The problem with Fakebook and filters

Many of you who know me personally know that once a month I mentor a 13 year old girl called El.  It’s part of the Girls Out Loud Big Sister Programme which targets the girls who sit in the middle of the cohort who simply cruise along. These girls are in danger of becoming invisible purely because they are neither seriously disruptive, nor super academically gifted. They struggle to find their place and often get lost in the noise, either hiding in the corner or looking for validation in all the wrong places.

In the short time I’ve being involved in this wonderful cause I’ve been struck by the impact social media has on these young girls. The insane amounts of pressure they face day in, day out via their online interactions has blown my mind (and I consider myself not to be terribly naïve in this particular area).

Young people (let’s not pretend it’s all about the girls) are exposed to so many things which increase their anxiety around appearance and cause them to focus on their body image.  Society’s obsession with celebrity culture creates an unhealthy image of what we should all aspire to, with many of us forgetting just how much airbrushing goes in to the perfect image.

However, that is nothing new and sadly, isn’t going away any time soon.  What does seem to be on the increase though is the proliferation of social media channels focussing on nothing but image.  The likes of Snapchat and Instagram promote unrealistic messages of how people, especially young girls, “should” look.  If you don’t conform to the “correct” standards you can easily become ostracised.

It’s easy to sit here in the cold light of day and query why anyone would care how many “likes” their latest photo has received, but when social interactions are based on negative or positive comments and ratings, friendships become nothing more than competitions. It is an unhealthy way to live – but to remove yourself from the situation ensures you become an outsider and are excluded in the real world as well.

The problem is in a world where social media dominates, we have fallen in to the trap of sharing almost everything.  Let’s face it, a night out didn’t happen unless there are countless photos all over your chosen platform.  There’s little point in arguing such a good night would captivate your attention so much you’d be able to avoid the lure of the selfie in the first place.

The problem is filters existed long before Instagram came along. When you are in control of what you share it makes sense that you only share the best. It’s human nature and there’s nothing wrong with that. Or is there?

When you post photos of you working in your perfectly manicured garden along with a status describing your perfect life and how you have it all #LuckyGirl #LivingTheDream #Freedom – doesn’t it make it a little harder to yell for help when it goes a little wrong?

Does the inherent undertone of “I have it all, come be like me” not set you apart and put you on a precarious pedestal?  I worry so much that as a society we are all playing the Fakebook game a little too well, and I fear what impact this is having on our mental health.

If, we the sage adults are able to fall in to this trap of pretend perfection, what hope is there for our young teens?

 

 

 

Are you surviving or thriving?

As you may be aware this week is Mental Health Awareness Week (8th-14th May 2017).  Like many I have had my own problems with mental health; however, I count myself as one of the lucky ones.  I suffered from the “baby blues” after the birth of our first child.  It was *only* for 8 weeks (though it felt significantly longer, I can assure you), so as such was not classed as being Post Natal Depression.

Regardless of what “it” was, it was Hell. I class myself as lucky because one morning I woke up and for whatever reason, felt better.  “It” stopped.  I was back, and ready to begin this amazing journey as a mother.  Thankfully it’s something I have never experienced again.

But it terrified me.  At the time, it was just scary – I wasn’t in control, I felt like a stranger in my own life.  However, that was the least of the problems. The biggest issue was I felt I had no one to talk to. My Midwife was great, but she was busy.  I was a new Mum and anyone I hinted to that I felt a bit wobbly, put everything down to my inexperience and lack of confidence.

I say all this, but the reality is this post isn’t about me.  It’s about you.  I only tell you my own experience in Cliffs Notes form to remind you that the vast majority of us have something lurking in the background, and if we don’t, we sure as heck have the potential to.

You see, we all have mental health.  Many might say they have “good” mental health, but let’s get one thing straight here, good mental health does not simply meant the absence of a mental health problem.

Good mental health is really all about having the ability to think, feel and act in ways that allow us to live a full and enjoyable life.  It’s the ability to cope when challenges are thrown our way, to pick up the pieces when it all goes wrong, and keep on moving on with a genuine smile on our face (even if occasionally it is replaced with tears and screams of rage).

Here are some interesting statistics for you taken from the Mental Health Foundation:

  • Mixed anxiety & depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain, with 7.8% of people meeting criteria for diagnosis.
  • 4-10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime.
  • Common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety are distributed according to a gradient of economic disadvantage across society. The poorer and more disadvantaged are disproportionately affected by common mental health problems and their adverse consequences.
  • Mixed anxiety and depression has been estimated to cause one fifth of days lost from work in Britain.
  • One adult in six had a common mental disorder.

I know we’re all busy, and could argue we have “better things to do”, but why not take a moment to find out a bit more about your own mental health?  There’s a short survey available here that will help you understand where you’re at.  There’s also signposting if you need any support with anything.

Trust me, you don’t have anything better to do right now.  Go on, look after yourself.