Mental Health Monday: Don't let social media consume you
We wrote recently about the detrimental effects of social media and how it can be a cesspit of abuse and negativity.
In an ideal world, social media would be a positive and supportive environment where no one suffers needlessly. The reality is that social media’s pernicious influence affects both celebrities and non-celebrities alike, and its harmful effects on mental health are well documented.
Social media means we are all in the public eye; we are all publicly visible whether or not we desire or intend it. This means we are all potential targets and at risk of being harmed by what is written online.
Caroline Flack is a tragic example of vicious remarks becoming too much for an individual to bear. Whilst it would be a mistake to presume to know why she took her own life, it’s clear that being relentlessly pursued by the press and trolled on social media contributed to her distress.
Her death shocked people to the core, and since then we’ve seen impassioned pleas to stop the persecution of individuals online alongside calls for the mainstream media to be drastically curtailed. Heaven knows it is needed.
But less than 24 hours had passed before other celebrities were being referred to in the tabloids as “messy”, “fat”, and “tired-looking” amongst other insulting descriptions.
It is no surprise that not a single thing was learnt and sadly Caroline Flack probably won’t be the last person driven to despair because of vitriol posted online.
In the wake of Caroline’s death, there was a proliferation of ‘be kind, always’ posts on social media and a very brief amnesty. Then, predictably, the nastiness re-emerged with a vengeance.
This is partly because those responsible for the cruel and unnecessary tormenting of others are allowed to do so with impunity. Furthermore, not only do we expect negativity and trolling online, we accept it. Its effects are so insidious that it almost goes unnoticed – disgusting abuse of others is not remotely shocking anymore; it is part and parcel of social media. It is easy to see why someone’s self-esteem can be eroded because of social media and its capacity to harm even the most resilient amongst us.
Protect yourself and your mental health
Whilst social media unpleasantness might to an extent be inevitable, fortunately, there are ways to minimise its effects.
It’s perhaps ironic that we’re writing this post denouncing social media as harmful to mental health, then posting it on social media. But social media is here to stay, whether we like it or not, and, of course, it isn’t all evil. Interspersed with flagrant showing-off, displays of breath-taking ignorance, and overt attention-seeking, are precious connections with people with whom we might otherwise have lost touch and it can be a lifeline for the lonely and isolated.
From a business perspective, it’s also invaluable and it allows us to advertise to our friends and their friends, giving us a platform to display our work in front of hordes of people.
At Dragon Ghostwriters we are passionate advocates of mental health and believe that nothing related to our business is as important as the preservation of our mental health. Therefore, despite using social media to promote our brand, we are well aware of its potential ill-effects and take measures to counteract them. These include regular social media breaks, that is, a few weeks or a month away from social media completely, if we feel we need to.
We know, and are mindful always, that what people display on social media is their highlights reel and not a typical snapshot of their everyday lives. Even with this in mind, though, it is sometimes difficult to feel that what we have is enough when the seemingly (and we emphasise the word seemingly) perfect lives of others are shoved in our faces 24/7.
Expensive holidays? Check.
Perfect family? Check
Luxury cars? Check
Vibrant social life? Check, check, check
What we sometimes can’t see is that ‘perfect’ couples secretly despise each other, luxury holidays are a battleground, the cars are on unsustainable finance and nights out with friends are riddled with simmering resentments and cattiness.
Things are almost never as they are portrayed on social media, but even with this in mind, it is still difficult to avoid being bogged down with negativity and comparing our own lives with the lives of others.
We also utilise other strategies which include unfollowing anyone who is toxic or who makes us feel inadequate, this includes friends and family and not just celebrities. We do not approve of anyone that fuels comparison, and so they are gone too. Anyone who exudes negativity and toxicity is deleted and blocked - not having to see constant gloating and disingenuity is liberating and we heartily recommend it.
We also eschew extended periods on social media and ensure we stay within a reasonable time limit every day.
Here is an excerpt from Natalie's book Write Through Depression in which she discusses the problems inherent with social media in particular for those suffering from depression.
