Hello my lovely,
I’ve been thinking about the possible link between blogging, social media and mental health for a while now.
Just like physical health, we are on a constant continuum, we can be in good or great mental health and we can be in poor mental health. Poor mental health (or mental health illness) doesn’t happen to those types of people. It happens to all of us. From feelings of stress and anxiety, to depression, and bi-polar disorder.
Aside from running Nu Bride I also work as a holistic therapist with adults with mild, moderate and sometimes severe mental vulnerability.
When I read this post on Rock N Roll Bride in February, simultaneously, I was also in the middle of dealing with a tragic suicide. Devastating. Kat’s post about beautiful Jo, shocked and saddened the wedding community, the impact it had, the supportive and brave comments it generated, emphasised the fact that many people we know, or are connected with, have experienced mental health illness in some way.
A large amount of some of my favourite bloggers including Kat, have openly shared their personal experiences and own battles with mental health, with their readers.
I attended a conference by Mind mental health charity and it was reported that there has been a huge increase in mental health illness in the UK. So I have started to wonder if one of the reasons there continues to be an increase in mental health illness, is because of the artificial way we are interacting with each other; Social media.
If you haven’t already seen this brilliant short video on this very topic called, Look Up, produced, directed and written by Gary Turk take a peek:
This made me think. And think again.
It also made me realise how it has become possible for it to be statistically reported that the UK is becoming a generation that is less caring of others. So evident if we are ignoring people around us and constantly isolating ourselves in our electronic devices.
Gary Turk says: I have 424 friends – yet I’m lonely. I speak to all of them only, yet, none of them really know me.
This media we call social is anything but…
Is social media making us anti-social beings?
Social media allows us to create caricatures of ourselves. It allows us to portray ourselves in the best way possible with ‘edit’ and ‘delete’ at our disposal. To share our successes but rarely our disappointments, or our vulnerability or pain. The very things that also make us human.
Our need to seek approval and daily praise is magnified. We want friends and sometimes strangers, to endorse our feelings by ‘liking’ our Facebook status, or an image upload, which on the reverse can mean we feel instantly vulnerable or dejected when that expected ‘like’ or applaud, does not come.
Now take blog comments as another example: Sometimes (and I can vouch for this) it can be hugely disheartening to spend time thinking about and carefully curating content, only to get zero comments. It can feel like the equivalent of talking to someone face-to-face and then them just walking past you, not making any eye contact, possibly yawning and not saying a single word in response. Is no-one reading? Did I say something to offend someone? Am I utterly useless and boring? Is everyone on holiday in the Caribbean?
The possibilities of ‘no response’ create intricate ways for our minds to interpret what it ‘could’ mean and fill in the gaps, when someone does not reply to an email, or text message instantly, or ‘like’ a photograph, or unfollow on twitter.
Discovering that heartfelt ‘tweet’ you thought was considered and kindly composed just for you, being tweeted several times to others with the exact same ‘heartfelt’ words.
In the blogging and social media world, the opportunities to consistently compare ourself to others are amplified, producing deafening sounds of self-doubt.
Is this need for constant feedback and praise confusing us with what is important in life? Creating unrealistic expectations of perfection and false examples of happiness. Is it starting to wreak unprecedented havoc on our self-esteem, confidence, identity and how we define ourselves? All contributors to mental vulnerability.
When did we start becoming so anti-social?
I too am guilty of feeling the need to ‘share’ instantly on social media. When you strip it down, it’s quite bizarre behaviour isn’t it. As if we will all suddenly spontaneously combust if we don’t update instagram with ‘real time’ pictures of our food whilst eating in a restaurant.
Mr Nu Bride took me out for a surprise date night to the Shard recently. With such breathtaking views and beautiful food of course the temptation to get my ‘social media’ on, was too great. I couldn’t help myself from taking pictures and wanting to share them instantly on instagram and the only thing that saved me from the insanity of social media, was the fact I had no mobile network. lol!
