No blog last week as I had been on holiday with the lads and their partners in Valencia. Seventh wheeling was actually not bad at all. We had a really enjoyable time and it was great to get all of us together in one place away from home.

Blogs will now be returning every week so I can focus my attention back onto my writing and most importantly my self-development.

So, Monday was world mental health awareness day. How many people knew that? Probably quite a lot as I personally saw a lot of posts online from individuals or organisations discussing the topic and hammering home the message that it is ok to talk about this once taboo subject. This is great. As more and more people feel comfortable in speaking out about their own experiences and issues surrounding their own mental health the stigma will eventually evaporate. Obviously, with myself included in the form of this blog. But has social media played a key role in forming the crisis we are in? In this blog I would like to explore that and identify how it has affected me.

Let me set this out right from the start. I love aspects of social media, well mainly twitter. It is a big part of my life. I can spend hours on twitter (not so much latterly) looking at everything from silly stuff to serious political goings on back to checking who Newcastle are going to sign in January – Maddison please. It is my main source of news and believe that on the whole it is a force for good. Maybe. Hopefully Elon doesn’t get a hold of it and wreck it for all of us although I think it may be too late for that. Instagram and Facebook I can really take or leave. Yes, I have them and they are certainly a decent platform for getting this blog out there for people to read but on the whole my life would not be worse off if I didn’t have them. Does that stop me from going on them more often than I should? No, sadly not. I have tried over the last couple of months to limit the time spent on these apps. Do I feel better for it? Maybe, a little. Would you be able to give these things up if you were asked to right now? We have all seen those posts from people (ironically) telling us all about how they are going for a long walk in the countryside and will be switching their phones off so they can be at one with nature. I genuinely hope they do and are not tempted to open their phone whilst out doing this activity. It is actually liberating to switch it off or leave your phone in the car/at home so you can enjoy the time whether you are alone or with someone else.

Smart phones have undoubtedly changed our lives. Things are totally different in how we communicate, how we date, how we socialise, how we work with one another. Is it for the better?

Social media and technology played a key role in enabling people to contact one another during the pandemic. If you had access to the internet then you could facetime, zoom, teams people from other areas in the country that you were not able to see or even members of your family and friends that lived close by. That is obviously a good thing and should be celebrated. As I said, there is strong advocacy for the use of social media and it came into its own during a time when people were feeling very isolated and cut off from the world, myself included. One of the many positives of starting this blog is the ability it has had to reach more people than I could have ever expected it to. I have spoken to strangers I would never have met, reconnected with people I may have never spoken to again. That is surely a good thing, isn’t it? People have the power to be very supportive to one another if they want to and we do see this on social media.

Online global apps like Facebook and Instagram have the power to connect people that may never have had the chance to had they not existed. We live in a very fast paced society where everything is wanted now and to wait for tomorrow is too long. We see advertising all over these sites, algorithms targeting us with ads that they know we will be interested in. We can be sent an ad for a pair of trainers, and they can be on our feet the next day. Again, is that a good thing? I will let you decide for yourself. On the flip side of that, how businesses operate is totally different to how things were fifteen or even ten years ago. Small organisations can flourish with the help of social media and are not relying on word of mouth to grow a business or brand. It has its positives, that should be acknowledged.

Looking at it from other side, is social media a toxic and vile place? Well yes of course it is. It is now easier than ever to write hurtful things to people you may not even have met before. I have to admit that over the years I have been guilty of this myself, some of which I am ashamed of, other stuff not so much. It is very easy to write a comment on a picture or tweet some nonsense about someone else. Psychologists would state this is for many different reasons such as feeling better about your own situation or something you are unhappy with. It may be designed to gain more attention or followers. Ultimately, some individuals will write vile things because they are vile people. Simple as that.

Facebook and Instagram came in my late teens and early twenties, so I think I escaped what the youth of today have to endure. But anyone is a target on these platforms. One of the weirdest things to go through on socials is a breakup. One minute you can see a couple very happy together posting pictures of themselves and their lives or on holiday etc etc and then next bang, gone are all these photos and memories after the couple have split up. Now I get why people do this. They want to cleanse their lives of the person that is no longer in it and that is fair enough. I haven’t deleted any of the pictures I have with ex-partners on my social media because I believe that although that relationship has ended the memories with that person are important and part of my life. I guess everyone is different and there isn’t a right and wrong formula to that.

We see a lot of fake reality content online. I am taken in by it as much as the next person. We can see a happy couple, someone on holiday, buying a new house or new car and think that I don’t have that. My life is rubbish. I am learning more about this at the moment because I think about how I have thought about my own social media profiles in the past. As strange as this may sound, in some instances I have been jealous of friends when they go away on holiday and posting their pictures because I have thought that makes them look more interesting than me. Or if friends have gone away on holiday together and I haven’t been there then I will be jealous of firstly me not being there and then secondly people not seeing me there with my friends. I would create scenarios in my head where I would think other people would notice I wasn’t there and think I wasn’t friends with my best mates anymore. Writing that down and looking back at it, it is totally fucking stupid. Because who would care about that? I mean come on, that is some serious self-conceited shit right there.

But this is what I am trying to get at. The illusion that people want or feel they need to create or be a part of can have a detrimental effect on your mental health. It is ridiculous of me to have felt like that about my friends. I am glad that I do not in anyway feel like that now. I love seeing my mates away doing stuff together and I am totally at ease with not being there. I know that they care about me and if I am not there this time, I will be the next. Valencia was really good in that respect because it brought us all together, nothing better. Touching back to the relationship side of things, seeing a person move on can be tough. Having social media allows us that ability to see this playing out in real time and for the other person that can be tough. I broke up (sort of) with someone in my early twenties and struggled to come to terms with seeing them move on with their life. Coupled with heavy drinking self-medication and regular scrolls of profiles that was not a good way to get over it. But we are all exposed to that unless you of course are blocked and removed. Which again in itself is a horrible process to go through. Social media can be bittersweet for us all in navigating through all aspects and areas of our lives.

Would better regulation help save the mental health of many more people? Maybe so, will that happen? Doubt it.

Thanks for reading.

Nick Denton

Sobering Thoughts