Digital Mentality

Disclaimer: This blog post handles the subject of mental health in a way that some people may find distressing. Reader discretion is recommended. In case you feel yourself struggling with your mental health, there is a list of links at the bottom of this blog post where help and advice can be found. Please take care <3

In my last two blog posts, I’ve put a large focus on algorithms and robots. With questions and wonderments whether they are compatible with humans and whether there is any danger of them taking over. Coming to a conclusion that robots have mastered many skills while not being superior to humans, there is, however, one thing that robots have not been able to master…


Since robots and self-learning algorithms haven’t been able to master the magic and mystery behind human emotions, the focus in this post is going to be on, well…humans on the internet dealing with emotions.

With the midterms almost upon us, I think it is safe to say that most people experience more stress and pressure than usual. I, for one, am no exception to this. As an overachiever and a sworn perfectionist, it takes its toll mentally and as to be expected: there came a moment when I crashed under my own internal pressure. Not quite knowing where to turn in my moment of despair, I turned to a platform that I have found helpful from time to time, the Red-cross helpline. It is based in Iceland and offers one to talk anonymously to trained volunteers about virtually anything one may be struggling with. Several years back, the Red Cross introduced a webchat in addition to the telephone helpline. For me, that has been revolutionary because although I do not struggle with talking in general, talking about emotions and feelings is a whole other cup of tea. That is when I choke on my words and find it easier to express myself in the written word.

Advertisement for the Red Cross helpline and webchat in Iceland. This is one of several as the ads contained different people wearing different masks. The masks seem to underline the act of putting on a mask to hide our feelings and simultaneously emphasize that the helpline is anonymous.

Friend, not a foe

It is easy to go on a downward spiral when spending time online. As research shows, excessive social media use can be harmful, and yet we are addicted to it. Or the number of trolls and people with stupid comments you can find on platforms such as YouTube or Reddit, just to name a few. Not to say that those platforms I just mentioned are all out bad, but it is where the discussion tends to go – about the pitfalls of the online environment in general. In the case of the Red Cross helpline, it is a platform that is enormously helpful and offers psychological help and relief when dealing with difficulties. The volunteers answering the phone and the webchat do not only offer a listening ear and fast-typing fingers for answers, but they also offer guidance on where to seek further help. Like they may point to a certain place or people that can offer long-term help, especially if it is a persisting problem in one’s life. A spark of hope when all hope seems lost.

For helplines in The Netherlands:

De luisterlijn – Anonymous helpline, webchat and email service for emotional support. Open 24/7, free of charge.
Suicide prevention – Helpline and various other information for help for suicide prevention.

Help that Leiden University offers:
Caring Universities – Online program to help improve students’ well-being, created by clinical psychologists.
Student support groups – Small student-based groups with either a student or a teacher leading.
Student psychologists – Psychologists for students registered at Leiden University.