Then the sun started setting, I took my phone off the dining table and I put it in my handbag and appreciated the very moment I got to spend with just one person, no distractions, no emails, no Facebook notifications. Just us and those breathtaking views of a city I had actually forgotten was so beautiful.
When did we stop being present and living in the moment? When was it socially acceptable for a family of four to be out in a restaurant, with their heads down, all on their mobile devices without saying a word to each other.
Gary Turk says:
We’re surrounded by children who since they were born, have watched us living like robots and think its the norm
It’s not likely you’ll make Worlds Greatest Dad, if you can’t entertain a child without using an ipad
When did it become socially acceptable for a 4-year-old desperately trying to seek attention and gain real, live interaction from their parent only for them to be ignored while they are scrolling through a Facebook timeline.
Social media makes it far too easy to paint the perfect picture of perfection. A life that is not necessarily ours. To compare our lives to others (including celebrities) and feel the overbearing feeling of inadequacy when our life does not match up to a snippet of a life portrayed on our timelines.
We create virtual ways to feel like we ‘belong’ . Some have admitted, that actually creating opportunities to interact, meet and engage with people in person, terrifies them, because there is no opportunity to edit, distort or delete.
When I started blogging, I decided not to keep my identity hidden, I wanted people to see a face and to get a feel for who I am. Whilst I don’t and choose not to air every intricate aspect of my life on Nu Bride, I am also not adverse to the occasional personal rambling either, I find it quite cathartic too. Many of my favourite bloggers are the same, very honest and open, sharing their successes, their vulnerability and their talents. They create a virtual space so you can relate to them and almost feel like you know them. On the other side of the spectrum, some bloggers choose to hide their identity – not attaching their name or any aspect of their personal life to their blog. Dissociating themselves from the virtual v’s real world, adding a sense of intrigue and mystery. Neither is right or wrong but do our blogging avatars impact how we behave, how we feel about and portray ourselves in person?
Perhaps having a blog provides an opportunity to create an alter ego. Something to hide behind?A chance to act!
Creating the projection of someone you want to be rather than who you are? That popular girl or guy at school that you never really were, that super cool talented person, bursting with energy the life and soul of the party who in fact is struggling massively with low self-esteem or depression.
Copyright: Hannes Kilian: Image source
Electronic devices provide us with somewhere to hide. They can also make us feel invincible.
We are bolder, braver, sometimes more curt and less considerate via the virtual world then we would be in person because we are protected. Is this virtual super power a contributor to what is making our generation less caring of others? Or is it because we simply don’t notice how others are feeling because we don’t see them and we don’t ask since they didn’t mention it in their Facebook status?
This video really got me thinking about my own relationship with social media. How the by-product of social media is in-fact isolation. How social media can impact people’s confidence (myself included) and induce a very scary, sudden need for daily adulation.
So I will leave you with a little thought about being mindful ‘paying attention on purpose’.
How can we be more mindful each day and appreciate just being present?
Well we can all start today by paying attention to ourselves; e.g: lying in bed and feeling nothing other than the sheets on our skin and the soft mattress on our back, ignoring the never-ending list of things to do swirling round in our heads and just press ‘pause’
Go to a concert or live event. Watch the live act, feel their music, listen to every sound, experience it in full without recording it on your mobile phone.
Listening to your other half tell you about their day without typing on your laptop or unloading the dishwasher at the same time.
Leaving your phone at home when going out to a restaurant with friends. Sitting down at the dinner table and eating a meal, noticing every bite, every texture and flavour, instead of multi-tasking whilst watching tele, emailing or even walking.
Start to try to pay attention to others. Just notice them. By simply noticing and asking if they are ok, can have a huge positive impact on someones wellbeing, as well as your own. Surely this is a great start in re-connecting the human race.
I am guilty of everything in this video and shall be taking heed. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good tweet, but I shall use this bank holiday weekend to turn off my laptop and to re-connect and think about creating more balance.
I shall leave you with some of Gary Turks final words;
Take in your surroundings and make the most of the today….Be there in the moment.
Give people your LOVE don’t give them your ‘like. Disconnect from the need to be heard and defined, go out into the world, leave distractions behind.