Social Media and your Mental Health: Can they ever be good for each other?

When my family first got the internet back in 1997/96, it was a unknown place. Online predators weren’t something to think about and I was often in chat rooms. They were never inundated with pop-ups back then, and my friends and I had a lot of fun chatting to people all over the world.

Nowadays we are more aware of the dangers and as an adult the internet feels like a relatively safe place. But in reality, are we just closed off to the silent but deadly negatives of social media.

Since the arrival of instagram, people who are now referred to as ‘Influencers’ show us the epitome of aspiration. But in reality, the term Influencer should give us a nudge towards their true purpose online.

laptop featuring instagram influencers

Whether your chosen platform is YouTube, Instagram or blogs, it’s easy to get sucked into the realm of perfection and beauty these people portray. And in return, it’s easy to begin feeling inferior to these people. Yeah, they’re down to earth, might be living near you, and seem to be of the same social class – BUT – they have a new designer bag every two weeks, are being flown out to amazing countries, and appear to be making big bucks just by showing off brands products. It’s the dream life, isn’t it?

As a blogger and sometimes YouTuber, I know how much hard work blogging and vlogging can be – 2-3 hours per blog post, and countless hours on YouTube videos, not to mention promoting your platforms. Even though it all looks easy, it’s blooming hard work. But some of these influencers have people doing all that for them. Some of them portray a down to earth personality but in real life wouldn’t pee on you if you were on fire. Some of these influencers are taking photos of their meals, but not really eating them, and pretending their healthy lifestyle is to thank for their fit physique. And some of these influencers haven’t come from quite the humble background they’d have you think they did.

And so we get to the effect all this has on our mental health when we see it. I often see a meme floating around the internet, wondering where the awkward ‘I’m figuring out how to apply eyeliner, and ooh let’s try this blue mascara’ phase has gone from our pre-teens. I see these young girls walking around with epic contour and highlight, looking like they’re out of Teen Vogue. Little California Girl clones walking around Milton Keynes, because they’ve seen it on instagram. And I wonder, if they didn’t paint their faces this way, would it effect their social standing. When they get to 20 and have no money (because let’s face it, who had money in their 20s?) are they going to put themselves into debt trying to afford another designer bag AND choose the white marble worktop for their kitchen?

And let’s move on to the subject of obsession. More and more I’m seeing people disenchanted by those they follow on social media. And as soon as this happens, you’d expect them to stop following them, right? Nope. They continue to read their blogs, watch their videos and look them up on twitter, creating a big jealous knot in their stomachs. Tabloids have created this obsession with car-crash tv, celebrity and reading about people more famous, but possibly less fortunate or intelligent than you. The drama is addictive and soon you can’t wait to hear what’s happening with the Kardashians or on Love Island. But as you’re reading or watching, you’re feeling bad about yourself. You’re not as tanned, your lips aren’t as big, your hair isn’t as shiny, you’re not as skinny. No attractive man will ever want you if you don’t look like them. And this can be applied to social media – your bag’s from Primark, you don’t have the latest eyeshadow palette, you don’t own anything white marble……

All these things just make you feel bad about yourself, and my concern is for the young girls and guys who think it’s normal to have all this stuff, look this way and behave as if you’re an It Girl. When I’m 70 is our country going to run by TOWIE extras?

At this point, I think it’s important to point out that this is not all influencers. My choice of reading and watching has been carefully curated to only include those of substance. These people are real, they disclose what they do and how they do it. They post photos of themselves looking bare-faced as well as wearing full makeup. They don’t hide the real parts, and that’s so important.

I wonder if you, reading this, have identified with anything I’ve written today? And if you have, here’s what I’d recommend (and what I’ve done):

  • Curate your feed. No matter what platform you use, it’s YOUR feed.
  • If you scroll and something makes you feel bad about yourself, unfollow that person.
  • Take people’s feeds with a pinch of salt – people choose what they post, just as you choose what you post. Even if someone is posting every day, multiple times, that doesn’t mean what they’re showing is what’s happening right now.
  • It’s okay to want material things – but work hard for them, and they’ll mean so much more to you when you achieve them.
  • Don’t be a clone of everyone else. Being unique and not following the pack might not make you an overnight success on instagram – but you’ll have integrity and you’ll be real. Your followers will appreciate that, and no doubt be the kind of people you’ll want to stick around!

