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 mental health.
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, how you do you 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; we had privacy and that’s so important.
Bullying stayed at school full stop, now there’s a new epidemic that youngsters are facing – cyber bullying. Cyber bullying is a real threat to our children. Bullies appear to think that it’s ok to pick on other kids because they’re free to do so as it’s so much easier because the person isn’t in front of them as it was when I was at school. No one can see them and it can be done in secret; suddenly they feel more courageous to unleash their hate. It can appear in many guises, and ever so innocent at first, drawing the victim in, mild manipulation can often be very sinister; words like gaslighting come to mind and coercive behaviour, a pattern all too familiar. This can often lead to suicide, the victim is constantly threatened and bullied until the only way out is to escape in the most horrific way, to take their own life.
Cyber bullying doesn’t just happen to 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, deliberately baiting and provoking. However, the police are coming down hard on this vicious behaviour, it is now seen as a crime. Phones and messages can be traced and hard drives can be forensically examined 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 daughter who’s just out of her teens, she’s 20 now. 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 just as hard to be an adult these days with the pressure of social media, we feel we have to live the 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, endless faraway exotic holidays, expensive restaurants 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 and insecure, so often, something is missing in their life and social media is filling that void. But there are pluses to be had, with the birth of the internet, has come a whole new world and endless opportunities. At home, we got our first dial-up internet in 2001. Looking back, I can’t even comprehend how we managed with the mega slow service never mind the distress of trying to cope when the internet went down which was a regular thing, it literally felt like the end of the world! It took ages to load a page and I still remember that funny noise it made as it was connecting, we can laugh about it now but for me, the internet was and is 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 however, I am 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, read reviews if we’re looking for workmen or if we want to buy something and there’s that wonderful world of on-line shopping. It’s definitely been a game 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 and the police can offer really 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 popular brands, but this isn’t the norm; it’s so much harder to grow an organic following these days. Of course, many young girls hope that they’ll get noticed but in doing so, their careers and studies often take a back seat. This can happen with impressionable boy’s keen to be the next gaming sensation, health and fitness guru like Joe Wicks Body Coach or maybe the next musical star. Quick bucks is the aim and ultimate goal and it’s really worrying with the onset of sites like Only Fans; I can imagine how tempting it must be. Once registered with Only Fans, you post pictures of yourself, often quite degrading pictures to satisfy the fetishes of potential predators and other vile individuals, it’s a site that can attract pervets for obvious reasons but the reward is often huge amounts of money. Having said that, I am not one for crushing the dreams and ambitions of young people because many have carved successful careers off the back of social media and YouTube whether it’s gaming, travel, cooking and other often obscure hobbies like camping! People even set up YouTube accounts in order to document their life; they obviously lead much more interesting lives than I do, it’s a type of voyeurism isn’t it. On a serious note, singers, musicians, budding film makers, cooks etc…have been discovered via YouTube, we’ve heard of those dream- come-true stories, some examples which spring to mind are The Weekend, Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran and Shawn Mendes. YouTube also provides a wealth of information such as tech guidance.
You can still do pretty well on social media as a blogger/vlogger and be lucky enough to work with well known brands whether it’s paid collaborations or travel to some fantastic places and restaurants in exchange for a published review or social media posting. However, blogging is hard work. behind the scenes stuff that people don’t think of like editing and uploading photo’s, SEO, analytics, researching key words for optimisation and monitoring your website’s traffic plus pitching to companies and brands. In order to monetise a blog, there has to be regular interaction with your followers whether it’s a daily social media post or reel and you have to keep publishing content on your blog/website, articles that are interesting and informative in order to grow and 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, younger influencers can often suffer anxiety and depression as feelings of negativity, of not being good enough can develop and take hold. They will keep these feelings to themselves more often than not, perhaps feeling ashamed because opening up to talk can make us vulnerable, it can be an uncomfortable prospect. Depression and anxiety can so easily turn to substance abuse as a way of coping or self-medicating whether it’s with alcohol or drugs.
The process of becoming a high profile influencer can be an expensive project 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 is a reality unless you’re fortunate enough to eat out regularly. I know because I’ve been there and I know how hard it is. This is where I feel the pressure and stress the most. I used to look at other bloggers and I really wondered how they funded their regular dinners and holidays, their homes, glamorous and huge, but these are the lucky few that have the capability to fund this lifestyle. You really have to grow a thick skin 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 started a blog in the first place. They’re able to invest in their blogs, they’re the lucky few…..blogging can be an expensive job!
