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Social Media Doesn’t Have To Destroy Your Mental Health

social-medaia-wmhd-webPractise safe social, kids.

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Do you live in the real world? Or does your mind often wander to the realms of the fake social media existence we all curate in pixels and perpetuity?

If you’re reading this on the World Wide Web, you’re probably one of the 3 billion people on Planet Earth – almost half the population – who use social media. Let’s be honest, you’ve probably used social media to get here right now. Welcome, and guilty as charged.

Now, on to the big question nobody has yet been able to properly answer: How do you use social media?

Despite the best efforts of your new-to-Facebook mum and her first cousin twice removed, teens are the most active demographic on social media and they use it, on average, nine hours a day – more time than they spend sleeping.

You might think mindlessly scrolling through food porn and #spon posts is harmless, aspirational and actually quite fun.

After all, who doesn’t love getting tagged in a meme by BAE?

A group of guys on their phonesPexels

But, here’s the inconvenient truth: How some of us use social media is damaging to our mental health.

Social media gets a bad rep but it’s just an inanimate tool for human use. The devastating consequences of social media are on us, as a society.

Bailey Parnell, an expert in Marketing, Communications and Culture at Ryerson University, thinks ‘anything we spend this much time doing has lasting effects on us and requires critical analysis’.

Parnell, a self-confessed fan of social media, wants to equip everyone online with the understanding of the four stressors we experience on social media which, ‘if left unchecked, can go onto to cause serious, diagnosable mental illness’.

The first is the ‘Highlight Reel’.

In other words, the notion social media is simply a collection of our best and brightest moments, a fake social media reality unrepresentative of the lives we live every minute of every day.

In practise, it’s not the worst thing in the world to show off your best side, as you would in a family photo album or a dating profile.

The damage comes when we compare our behind-the-scenes moments with everyone else’s highlight reel, Parnell says.

Even those who create the content which started the phenomenon feel immense pressure to live up to their own standards, despite understanding better than most exactly how false our perfectly curated feeds are these days.

Pia Muehlenbeck, social media influencer and Market Editor at GRAZIA Australia, explained:

It’s very easy to get sucked in to the trap of believing that everything you see on someone’s Instagram is perfection. In reality, it’s a curated version of the best bits.

Although her Instagram existence is designed to look like a walk in the park, Pia told UNILAD she prefers to responsibly post reminders that ‘we’re all just imperfect humans doing the best we can each day’ over constant pictorial aesthetic perfection.

A sequence of photos on Pia Muehlenbeck's camera rollPia Muehlenbeck

Anyway, perceived perfection is a time-consuming pursuit, Pia said, showing UNILAD her camera roll which is full of hundreds of takes for every shot she posts to social media.

Also a qualified lawyer, Pia admitted her new job in social media requires her to ‘take 200 photos to get one good selfie’, which ‘generates 50Gb to 70Gb of photos and videos a day’ when she’s working.

But why do we all care so much what we look like on social media when most of us would be happy to pop to the shops in the real world with crisps down our jumpers and grease in our hair?

Well, social media has its very own social currency where likes, comments and shares become our way of measuring the value of something – or worse, someone.

You wouldn’t be annoyed or upset if no one ‘double-tapped’ you in the street – if anything, you’d find it an invasion of space if they did.

But the normal rules don’t apply in the social media bubble – a heightened, filtered version of reality where you are conditioned to expect positive social interaction.

Our social media versions have become so normalised and blurred with reality, some people have even tried to get surgery to look like filters on Snapchat. One doctor dubbed it Snapchat Dysmorphia.

In marketing, Parnell says, it’s fuelled by something else. And that’s stressor number two – The Economy of Attention.

It all started with MSN messenger on dial-up Internet, when the world seemed to open up from the comfort of your living room. Then there was Bebo, where you used to ‘share da luv’ with three of your Top 10 Friends, in a daily ritual exchange reserved for the ‘best’ people.

Later the social media site du jour became Myspace, where the notion of Pc4Pc (picture comment for picture comment, d’uh) encouraged everyone to start trading social media reactions like commodities, caring less about who liked your pictures than the sum total of love hearts or thumbs up.