There’s so much talk of keeping on top of your mental health at the moment, but it’s important to remember, that when so much information is being thrown at you, from brands to your peers, that you CAN choose what you see. Delete your facebook if you need to. Unfollow that YouTuber if she’s making you feel jealous or bad about yourself.

Influencers need you, you don’t need them!

Look inwards – learn about you, what you need and what you want for your life and from your surroundings, and go from there.

Be happy!

 

 

 

2016: My Year in Blogging

I think this year has to have been one of my most consistent blogging years, the last one being during my year of half marathon training.

And I know exactly what changed it; the blogging community on social media and actually being actively social.

img_0165

Blogging has changed a huge amount since I started. I’ve been writing a blog for around 15 years and this particular blog for 7 and a half now. I’m so proud that Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug is the way that it is and that people seem to like it!

I started the year with around 300 email subscribers and ended it with over 600. After having started dabbling with makeup I started to see my reader stats increasing and people seemed to be interested in that kind of content. I’m not going to lie, as much as my blog posts are written for me, no one will deny the draw to being popular. Especially in such a competitive environment. And it’s SO competitive.

When I started blogging it wasn’t popular. It was something emo kids and poets did. For the record, and though there’s nothing wrong with being either of those things, I’m neither. I was just putting thoughts to ‘paper’ and then releasing them into the great ocean of the internet. I think that’s why I get on with twitter so much. You have a thought, you release it, and then it’s gone (for the most part!).

When I began putting in that extra 10% effort this year, I could see it made all the difference. But I also saw that the world of blogging, this expansive Blogosphere, was totally different from how it was when I started. EVERYONE has a blog. The content is rarely original, but when it is, it’s so good. And people can really make money from blogging. People are jacking in their 9-5 jobs to work for themselves and become influencers full-time.

And not only that, the popularity contest is so fierce that people actually pay for followers. Things I didn’t know even existed were brought to the forefront – people spend hours scheduling tweets to go out on a weekly basis. They will plan posts months ahead, spending hours perfecting their Media Kit and profile pages to be PR friendly. I have, for the time being, decided that a media kit and PR related type stuff is not for me. The other day someone had to explain to me what an Insta Pod was – I’m still not 100% sure…

A few years ago I dabbled, and worked with companies reviewing their stuff. I worked with Vita Coco, Chobani and a few tea companies. I had chocolate and yogurt coming out of my ears and finding the time to review everything was hard. I found my content was becoming watered down this ad content and I decided to let it go.

I also found it’s so hard to get noticed in the seas of ‘young’ ‘hip’ bloggers who understand social media and branding way more than I can at my mid 30’s. It’s frustrating to think that the 40th review someone has read about the latest Zoella perfume can get so much more engagement than a post I write about travel or a favourite charity….. But still.

So since I considered myself pretty good at twitter I set up a second twitter account dedicated to Musings and let it loose on the world. I got a few followers but they were mainly people who I already knew. And nothing seemed to happen….. Then I realised that I was being totally dumb and in order for people to engage with me I needed to engage with them. It’s been to the detriment of my personal twitter account, I must admit, but even so, I have really enjoyed it.

Things really started to fly when I discovered The Bloggers Hub (or I think they might have found me!), a network of like-minded bloggers who chat, help each other and are really fun. The guys who run the network are great, welcoming, and really help to boost your exposure all at the same time. They seem like the kind of people I’d really get on with IRL and there’s zero bitchiness from anyone, which is the one thing that had put me off being involved in any other twitter blogger network. Their twitter chat was also the first one I ever participated in (and since I’ve never felt the urge to join in with any others, if I’m honest). Through them I’ve found some amazing, friendly and really down to earth bloggers. I’ve also had my eyes opened to some of the pitfalls of blogging, some of the drama and plenty of the scams.

img_0162

Through twitter I got the balls to start my YouTube channel too, which is still very much in its infant stage. But it’s great to know there’s an outlet I can push my videos through, when I really want people to know what I’ve been creating.

