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Making new friends online, family 'concerned'
Hope you're well! 🙂
I have been going to therapy this year to work through some traumatic experiences (one being an ex partner who stalked me for a while) that caused me to shut down all social relationships and hide myself from the world. I was paranoid for a long time. Through therapy I have been challenging myself to make connections with people again and become more confident. My therapist gave me steps and challenges I could take. One being trying to do a voice call with someone I met online. Which I did do and felt very happy about the conversation. The person I spoke to is very kind and I felt happy I could challenge myself. I speak to the person regularly now and think they would be a nice person to be a friend.
When I talk to people online I enjoy conversation about a range of topics, but ensure to keep some things private for common sense reasons. Such as my hometown, address, workplace and last name etc.
However, my family have very strong opinions and seem to be pushing this mindset onto me that I should not be talking to people online. I have made really good progress through therapy yet when my family says something negative about my progress... it makes me feel defeated. One of my parents even said to me today that they are 'concerned' who I could be talking with online, that I need to be careful and they could be a stalker. On the other hand, one parent isn't too bothered by it, they have said to me I'm not a child anymore and I can speak with who I like.
Some context here, I am 24 years old so I know how to look after myself. I just feel defeated that my family are not supportive of my social progress. Their negative opinion seems to be igniting my overthinking and makes me want to shut myself away again and not speak to anyone at all. But shutting myself away I know will only have negative effects on my mental health. I don't want to go back to that place, it's very lonely.
Has anyone got any experience or advice on how to tackle differing opinions/pressures from family?
Thank you for reading this! Take care!
Reading your post, I was reminded of a joke I saw recently.
1990 - "Never get into a car with a stranger"
2005 - "Never meet someone from off the internet"
2020 - Use the internet to arrange to get in a car with a stranger
The point I'm making is, cultural norms change and sometimes older generations may stick with the tried and true advice from back in the day. As it currently stands, the internet is where we actually meet new people, form new relationships, join clubs and see what's going on.
You should be really proud that you are taking steps to make new friendships, and provided you follow some basic safety precautions, then there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Online friendships are just as real and genuine as IRL friendships, in fact in some cases even more genuine and authentic. I don't think you will be able to convince your parent of this though, as they will have an older mindset, where meeting people off the internet is very dangerous and to be discouraged. Unfortunately that is just the way it is now, as we can see from all the dating and friendship apps available now.
I'm not sure how to convince your family otherwise, but maybe the first step to making your life a bit easier is accepting they will not change; when they make a negative remark, calmly thank them for their concern and say this is what works for you right now in life, and you'll keep doing this until that is no longer the case (something of that nature). You say your family is very strong-minded so they will probably keep trying until they realise it has no effect, although perhaps you could ask your other parent or a trusted mutual relative or friend to speak with them on your behalf to make them see their negativity is affecting you.
I hope you resolve these problems and keep taking positive steps forward.
I’m so glad to hear that you are making strides with your mental health and becoming more social while challenging yourself!!! I have noticed that a lot of parents (primarily mothers, although I’m not sure if that is the situation in your case) carry a lot of anxiety around their children. When I told my mother I was going to Croatia on a holiday she told me that I was most likely going to get murdered!! I explained that it is a very common holiday destination and she needs to make efforts not to put her anxieties onto me. I see that as the parent responsibility while we as children could be more understanding of their anxiety, that they have had 20 or so years of trying to keep us safe at all costs, and that can be a hard thing to break. However, that’s not to say that you should give in to these anxieties, they are just anxieties that need to be worked through. Knowing my mothers anxieties, I now censor my conversations somewhat so as not to trouble her. You may think that I should be able to share these things with her, but I instead choose my audience more carefully now. Is this something that you can do regarding this topic?
Congratulations on your progress to connect with other people. You are going great and have a right to be proud. Well done.
I have an adult child of 24 years old, so I feel I can somewhat step into your parents' shoes (as much as a stranger can!)