Social media isn't your friend
(or a good idea when you are depressed)
“Someone else is happy with less than what you have."
Nine times out of ten social media will make you feel a lot worse about yourself, especially when you are having a particularly bad day. So do your best to avoid it when this is happening. It’s addictive, and I will admit that I spend way too much time on it. I downloaded an app recently that showed me exactly how much time I was spending on each social media platform. I was shocked and ashamed that I wasted that much time every day while complaining I never have time for anything else. It was a reality check and gave me the kick I needed to make a change.
The first thing I did was get rid of my personal Facebook profile. I have a different one now, with no friends added, that I use to follow pages I like and keep my business active. I’m so glad I did, and it’s saving me at least an hour a day. I suggest getting an app and you will be surprised about the amount of time you waste on social media. Your mobile phone may already have this facility and an option to warn you when you are reaching a set limit of your choice. I know if you run a business then you need social media, but you can spend half an hour a day scheduling your posts, then you can forget about it and go about your day. You could even outsource your social media if you really wanted to cut your time down.
It’s really easy to look at people you follow and admire on social media and be jealous of their lives, but trust me if you look hard or even sometimes no so hard, you will always have something they don’t. You might have children, be able to drive, have a degree, good skin, be talented at singing. I guarantee at least one person you follow will be wishing they had that one thing you have, the one thing that makes you special.
Nobody’s life is perfect!
Social media is a distorted and filtered version of real life. People show you what they want you to see. Take my platforms for instance. I do sometimes post about bad days and I did this a lot more on Facebook. I annoyed myself with how negative I was. This was one of the main reasons I decided to get rid of it. On Twitter, I occasionally post about depression, which I mentioned at the beginning of the book. I want people to know I go through the same things they do. I retweet more on depression than I personally post. But on the whole, I try and post positive things. I don’t want to damage myself or my brand and negativity breeds negativity. However, everyone has bad days and showing those is what makes us human.
Social media doesn’t need to be a bad thing in your life. I follow other authors and it spurs me on. I enjoy watching beauty vloggers on YouTube. Watching these videos gives me an escape. I highly recommend following people you admire because they will help you strive for better, just remember they are real people with real problems just like you and me, even if they don’t show them.
I follow some really motivational people on my social media. Some are more well-known than others. I watch a lot of writing videos and these helped me to finish this book. Through social media, I participated in a challenge to write 50,000 words in a month. Writers’ supporting writers’ is always an amazing thing. I also found beta readers for this book through social media, so you can see, sometimes social media can be a great thing.
We all have to remember no matter how we feel, there is always someone worse off than us.
We all need a reminder sometimes and it can be easy to fall into the woe is me mindset. Depression does that to you. It plays with your mind and makes you believe things are so bad that there is no way out. There is! Depression is not worth dying for! I will probably repeat this several times in the book.
So, right now you are probably thinking, well she can’t be depressed or she doesn’t know how it really feels. Trust me I do, and I have had suicidal thoughts in the past. I have sat there thinking everyone would be better off without me and that the only way the pain would go away was if I was dead. It’s just not true. This statement alone shows that depression made me selfish.
Of course, my life matters. I have people who love me. You do too, no matter what depression tells you. Depression is a liar. It lies, cheats, manipulates and controls you. It’s like being in an emotionally abusive relationship. But you can get out of it! You never have to stay in a situation like that.
You can be strong. YOU ARE STRONG. Repeat this to yourself.
Choose who you follow on social media wisely. Pick people who are going after their dreams. Pick people who have fought mental health issues and have come out the other side, they give the best advice because they truly know what it feels like. Doctors, Psychologists and Cognitive Behavioural Therapists are great and a must, but they cannot truly understand how you feel if they haven’t experienced it themselves. I talk about this more in the ‘Professional help’ chapter. They say it takes a village to raise a child, well it takes an army to fight depression. No person knows everything or has all the answers. Use the resources available, that’s what they are there for. Why else would these jobs exist if millions and millions of other people before you and after you didn’t need them too?
Write Through Depression is available on Amazon now.
Further information about the detrimental effect of social media on mental health is available here