There are others who are completely passionate about writing and what they’re writing about, they might assume that social media doesn’t really play a part for them but even if you’re a business with a website, social media is an essential 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 very important part in all our lives.
Another really important thing to remember is that age will inevitably catch up with you, as a young blogger and vlogger, you’re 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 always conducive to a bloggers life unless you change tact and transition to perhaps a “mummy blogger” which is really popular now. The only possible downside to that is sharing your baby with the world and everyone on social media, putting your family in the spotlight. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, there are lots of very successful mummy bloggers out there who’ve made the change from fashion or lifestyle blogging or blending the two. Perhaps on the other hand, you’ve grown up in a family where social media is part of life which is fast becoming very normal as the generations grow and change, you’ll 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 and anxiety in our youngsters is on the rise? Mental health is surely suffering as they try to keep up this lavish lifestyle and latest trends. With programmes like Love Island where fabulous bodies, up-to-the-minute fashion and beachside locations are in your face 24/7, where stars are made overnight, think Davide and Ekin-Su who I admit, I adore by the way, the pressure to conform and to be recognised must be intense.
I can see how social media has affected my daughter even though she doesn’t have Facebook and Twitter, she does have Instagram, Snapchat and Tik-Tok. But now, she’s 2o, she’s realised how much time she’s wasted scrolling through pointless reels on Tik-Tok and has now deleted this pointless social media platform and I can’t remember the last time Snapchat was mentioned! She communicated 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? Sadly, my daughter suffered with a bit of cyber bullying when she was at school. It was a combination of bitchy girls and lots of peer pressure. I was disappointed that she never came to me earlier than she did and 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 and as a parent, it’s your duty to protect your children right?
However, I really believe it’s much harder for girls and it was all new to me because my three boys 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 but nothing serious, he was otherise, a model student; my youngest boy who had mild learning difficulties unbelievably had the best time, so 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 the admissions criteria where we live, she was just outside the boundary, 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 my job to support her. It was the best thing I did and I didn’t regret it for a second. Thankfully, we got through it, she got her grades and did really well at college and now she’s resuming her digital marketing apprenticeship. As for me, although I am looking for part time work again, my real aim is to fully monetise my blog which is my passion.
My beautiful daughter Zoe on her Prom Night.
Another example I wanted to share with you with regard to my daughter was in her final year at school. Things came to a head, with her anxiety building over a few months, disagreements and arguments between her and her friends via messaging was a regular thing. The one special day in any child’s educational career is Prom Night and though she had a lovely 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 not with medication but with mindfulness, meditation and exercise. Because of the doctor’s intervention, Zoe was able to do her exams in the comfort of the library, it was a small safe space and it was a game changer. With a small group of about 15 other pupils, she felt really at ease and calm and was able to sit her exams stress-free rather than face the intimidating big space of the school hall where the atmosphere would have been scary. I felt sorry for the other kids having to face the daunting prospect of sitting their exams under this intense pressure. This made all the difference, she was able to attend her exams and sit them without much worry or stress.
When it came to writing this post back in 2019, I “interviewed” my daughter as I really wanted to know all about a teenager’s social media world, what are girls like? what does she see and notice most of all and are boys affected too? 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 lip injections (she calls them “pumped up lips”) and butt implants. I was horrified to hear this. She also said that girls wanted to impress boys to live the life of a “gangster girl” a bit like the girls portrayed in rap videos and with boys, it’s mainly about trying to make music videos in the hope of getting noticed. It opened my eyes for sure, but I felt quite sad for today’s generation. My daughter has a very good friend who’s had many serious issues with self-esteem and other problems. I don’t want to say anymore as I want to protect his privacy but what I will share is that he tried to take his own life. I was heartbroken to hear this.
The pressures facing our kids is real and it’s important to be aware of it. Having watched the Netflix series, ’13 Reason’s Why’ with Zoe, I was able to see for myself the dangers of cyber bullying and the affect it can have our children’s happiness and mental health. My eldest two boys didn’t have Snapchat or Instagram when they were at high school, they were lucky that way but Instagram was beginning to be a thing when my youngest boy started high school in 2011. Although they had smart phones, our popular social media apps weren’t around then and I know they had an easy time of it but as well-rounded boys, I know they wouldn’t have been influenced anyway. Perhaps, nearly four years on since writing this post, life at school is different, perhaps better (I hope), maybe worse, (I fear).
