THE CURSE OF SOCIAL MEDIA – HOW SOCIAL MEDIA CAUSES DEPRESSION & ANXIETY
It’s a question I’ve asked myself time and time again even before I started my blog. With so many young bloggers and vloggers out there, competition is fierce especially in the fashion and beauty sector. If blogging was around in my younger years when I was slimmer, less saggy, more perky and definitely more beautiful, beauty and fashion blogging would surely have taken priority over travel and food, of that, I’m sure.
I was 20 here, I enjoyed my teens without the glare of social media impacting on my happiness.
However, when I was a teenager in the late 80’s, we didn’t even have mobiles and computers let alone the internet and social media. It sounds so alien doesn’t it, no mobiles and no internet, I can’t even imagine how we coped but we did, you don’t miss what you haven’t got. We’ve come such a long way in such a short space of time but one thing I’ m grateful for is that we had a life, we had fun away from the glare of social media. By that I mean, a proper life without the pressure of constantly posting about where we’d been and what we’d done and more importantly what we looked like.
Bullying stayed at school full stop, now there’s a new epidemic that youngsters have to face – cyber bullying. Cyber bullying is a real threat to our children, bullies appear to think that it’s ok to unleash their hate on other kids because they think they’re free to do so because the victim is not in front of them as it was when I was at school – no one can see them, it can be done in secret, suddenly they feel more courageous to pick on someone else. This can often lead to suicide, the victim is constantly threatened and bullied until the only way out is to escape in the worst possible way, to take their own life. Cyber bullying doesn’t just happen in kids, it happens to everyone even adults, we usually use the word trolling when someone constantly spews their hate and vitriol on to someone else but the police are coming down hard on this vicious behaviour, it is seen as a crime. Phones and messages can be traced and hard drives can be opened revealing the identities of the trolls and bullies.
I know how horrible and pressured it is being a young girl at the best of times but nowadays, it’s so much harder. The pressures are constant, it’s in your face 24/7 and it’s fierce. The posts and vlogs on Instagram are relentless, I know as I have a soon-to-be 17-year-old daughter. When I was a teen, I had the freedom to live my life as I pleased, no one knew a thing unless I chose to tell them. It’s even hard to be an adult these days with social media putting pressure on to live this perfect life, can you imagine how our young people must feel? The need to “have it all” is there every second of every day. It’s intrusive, bitchy, fake and to be honest, most of the time, it’s all about show. Who’s got bigger and better, who’s got the latest designer gear, the fancy faraway exotic holiday and flashy dinners and nights out.
Photo credit, Flickr
In all honesty, most of the time, it’s all a lie because deep inside, I’m sure these girls (and boys too) must be deeply depressed, I feel so sure about this. But with the onset of the internet has come a whole new opportunity. We got our first dial-up internet in 2001, I can’t even comprehend how we made do with the mega slow service back then and then, there was the distress of trying to cope when the internet was down which still happens occasionally, it’s literally like the end of the world! It took ages to load a page and that funny noise it made as it was connecting, we can laugh about it now but for me, the internet was a godsend especially for grocery shopping when I didn’t want to trudge about with 4 unruly kids. We’ve been able to research things at home without the need to go to the library but I’m nostalgic for the days I used to visit the library to make notes and read up on things for school. Nowadays, the library comes equipped with computers so students and people can do their work in a quiet space. We’re able to look at and book holidays on-line, read about a hotel or restaurant and there’s that wonderful world of on-line shopping. It’s definitely been a life changer and so welcome but as a parent, being clued up on what kids are up to is so important. With cyber bullying comes the seedy side of the internet where children are in danger of being groomed so their safety is paramount. If you’re unsure about internet safety and security, schools are a great place to get help. They often run special classes and parents’ meetings about internet safety, the police can offer good advice too.
With blogging and vlogging comes the opportunity to work with some fantastic brands, some girls have made it big such Lydia Elise Millen as ambassadors for many brands, but this isn’t the norm. Many girls hope that they will get noticed their careers and studies often taking a back seat. This can happen with impressionable boy’s keen on getting ahead in the health and fitness industry hoping to become the next Joe Wicks Body Coach or the next musical sensation. Having said that, you can still do pretty well on social media as a blogger and be lucky enough to work on paid collaborations and travel to some fantastic places and restaurants. However, there’s a lot of hard work that goes into blogging because you have to keep writing and posting to your blog sharing on social media in order to grow and begin to have those opportunities come your way. As an older blogger, I understand this, but my younger counterparts want it all now and this can inevitably lead to feelings of rejection, not being good enough, worthlessness even isolation. Subsequently the younger generation often find themselves getting depressed as feelings of negativity and anxiety of not being good enough take hold. They will keep these feelings to themselves more often than not, perhaps feeling ashamed to open up and talk.
