Social media was a game changer when it came to simplifying sharing our thoughts and feelings. Within seconds we can send a tweet, update our Facebook status or upload a photo to Instagram.
One thing we’re not warned about when we sign up is how damaging it can be on our mental health.
In last week’s blog post I wrote about my experiences of online abuse. I originally intended to include a couple of paragraphs about social media in general at the end. However, when it came to writing it out I realised there were so many points to make that it needed a post of its own.
My social media presence
I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – but I try to minimise my usage. In fact, if I didn’t have friends scattered across the globe who I want to keep in contact with I wouldn’t have an account on any of them.
In the past I would post regular updates about my life. From Facebook status’ such as: ‘Jordan Camp is on his way to West Ham – Come on you Irons!’ to regular holiday photos on Instagram. All in all it painted a picture of a very idyllic and problem free life. Which we all know wasn’t the case.
I was blissfully unaware of this until summer 2015. I had just got back from Glastonbury Festival having returned from my round the world trip six weeks earlier and I was getting so many comments saying I had the best life ever.
For some reason I was shocked they had this view at the time. After all, I knew of all the suffering I had gone through and that the round the world trip was simply me starting a new chapter in my life. Soon afterwards it hit me why this view that I had the best life ever was a common one – that’s all I showed on social media. No one ever saw the full picture.
I was convinced my mental health difficulties would remain secret until that moment. Once I had the awareness of how my life was being perceived versus the reality of it until that point I knew I had to start doing things differently.
I immediately started being more open than usual. I even alluded to mental health difficulties on my previous travel blog. One year later I cycled from London to Paris for the Mental Health Foundation where I told my mental health story for the first time.
The feedback from that post was huge. Far greater than anything I had written until then. Twelve months later I started this blog and here I am.
A breeding ground for insecurities
I watched a lot of films growing up. In fact, I had a nice throwback to that time during lockdown as I rewatched some of my favourites to pass the time.
There were countless times watching a film where I’d look at the actors with envy. I’m talking people like Brad Pitt in Fight Club or Chris Hemsworth in Thor, where the second the credits roll I sign up to the gym and start exclusively eating carrots.
Obviously that’s not the intention of the film or actors playing these characters, but it’s a natural reaction of so many people. Apply that to social media platforms – particularly Instagram – and it’s everywhere.
The important thing to remember is we only see the end product, never the hours in the gym or strict diet they follow. These people we see on social media, whether they are Hollywood a-listers, influencers or PT’s, it’s part of their job. In extreme examples they are even paid handsome figures and provided with the best trainers on the planet to get into that shape.
In recent times actors such as Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron have gone on record saying the appearance isn’t worth the effort it takes to get there. Before adding that they don’t want to glamorise it.
I’m now of an age and awareness level where I’m not phased by what I see on social media. I don’t devalue myself for not having the biggest muscles, shiniest car or pristine kitchen to cook in.
Sadly, this isn’t the case for everyone. When I used to feel insecure about such things it came across in films I’d watch once, maybe twice a week. Conversely people that may feel insecure about it these days have it on an app on their smartphone which they can look at within seconds.
It generates gossip
Gossip is what drives life in both the workplace and university. Is this person having sex or aren’t they? Mark Zuckerberg said it himself when he identified the relationship status as the missing ingredient to Facebook.
I don’t understand why, I really don’t. I’m happy as long as my friends and colleagues are happy in their relationship and other parts of their lives. To put it bluntly, I don’t care about who is sleeping with who and how often, who said what about who and all the other things that spread around the office. I just don’t care.
It never ceases to amaze me how much people do care. They feed on it. I recall bumping into an old school friend at Tesco many years ago only to be followed around the aisles having my photos taken by two colleagues.
While I was at journalism school news of my personal life spread like wildfire. Worth mentioning this was while the biggest news story of our lives, the coronavirus pandemic, was gaining traction. And don’t get me started on the comments I received during/after my travels. Very few people care about the temples I visited or skydives I completed. No, they want a list of how many girls I slept with.
Yeah. I wasn’t lying when I say people feed on it. And social media has made it easier than ever. I’m not exaggerating when I say in the past I have received comments such as: ‘I notice you’ve become friends with a lot of girls on Facebook lately’.
I’m someone who has always been a closed book when it comes to my private life. Always have, always will. Meaning this need for gossip probably has a bigger impact on me, but I know there are others out there who feel the same.
Boasting over social media
There’s two sides to this one. On one hand I don’t think there is anything wrong with sharing your achievements on social media. Especially if it is something as spectacular as completing a PhD or buying your first home.
On the other hand, I think people often take it too far. The best way to get this message across is through a little anecdote.
As part of my NCTJ journalism qualification I had to study teeline shorthand. For those of you who are unaware shorthand is a form of writing at speed journalists would use in the days before voice recording, or when covering court cases where such devices are forbidden.
In order to reach the highest qualification – Gold Standard – you have to pass shorthand at 100 words per minute. Anything less limits you to a lower qualification. For a lot of people the 100 words per minute shorthand is the difference between Gold Standard and a Level 3 diploma.
Back in September 2020 I passed the 100 words per minute exam and gained a Gold Standard NCTJ qualification in the process. The exam I passed was the final attempt to get the qualification while on the course.
I was confident I passed the exam before the results came through. But I spoke with others who sat it and they weren’t so sure. With that information I decided against posting anything on social media when the results were in.
Of course I was proud of myself. I was elated. Six months earlier passing that exam seemed like a pipe dream. But from what I had heard, others on my course hadn’t passed and therefore missed out on Gold Standard. The bit of information I was missing was how they were feeling about it.
Instead of posting my results all over social media I privately messaged the members of staff who helped me get there to say thanks and informed my family. No one else needed to know. I wanted to remain mindful of how those who fell short were feeling.
The three mental health implications i’ve mentioned in this post are things I’ve had experience of. There are countless others out there which would make this post endless.
However, there is plenty of good that social media has done.
Starting with the obvious – keeping in contact with others. This has never been more true than during the pandemic. While social interaction was illegal, social media made it easier than ever to video call, set up quizzes and so much more.
Social media has enabled me to keep in touch with travel friends scattered around the globe with ease.
It has also helped to spread campaign awareness.
At the start of 2021 former Love Island contestant Dr Alex George wanted to to meet with Prime Minister Boris Johnson to discuss mental health in education. This came after the tragic suicide of his younger brother.
With the support of so many, Dr Alex met the Prime Minister and is now the UK Youth Mental Health Ambassador within the Department for Education. That wouldn’t have been possible without the awareness and traction it gained through social media.
2021 London Marathon
I’m running the 2021 London Marathon for Mind!
If you wish to donate or keep up to date with how my training and fundraising is going you can do so by following the links below.
Fundraising Page: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/JordanCamp
My blog post about the event
Mind Website: https://www.mind.org.uk