Something I’ve always had an issue getting over, so not just this year, is the fear of putting what I really think onto the screen. And by that I mean, I sometimes have the strong urge to write a response to something that might be going on in the press or something in my life, but I’m afraid of the responses I might get. Sometimes it’s a social or political issue that I don’t feel like I know everything about but I still have a strong opinion on. I might know enough to write a post about it, but someone who knows more about it than me might comment and I won’t be able to stand my ground. This is something I hope, in time, I’ll get over. But the more exposure my blog gets, the higher the chance that someone might respond negatively to what I’ve written. I mean let’s face it, beauty bloggers get flack for using too much product in their swatches so what hope do I have if I start to comment on politics?

I also had the chance, towards the end of the year, to attend a couple of Blogger events. One was too far from home, but one was right where I live, and I chickened out. Apart from it being too much money for what you got, I didn’t feel ready to take that scary leap and be social with people I’d never met. The fear was too great. But maybe this year I’ll take the leap. There’s one blogger I’ve been friendly with for the past year, who I would consider a friend even though we’ve never met. Maybe meeting her this year will be the first step to conquering this fear. I think I need my hand held!

So what does 2017 and blogging hold for me? This year I upgraded my Peanuts Moleskine notebook, where I usually write in long hand, a full blog, if I have the idea in my head and I need to get it out. I bought a Dot Creates Blogger Planner. Inside it’s got loads of space for planning upcoming blogs. Up until now I’d either use my Peanuts Moleskine or more often just open a new page on my iPhone Notes app. This can be a little clumsy and when it comes to things like this, I appreciate putting pencil to paper more. This blog planner will also be great for planning YouTube video ideas and it makes my brain feel a little more organised!

img_0164

So planning will be important in 2017, though I don’t feel like I’ll ever be the kind of person who can sit, plan and write out posts months in advance. I’m far too much of a spur of the moment, type out whatever’s in my brain right now, kind of blogger.

I know I’ll continue with twitter because it’s been so much fun, socialising with everyone and learning too. I considered dabbling with scheduling tweets, but I enjoy actually engaging in real-time too much. Even scheduling blog posts too far ahead of time makes me feel distant from my content, so for the time being I won’t be scheduling tweets.

I’m going to work on my brand, but I want to keep it real. I don’t want to find myself moving back to where I was when I was doing PR and collaborations. That’s not me – if I talk about a product it’s because I love it and I’m just doing the same as if I told my friends about something amazing that I’d tried. And I want my readers to know that too. If I’m telling you about it, it’s because it’s worth talking about!

img_0163

I can honestly say that 2016 was my most enjoyable year in blogging, and I hope 2017 follows suit. I now know that putting that little bit of extra effort in, finding your tribe and being social makes a whole heap of difference. There’s a reason it’s called social media but for someone who isn’t incredibly outgoing or social I was just a little slow on the uptake.

But it’s okay now, because I got there eventually. And I love it!

Social Media Is Amazing

Social media is amazing. It gives you a voice, it gives me a voice (thanks for reading!), it gives celebrities a voice. But it also gives an amazing amount of anonymity.

This is both wonderful and frightening. Public opinion and freedom of speech is now amplified and at the fingertips of every man, woman and child all over the globe.

And it’s petrifying. Celebrities are bullied and ridiculed by their ‘fans’. People appear to have the time to make themselves feel better about their own lives by spending every waking minute finding people they dislike and telling them that. Catfishing is a thing. And, God forbid, you have an opinion.

I made the mistake a few weeks ago of making a comment on twitter with regards to an Asian L’Oréal advertisement that featured a heavily photoshopped photograph of Emma Watson promoting a skin product that whitened the skin. The tweet linked to an article about the dangers of skin whitening and the how bad it was that Emma Watson was the face of this (I think, I got a little bored of the article and stopped reading). My comment simply stated that, as under contract, Emma probably couldn’t comment about this product or advert and that she was mostly likely unaware that her image would be used to promote it anyway. Plus the photo was an awful photoshop job. (All this in 140 characters, I’m a genius). My comment wasn’t saying that I was on either side of the argument being put forward, it was just simple fact. I got quite a few comments back, that I think were annoyed at my comment. I say I think, because my comment wasn’t putting an opinion forward so I couldn’t be sure where my repliers sat themselves….. I got so confused I ended up deleting my comment and chastised myself for having an opinion – or not having an opinion (I’m still confused).