Working hard to get noticed and become the next Instagram sensation will no doubt be expensive as you buy the latest fashion to model on your feed and stories or if you’re a food and travel blogger, forking out money to eat out or travel somewhere in order to have material to write about. I’ve been there and I know first hand unless you’re lucky enough to regularly go out and have lots to post about. This is where I feel the pressure and stress the most. I look at other bloggers and I really wonder how they fund their dinners and holidays, where they live etc…their homes seem so much more glamorous than mine so you really have to be thick skinned to ride above this and just take it for what it is. On the other hand, I’ve learnt in my short time as a blogger that “in the blogging world” quite a few bloggers do have money which is why and how they start a blog in the first place. They’re able to invest in their blogs, they’re the lucky few…..blogging is an expensive job!
There are others who are completely passionate about writing and what they’re writing about, the social media side doesn’t really play a part for them but even if you’re a business with a website, social media is a form of advertising so it’s hugely important. If you’re a cookery blogger sharing recipes, social media is crucial to your success and growth so its easy to see that social media plays a huge part in all our lives.
Another thing to remember that as a young blogger and vlogger, you’re only young for such a short space of time, there will be another pretty face hot on your heels and what then? Will you sacrifice a family life? How far are you prepared to go because let’s face it, having a family isn’t conducive to a bloggers life unless you change tact and become a mummy blogger like so many are doing now. But the downside to that is you’re putting your baby out there in the spotlight, so this vicious circle just carries on as you are unknowingly putting your children in the glare of social media. Inevitably, as they grow, they will think this lifestyle is normal and will feel pressured to post and vlog, something I wouldn’t want for my child. Perhaps on the other hand, if you’ve grown up with this kind of life, you think nothing of these pressures because it’s such a part of everyday life but isn’t it funny how all of a sudden depression in our youngsters is on the rise? Mental health is surely suffering as we try to keep up this lavish lifestyle if you’re just an ordinary blogger, but can you imagine the anxiety and stress it puts on the younger generation. With programmes like Love Island which has recently ended, fabulous bodies and fancy clothes are in your face 24/7. The pressure to conform to be like that must be intense.
I can see how social media is affecting my daughter even though she doesn’t have Facebook and Twitter, she does have Instagram and Snapchat. She communicates with friends this way as well as watch videos mainly of food and holidays. Nevertheless, photos of pretty girls in gorgeous clothes with clear skin in exotic locations are everywhere. What do you do when you’re an average teen from a normal family with a bit of acne, high street clothes living in a “normal” family home in the suburbs? Thankfully she deleted Instagram and Snapchat when she was revising for her GCSE exams recently. She didn’t want any temptations or be disturbed or side-tracked, I’m proud of her for this determination. Having said that, she has suffered over the last year with a bit of cyber bullying, bitchy girls at school and lots of peer pressure. I’m disappointed that she never came to me earlier although I felt her unhappiness, I thought it was a phase she’d grow out of. When she started year 11, she opened up to me and told me all about the pressures she was under. I struggled with it for a while, I tried my best as she was growing up to protect her against this sort of thing but as a parent, there’s only so much you can do.
I feel that it’s much harder for girls, so this was all new to me. I’ve had three boys and never experienced anything like this before. My boys went through high school relatively unscathed, just a bit of banter with friends. My middle boy giving me a bit more stress than I’d have liked at the time; the older boy reacting to a bit of provocation in a physical way with his fists but nothing serious, he was a model student; and my youngest boy who had mild learning difficulties unbelievably had the best time, no issues at all. However, with my daughter, I could see early on that she wasn’t entirely happy at high school. Her very best friend had to go to a different high school because of where she lived just outside the boundary and this had a big impact on my daughter. She found it difficult to make decent friends drifting from one group of girls to another. To cut a long story short, I could see the anxiety building up especially at the beginning of year 11. I knew then that I had to leave my job to be around for her, to support her….my daughter needed me and there wasn’t any question that I would resign to support her; it was the best thing I could have ever done for her. In fact, work kept my job “unofficially open” and I’m back working now. I’m lucky it’s just a two-day-a-week job which gives me the flexibility to still be around for her and work on my blog.
My beautiful daughter Zoe on her Prom Night.
Back to my daughter, things got pretty hard in year 11 with her anxiety building and a bit of bullying on social media, well not bullying as such but disagreements and arguments. The one special day in her educational career would be Prom Night and though she had a nice time overall, she phoned me from Prom a bit distressed. Some girls were being nasty, and it ruined her evening. My daughter looked amazing, so I put it down to jealousy. Nearer the exams, her anxiety worsened so we paid a visit to the GP. The doctor definitely diagnosed anxiety, but we dealt with it with meditation and mindfulness. Because of the doctor’s intervention, Zoe was able to do her exams in the comfort of the library, a small safe space with about 15 other pupils where she felt at ease and calm and was able to sit her exams stress-free rather than the big space of a school hall with lots of “worried” hyperactive girls and crowds which would have stressed Zoe out. I’m sure this has made all the difference in her exam results; we’ll find out in a week.
