruts here and there, but I'm happy to say this year was better than some of the past few recently, and I genuinely am looking forward to a new cycle in our lives. I feel like there's a shifting attitude amongst the people around me, maybe that's because my peers and I are at that age where people are either graduating or getting married or starting families (or all of the above), but for the first time in a while I feel like I'm looking forward to something, even if I'm not sure what that is quite yet.

Back to Basics

I had been using javascript to hide/show blog posts and different "pages" within pages, but it was getting all too messy and cluttered in the code and in my head and I've decided to go back to the basics. For example, this page will no longer use javascript to hide and show posts depending on what button you click. Instead, I'm going back to a scrolling "feed" of blog posts, as you see here, where all posts are displayed on one page and you can just click links that will take you to the corresponding post on the page.

I figure since I'm not familiar with javascript and I'm not trying to do anything crazy with my site, I don't need anything fancy. I just wanted a blog page where I could share my writings, so a simple scrollable page is enough.

I reminded myself that my interest in the small web was the focus of this project anyways, and part of that is allowing my site to be as simple as I want. There are many cool things that you can add to a site that I think are really cool and handy, but I had to acknowledge that my js capabilities are not sufficient enough right now and trying to figure it all out without a solid foundation in it was just slowing down the process of me actually making the stuff I want to share on my site. My conclusion is: it's ok to have a simple setup to display your work, because it's the stuff you make that people want to see, not how you display it! (Though those with an interest in backend will probably be just as interested in that too!)

What is the "Small Web"?


It's not a small spider's home. The "Small Web" is one of the many names that refers to the personal web, parts of the internet populated by people creating and sharing things for fun, rather than content made out of capitalist drive. The Small Web is part of a larger Web Revival Movement. You will probably hear these terms used interchangably, along with "Independent Web", "Old Web", and more, but what does it mean?

What Makes Up the Small Web?

The Small Web is slower-paced as opposed to fast-paced content such as short-form videos and limited character-count posts. Things you'll commonly come across on the small web are blog posts, forums, personal websites, webrings, and more. It exists on the outskirts of the internet, also known as the "Peripheral Web", where corporations aren't present because it's far less populated. Contrast this to the "Core Web", which is made up of major platforms such as Google, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, you get the idea. This is where you would find the majority of people on the internet, and where things like algorithms find and push content to the user. This is the main feature of the Core Web: shorter content, delivered quickly.

Back to the Peripheral Web, or Small Web, you often have to search for content yourself. Take this site for example, you most likely found neocities.org somewhere, and somehow, through a lot of clicking I imagine, you ended up here. It didn't pop up at the top of your feed somewhere, because there is no algorithm out here. What I'm trying to say in a long-winded way, is that it takes more time for things to happen in the Small Web. It is also called the Slow Web for this reason.

Why the Small Web?

For many who have migrated out here, this is a relieving break from an overwhelming digital culture that moves very quickly. Many people suffer from information overload due to the constant bombardment (I know, that's a strong word) of stuff that pops up on people's feeds. Consider how on many social media platforms, something may show on your feed that you may not be interested in, just because the algorithm thought you might be. Sometimes, you just want to see something specific you're feeling that day, so the Small - or Slow - Web, is what people go to for that. You may visit your favorite site you have bookmarked, or you may sift through posts on a forum dedicated to a certain topic you're interested in.

Wrap it Up

What you need to know if you're venturing into the Small Web for the first time, is that it is a place with a focus on building community, creativity, privacy, and fun. Things like NFT's, AI, corporate greed, and bad-faith gotcha arguments are widely unwelcome. You may participate or hang out on the Small Web in a myriad of ways, the limit is your imagination!