wikifriends

What this taught me was that people are insane. Cray cray. Bat-shit. Seriously, people appear to get so riled up about stuff on the internet that if they’re not participating in an all-passionate debate (if you can call basically screaming ‘YOU’RE WRONG’ at someone debating) no matter what they believe, then they’re not contributing to the world. Maybe it gives these people a sense of purpose. Let’s hope they can peel themselves away from their phones long enough to register to vote…

I remember Lea Michele (Rachel in Glee) posting up a photo of her with her best friend Jonathon Groff (they were on holiday or hiking somewhere – they love a good hike), not long after Cory Monteith had died. It was great to see her happy and smiling and showing her fanbase that she was recovering the massive loss of her fiancé. But the comments she got from these ‘fans’ were things like ‘You’re killing Cory’s memory’ or ‘Bitch how can you have gotten over him so fast’. They were harsher than this, but actually I don’t think I have it in me to replicate the venom. It shocked me that people, mainly teenage girls, could be so openly cruel. But if they had been stood in front of Lea, they wouldn’t have dared. Incidentally around a week ago Lea Michelle posted another photo of the two of them having fun somewhere and there were only positive comments. People are so fickle.

jackson-im-just-here-to-read-the-comments-72

I worry about the current generation of social media teens and early twenty-somethings. I find it unnerving that 16 year old girls are better at self-branding than I’ll ever be. (Plus where did their awkward ugly phase go? When I was 16 I was trying to get hair mascara in my hair and learning that it’s never a good idea to wear lipgloss on a windy day – not perfecting my cat eye and the latest ombre lip!)

I think it’s amazing to have an opinion. I love to have an opinion, and I love to share it. But I’ve learned over the years that even if the opinion of others doesn’t match yours, it’s important to listen and respect. You learn that way. You learn, not only about the other person, but you learn about yourself and why you believe what you do.

I used to think people who wore makeup every day were fraudsters. Now I believe they’re artists. I love to put on a face of makeup, fiddle about with different looks and use my face as a palette. But at the same time, if I see someone who has done their face in a way I don’t like, I’ll think “woah doesn’t she have any mirrors at home?” And how dare I? Just because her style isn’t to my taste, good for her for spending the time and leaving the house looking how she wanted to look. (As long as it’s not a façade – don’t get me started on fake bloggers or Flogging [a term I coined a while back!]) I’ve learned that having this opinion says more about me than them – I’m jealous that that woman has the guts and skill to go out and rock the look she’s rocking. She has self-confidence and she doesn’t care what people think of her.

1dea894ba360f3a7263e8349a0c2c411

The internet is full of scary people, but it’s also full of amazing people. Its blogging community is kind and friendly. I’ve even met a handful of people online, over the years, that I would proudly call good friends IRL (you know who you are!).

It’s a confusing world out there, made even more confusing but people who have opinions that probably aren’t even their real opinions. But hey, if everyone agreed, what a boring world this would be.

 

Keeping It Social

It’s the weekend again! And despite the horrid weather yesterday (yes, it snowed….) I’ve managed to go on a lovely sunny and fresh walk this morning.

I’ve had a very productive weekend actually, and this morning have already done all my food prep for the week and a little exercise! Go me 🙂

I’d like to say hello to all the many many people who decided to hit ‘like’ and/or ‘follow’ as a result of the recent guest post, written by my Mum, last weekend. It seemed to really interest you guys, as much as it interested me, and I was really pleased to see your reactions.

I wanted to check in and let you all know that I’ve recently set up a dedicated twitter account for this blog. On here I’ll be sharing blog posts from people I regularly read and re-tweeting excellent videos from my favourite YouTubers. It’ll also keep you up to date on new blog posts and information from Shutterbug, as well as any goings on.

image
 

If you want to (and I’d obviously love you to…!) please head on over to @Shutterbug_Blog and hit ‘follow’. I might even follow you back 😉

As always you can email subscribe to Shutterbug by using the relevant section in the bar to the right —–>

Other ways to keep up to date:

  • You can also find my Bloglovin’ button there. (I love to use Bloglovin’ as a central reader for all the blogs I follow. It’s so much easier having everything in one place)
  • You can ‘follow’ via WordPress reader
  • And you can get notifications right into your Facebook feed if you want to, by clicking ‘Like’ on the Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug Facebook page.

I’d also love to know if you guys have blogs of your own? Please let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to check it out if you do. I’m always looking for new blogs to follow 🙂