I'm not sure from reading your post that your "concerned" parent is actually concerned about you "progess". It reads like they are concerned about the medium you are using to progress. Can you see the distinction?
I also hear anxiety in your concerned parents words, particularly as you have been so badly impacted by stalking in the past. I think what they might be trying to say is that they love you and don't want you to be hurt again.
I'd like to suggest you explain the safety measures you are taking to both parents. You may also consider inviting them to join you and your therapist for 5 to 10 minutes to discuss the strategy and benefits. These measures may help to reduce the anxiety of your "concerned" parent.
Kind thoughts to you
As jax_in_my_heart has observed, social rules change over time. It can be hard for parents and other onlookers to watch someone forming relationships online because there have been many stories about disastrous endings. I have no doubt their concern arises from care for you and worry you do not get into any sort of trouble with this online friendship. It is true that we meet people online and often this is a happy and satisfying relationship. Stories on the news or in the newspapers tend to concentrate on situations that have turned difficult in some way. But this also happens when meeting someone in a more conventional way.
Your therapist must believe you have the skills to benefit from this online chat without getting into difficulties otherwise he/she would not suggest you pursue this way of getting back your social life. There is probably no way to remove your family's concerns except by demonstrating how well you manage the situation. You are taking reasonable precautions to keep yourself safe which is great. I would suggest it's time to expand your circle of friends and acquaintances. Have you discussed this with your therapist?
It is hard to ignore your family when they so obviously care about you. I have experienced the same thing when I wanted to do something and my (adult) children did their best to dissuade me. A bit of a reverse process to the usual way things progress. It didn't help that I was unwell at the time and they were correct in many ways. However I can relate to the way you feel. I am still getting 'suggestions' on how to manage my life even though I am well now and it is infuriating at times.
Have you talked to them about how you feel now and how you were a year ago? In situations like these we get well slowly and our closest family and friends do not always notice this. I take it they know of your ex partner and are worried that history could repeat itself. If the subject comes up again why not ask them what they think will happen and what you can do to make this friendship chat safer. I suspect they will say to discontinue the friendship but have few other strategies to give you. It will give you both a chance to talk about how you are getting on. Ask if they feel you have improved. Once people start to look back in these situations they can see what is different.
I hope this has been helpful.
Haha, this is very true. Times have changed a lot. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the internet. I will try to do as you suggest. I have talked to the parent who is not so concerned and they said they have spoken with the parent who is concerned so that is a good step.
Thank you very much for your response! 🙂 Take care
Thanks for the support. It is actually my father who is concerned! This is a good point, parents like to keep their children safe... it is good for me to realise and understand this perspective. My parents know this happens because they notice me on the phone. My father is very anxious about it whereas my mother is accepting. Therefore, I am able to speak with my mother more and try to be understanding of why my father might feel how he does.
Thanks for your reply, take care! 🙂
Hi Summer Rose
Thank you for your support. Yes, I can notice the difference. This makes sense because some of the stalking behaviour happened online. It is good for me to understand from a parent's perspective of not wanting their child to go through something similar. When the topic comes up again I will ensure to explain how I stay safe. I am very aware of my privacy.
Thank you for your response, take care 🙂
I agree, it is a different world today. This is true that it can happen when meeting people in person also. In the stalking situation I mentioned, that was by someone I met in a conventional way face to face.
Yes, my therapist felt it would be beneficial. Good point. I have discussed with my therapist in regards to these topics. I do have a friend in person I try to catch up with and my therapist has recognised this and also encouraged more in person group interactions for me.
This is true. It is great to hear your thoughts on it. I have not tried talked to them about my progress in the last year. It is a drastic improvement and I feel more happy day to day. I don't think they would say to discontinue any friendships, they would just remind me to be safe. I have previously discussed with my mother about safety and she has given me some general recommendations. I will ensure to keep in my mind that parents have concern for their children and I will try to be understanding around this and talk about it with them if and when it arises.
Thank you for your reply, take care 🙂