Woman taking a selfieAP

Some people even became ‘MySpace famous’, which was a good thing, apparently, long before Instagram influencers started earning a salary in exchange for their pixellated popularity.

We have been voluntarily trading ourselves for attention online in these transactions for years.

So, what happens went those transactions stop? Welcome to the third stressor: FOMO.

Yes, the acronym for ‘the fear of missing out’ might sound silly, especially when it’s emblazoned across £20 t-shirts from TopShop. But it’s an actual social anxiety which existed before social media and is heightened in the age of peak online activity.

How many times have you thought to yourself you’d get rid of social media if it weren’t for the worry you’d be left out of the loop by your friends who still drink the Kool Aid? How many times have you claimed you ‘need’ social media for your work?

Digital detoxes, for example, are fashionable but only when you can come back to the social media sphere and tell your friends about it through the medium of the emoji. Or the status update. Or the perfectly curated selfie of your time off.

In her TED Talk, Parnell points to the phantom phone syndrome she herself experienced during a conscious digital detox, saying many of us are ‘so obsessed we have biological responses when we can’t participate’ in social media interaction.

One way we can empirically measure social media and its effects on our mental health is to examine these biological reactions. Scientists found another direct mental disorder beamed to our brains straight from our phones is social media addiction.

It takes a minimum of just 21 days to create a habit.

Almost anyone with Wi-Fi can become addicted to social media because the functions of your favourite websites are designed to give you a shot of the feel-good chemical, dopamine.

You feel impatient watching the spinning wheel as you go to refresh the Facebook news feed, and it feels good when the wheel disappears and you have something new to engage with; but think about it. The wheel is a decorative cue.

Loading wheel gif

Likewise, your notifications pop up in little red boxes, the colour which scientists have proven creates a sense of urgency.

A web designer in Silicon Valley, who no doubt knows all about so-called persuasive technology, designed that little spinning wheel, and the rings and dings which mark a new message with a purpose; to pull you in, hook, line and sinker.

These small signifiers are so ingrained into our ways of seeing now, and they all contribute to creating a social media habit; good, bad or ugly. But if you live by people’s compliments you could die by their criticism.

What happens when the notifications come through and it’s an unkind message, or a video of graphic violence, or any kind of online harassment?

This is the fourth and final stressor of social media and it’s usually the one which triggers tragedy in young people – depression, anxiety, fear, sadness, even suicidal thoughts.

Trolling, abuse, bullying, whatever name you call it by, the Pew Research Centre found 41 per cent of American adults have experienced it and 66 per cent have witnessed it – from the jokes made in jest which hurt a little more than you’ll let on, to the cruel comments designed to cut to the core of your insecurities, to systematic cyberbullying and even sick suicide games.

Now imagine what it’s like for kids. According to the NSPCC, a quarter of all children have experienced something upsetting on a social networking site.

Likewise, the NHS is presented with some patients who claim social media ‘exacerbates problems of loneliness by discouraging offline, real-world interactions’, said Nicky Fearon, the Head of Student Mental Health and Wellbeing at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Fearon told UNILAD scientific understanding of the consequences of social media on mental health is in its infancy, adding ‘evidence has come to light on both positive and negative impacts that may be associated with social media use’.

Whatever your (almost inevitable) experience of harassment online – a place where many of us find our sense of self and worth – it all builds up over time.

Online spaces can offer respite, solace and community to marginalised sufferers but, while social media is trying to combat the adverse effects elicited by its own little online bubble, it’s not enough.

In fact, it’s too much. Social media, for all its good, is a breeding ground for the worst of humanity – as well as a spotlight on it.

Moreover, as some users increasingly outsource their ability to think for themselves or connect organically, global news is condensed into small soundbites, and separation from troubling current affairs is hard to come by, jeopardising our personal sense of security and safety.

Despite widespread distrust and recent difficulties over at Facebook HQ, after the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the departure of Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, social media is part of our reality now and Parnell predicts it’s not going anywhere for sometime.

Mark Zuckerberg on cambridge analyticaGetty

She believes ‘abstinence is not an option anymore’ but jokes we can all empower ourselves to practise “safe social”.