Over the last week, I “interviewed” my daughter for this post. I asked her what goes in her social media world, what are girls like? what does she see and notice most of all and are boys affected? To cut a long story short, she told me that girls want to be a bit like the Kardashians in terms of how they look with the lip injections (she calls them “pumped up lips”) and butt implants, I was horrified to hear this. She also said that girls want to believe that they are impressing boys to live the life of a “gangster girl” a bit like the girls portrayed in rap videos and mainly boys are just trying to make music videos in the hope of getting noticed. It opened my eyes for sure, but I felt sad. My daughter has a very good friend who’s had many serious issues with self-esteem and other problems I can’t go into, he tried to take his own life. I was heartbroken to hear this. These are the pressures our kids are under nowadays. Having watched the Netflix series 13 Reason’s Why I saw for myself the potential threat to our children’s happiness and mental well being because of cyber bullying and social media.
As for me, I’m older and I’m not that easily sucked in. I’ve lived a life without social media, and I can safely say that my childhood and teenage years were happier than that of kids now and my daughter confirmed this when I asked her if she would have been happier as a teenager in the 1980’s as I was. This means that I appreciate the internet and social media much more. The internet has been life changing in so many ways and I couldn’t imagine a life without it, same with my mobile. In fact, my eldest son who is 25 didn’t have Snapchat or Instagram when he was 14-15 at high school, yes, he had a smart phone, but these social media apps are relatively new so weren’t around then and I know he had an easy time of it but he isn’t easily influenced anyway.
Some people have more money and that has always been the way pre-social media but they couldn’t post about it they way they do now which is how we live a life full of envy now which is such a horrible emotion to carry around. Sometimes in order to have regular and interesting content, I have felt the need to invest in my blog by going out more regularly, otherwise I would have nothing to write about. There have definitely been times when I have wanted to give it all up and just be “normal” again. No one would know what I was up to I’d be able to bake more which is my passion and I would be able to visit the gym more frequently which I miss, trust me, it’s tempting to give it all up just to feel free again. Has social media affected my mental health? I definitely think so because I do wish that I had a nicer house, more holidays and went out more because of what I see on Instagram but then I have to pull myself together and give myself a good pep talk.
I’ve had a few meltdowns where I’ve momentarily lost sight of why I started my blog in the first place and I kind of lost my mojo and delayed putting up my posts, I’m going through that phase right now. I have so many blogposts from Paris to finish off but at times, I feel just so overwhelmed by it all but then I stop to think of all the wonderful moments I’ve had and the friends I’ve made through blogging. I’ve also made money from blogging which is inevitably the ultimate goal. I’ve been invited to Paris to review hotels and I’ve travelled there sometimes 3-4 times a year. I’ve contributed to a couple of on-line magazines. These are all the good things that have come out of blogging and I’m really grateful for that. I enjoy writing and sharing my blog posts, but I find the social media side of it hard. Alas, social media and blogging go hand in hand, and it isn’t possible to have one without the other.
During my 8 years of suffering with depression which was a culmination of lots of little things, I’ve found solace in my blog and it’s helped me a great deal sharing my experiences with you all. I’ve found CBT and talking therapy a lifesaver. There are lots of organisations that are able to help if you’re suffering anxiety and depression including CAMHS (child & adolescent mental health services) for children and adolescents, click on this link to find out more about family therapy.
The Samaritans are there to help if things get too overwhelming. I’ve dealt with CAMHS before when my younger boy was having a hard time at school and at home after he was diagnosed with Specific Learning Difficulties. Although the waiting list is quite long, it really helps families deal with all sorts of issues. The whole family gets an opportunity to have therapy together which is so beneficial. They deal with lots of issues affecting families such as break-ups and divorce, mental health and anxiety, bullying and other social problems including abuse and addictions. My son has come a long way and is so happy, he’s done so well at college and the future is bright, therapy for the whole family was a big help for us.
I hope with social media we can take the good and leave the bad behind. Realise that what you see out there isn’t always real, you don’t need social media to validate you as a person and you can’t depend on it for happiness – happiness starts with you from within. Step away from it now and again and have a “social media detox” I promise you that you’ll feel so much happier even if it’s just for a day. Put things into perspective, use social media to your advantage and block the accounts or people who are making you unhappy and miserable. I now follow hotels and restaurants and bloggers who are inspiring especially ones based in Paris, when I log on to Instagram, they brighten up my day and that’s how it should be.
If you have children, please talk and check in on them regularly and speak to the school if you have worries.