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 and her reply was a resounding yes. This means that I appreciate the internet and social media much more, I can use it to my benefit rather than let it, use and manipulate me. The internet has been life changing in so many ways and I couldn’t imagine a life without it and my mobie phone.
I will admit that in order to have regular and interesting content, I’ve felt the need to invest in my blog by going out more regularly epecially in the beginning, otherwise I’d 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 and I’d be able to follow another passion of mine, baking. I’d be able to visit the gym every day rather than 3/4 times a week, it’s tempting to give it all up just to feel free again however, I’ve managed to organise my time better, enlisted the help of a cleaner and put less pressure on myself to do it all. Has social media affected my mental health? I definitely think so because I do wish that I had a bigger house, more holidays and went out more because of what I see on Instagram but then I get really angry with myself; I pull myself together and give myself a good pep talk and I realise how stupid I’m being.
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 publishing posts especially over lockdown. I have so much material and articles to finish from my visits to Paris but at times, I do feel a bit overwhelmed by it all but then I stop and 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. I really enjoy writing and sharing my posts and reviews; these are all the good things that have come out of social media and blogging and I’m really grateful for that. Alas, social media and blogging go hand in hand, and it isn’t possible to have one without the other.
Sadly, we live in a superficial world, full of hate, envy and jealousy, these are such a horrible emotions to carry around. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to escape when money, holidays, expensive cars and homes are in your face on a daily basis. Social media stars like Molly Mae Hague, people from The Only Way is Essex and Love Island have made it big! It’s easy to get sucked in when all we see on social media is money and what other people have. Money has always been around but back in the day, you couldn’t share it on social media, pressure wasn’t as severe as it is today, the need to succeed and do well seems to be all that matters and it’s simply not the case.
During the 11 years of suffering with depression which was a culmination of lots of little things including bereavement, grieving from the loss of my beloved dad which came just four months after the orginal release of this post, 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. I hope that one day, I’ll be able to share with you, my experience of grief, right now, it’s still too painful.
The Samaritans are a great help if things get too overwhelming. I’ve dealt with CAMHS before when my younger boy was having a hard time at school 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.
Finally, I wanted to briefly touch on Covid-19 and the lockdowns we all had to endure for nearly two years. An unprecedented time in our lives for sure, quite horrific especially if you’ve lost loved ones. I’m sure that lots of us spent entire hours on social media, it gave way to lots of social media stars, Tik-Tok for example became really popular. We relied on social media for moral support and for our physical and mental wellbeing such as on-line exercising thanks to Joe Wicks Body Coach and of course, how can we forget on-line meetings on platforms such as Zoom and Teams? Virtual meetings became the norm replacing so much of what was face-t0-face contact. The lack of real person-to-person contact had a monumental affect on our mental health and well being, where lots people couldn’t see their GP and were sadly misdiagnosed for illnesses such as cancer. The world of remote working became normal and suddenly the employee had more power than the employer, remote working is now fairly normal where one goes to the office 2-3 days out of the working week and the rest is spent working from home; my son goes to the office twice a week and my next-door neighbour still works entirely from home!Mental health has surely suffered because of Covid.
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, it starts from within. Step away from it now and again and have a “social media detox” I promise 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, restaurants, lifestyle and home accounts 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. Below, are some useful contacts and useful resources you can access via the links below.
This is so insightful Helen. Your daughter looked absolutely stunning on her prom night so I am saddened to hear of what happened, but know she is blessed to have you for support. I too am pleased to have grown-up in a generation before social media and I am mindful of guiding my kids through it with hopefully a healthy & positive experience but like you said, encouraging an open dialogue for when things are challenging. Thank you for sharing Helen x
Thank you so much Alex. She looked gorgeous, she lacks confidence as she has a bit of acne which we’re trying to address via GP. She’s a bit shy too but I’m hoping if she finds a part time job, she’ll get over that. She’s so happy she doesn’t have to stay on a sixth-form,I happy with her decision to go to college, I think it will be the making of her. I’ve tried my best with all of mine and that’s all you can do. I appreciate social media for what it is and use it for my benefit, talking is the best therapy and engaging with our children. I’m happy you enjoyed the post, thanks again. xx
An excellent read Helen. I can relate to so much of it. Thank you.
Thank you Jim. I fear it is only going to get worse, I hope I’m wrong.