Hi, my name is Eli and I am addicted to Social Media….
Social media has become an addiction and it is playing havoc with my mental health. There, I’ve said it. I almost feel that there should be a ‘Social Media Anonymous’ for us addicts but there aren’t enough public halls and meeting rooms for all the people who are addicted to the like of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc. We are in the millions.....
The mindless scrolling had become and everyday part of my life, like going to the loo (although I always say that as the perfect opportunity for some quiet, uninterrupted social media time….) or eating. In fact, there have been times when eating had come second to my mobile phone, and for those who know me, they will realise what a massive statement this is. I love my food.
A couple of weeks ago I noticed my mental health taking a nosedive. I now know the warning signs and I wasn’t sleeping, I was grumpy, tired and didn’t want to engage with anyone or anything. At first I thought it was my upcoming Climbing Wall Instructor Assessment but during one of my delightful night time awake periods I realised it was something completely different. I had started to find myself worrying that I wasn’t a good enough ‘outdoor adventurer’, that I didn’t particularly DO anything except my day job and the occasional walk, climb or paddle. Looking at photographs on Instagram day in, day out meant that I was bombarding myself with peoples amazing adventures and I was starting to compare myself to them. In particular I was looking at my fellow OS GetOutside Champions and thinking that I just don’t stand up next to them, in any way whatsoever. This was when the ‘gloom’ truly descended.
So, I decided, at 5.30am having been awake since 2.30am that I was going to take a break from social media. One week without it. Considering my existence as an OS GetOutside Champions revolves around my engagement with social media this was a scary thing to do. And boy oh boy it was so hard!! I hadn’t realised just how much I relied on social media to fill my time; from waking up in the morning and checking it before I got ready for the day, to checking it at every opportunity through the day at work (a challenge as we have little Wi-fi and no mobile signal at work), to even checking it in the traffic lights on my drive home, taking extra-long toilet breaks, sitting ‘watching’ TV whilst on Instagram and then that final check before bed, oh and another, and just one last time… It was ridiculous, and it was not good for my mental health.
So, how did my week go you ask? It was a challenge and If I am totally honest I did not manage to stay off it completely. I tried, I really, really did, but I did slip occasionally. BUT it was only a handful of times. As each day passed it got easier, I wanted to look at it less and less. I started turning my phone off in the evening at around 8pm so that I literally couldn’t go on it. I re-discovered my family, my friends, and the outdoors even (the irony of this is not lost on me). And being away from it has given me a whole new perspective on it. I no longer feel the ‘need’ to post every day, I no longer feel that I must like and comment on every great shot I see. If I have a 1000 followers then great, if I have 1 then great. Instagram has changed for me, it is no longer about the number of likes, the number of followers it is about my journey, my story, a platform for me to record my life, its ups and downs. I enjoy looking back over my posts, they give me joy. If they give other people joy that is wonderful, just amazing. If my words (I like words) inspire people that is an immense joy. If I can reach people with what I post then it makes what I do even better. But that is not WHY I am doing it. I love each and every one of my followers, but I am not on Instagram for them (sorry guys!), I am on it for me.
So, do I feel better for my week off? Oh yes, I sure do. So much better. My relationship with social media has changed, and for the better. I limit my time on it each day, strictly, and try to adhere to it. I go on, post, comment and leave. So, huge apologies to my likers, followers, friends and fellow OS Champs if I am not liking your stuff, please don’t take it personally, it’s just I am looking after my mental health and wellbeing and that, like my family come first.
Its really important to remember that not everyone is as perfect as their social media feed. What you see is not always what you get, as a fellow OS Champion explained to me when she told me the real story behind one of her amazing photos of a wild camp whilst trekking the Pacific Crest Trail. The reality was that she had a dreadful night as her sleep mat deflated because her pack had a tussle with a cactus earlier that day and she spent the night crying for a close family friend she had recently lost.
Just remember that the picture does not tell the true story.
Six Ways Social Media Negatively Affects Your Mental Health - The Independent
Instagram 'ranked worst for mental health' in teen survey - the NHS
How Bad is Social Media for your Mental Health - The Week
Social Media Making it Easier to Conceal Mental Illness - The Independent
If you need help with your mental health then please visit www.mind.org.uk they can guide you to get the help you need.
May 14th to May 20th is Mental Health Awareness Week. For more information go to https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week