Quipping that ‘you wouldn’t blame Samsung TV for a bad TV show’, Parnell said:

Social media is neither good nor bad, it’s just the most recent tool we use to do what we’ve always done; tell stories and communicate with each other.

Parnell says step one in achieving “safe social” – in other words, an online experience which doesn’t harm your physical or mental health – is to recognise the problem.

So, congratulations, you just completed step one by reading this article or watching her TED Talk.

Next, Parnell recommends monitoring your social media diet to create a better online experience and modelling good social media behaviours.

No one likes the idea of limiting life’s little pleasures, but once social media is gone you might realise how miserable it was making you. And if trolling online is your idea of fun, you should check yourself.

Social networks on a smartphone home screenPexels

At the ripe old age of 26 – more millennial than iGen – I refuse to delete my accounts entirely, but recently removed all the social media icons from my smartphone’s home screen.

Now, without being confronted by the tempting notifications every time I go to make a call or check the weather, I find I only use the apps when I’m actually bored and can’t find a good book to read.

Being somewhat of an Instagram obsessive since the good ol’ days when your feed was just a constant flow of timely and pretty pictures, I also muted the InstaStories of every single person I follow – even my closest friends.

Now, I don’t have to pretend I don’t already know, in step-by-step detail, when I ask what they did at the weekend.

I made up my mind to get my news from the radio every morning instead of from Twitter, where the comments, replies and @’s create so much negative white noise.

Much as I love her, I unfollowed Emily Ratajkowski on the ‘Gram because, while her thoughts on Planned Parenthood and feminism on Twitter inspire me, her pictures on Instagram don’t.

I unfollowed President Donald Trump too, sorry not sorry.

Parnell notes this is much easier for me, with my fully-fledged adult brain and apparent self-assurance, confidence and ability to think critically than it is for a child.

Social media’s impacts on mental health are particularly hard to overcome for children now, during a time when they ‘start going outside the family to seek social acceptance’, and their parents aren’t native speakers in the online language.

Parnell tells UNILAD more work needs to happen to build kids’ self-awareness, confidence, and self-assurance offline so they have the tools to handle whatever they encounter online.

Two children sitting on their smartphonesPexels

She adds:

Parents need to get educated on #SafeSocial and discuss it with your children, similar to how you discuss other risky behaviours like drinking, smoking, and sex.

I also recommend parents force face-to-face communication with their kids, whether that’s around a dinner table or however you like to do it. It is still critical for communication skills.

In the interests of avoiding painting a picture of my own fake social media existence, I must admit I still find myself in YouTube rabbit holes marvelling at the mastery of some make-up artists or the idiocy of Jake and Logan Paul.

But nobody’s perfect.

And therein lies the point: Nobody is perfect, even if they might look it online, and keeping up with the fake social media reality is a pointless pursuit because it doesn’t exist in the real world – and it doesn’t have to ruin your mental health along the way.

World Mental Health Day Action campaign UNILAD

Presented by the World Federation of Mental Health, today is World Mental Health Day. The goal is to help raise mental health awareness.

Talking is often the first step to moving forward. While talking about mental health is vital, UNILAD are calling for action.

We are petitioning the government to improve mental health services offered on the NHS for young people, who sometimes have to wait ten years from the moment they experience their first symptoms to get adequate treatment.

We have written to Jeremy Hunt MP to tell him about our petition, in partnership with WHOLE, which you can help by signing. To find out more about our campaign you can read our manifesto.

If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year.

Their national number is 0800 58 58 58, and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.

Health

Stephen Hawking Had One Last Warning About The End Of Humanity Before He Died

Stephen AIn a collection of essays which will be published posthumously, the late Professor Stephen Hawking made an eerie prediction regarding the future of humanity.

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Stephen Hawking predicted a new 'superhuman' race.

In a collection of essays which will be published posthumously, the late Professor Stephen Hawking made an eerie prediction regarding the future of humanity.

Professor Hawking, who died in March 2018 at the age of 76, suggested there would be a new superhuman race, on account of the wealthy elite editing their own DNA and that of their children; manipulating factors such as memory, resistance to disease, cognitive ability and longevity.

The legendary theoretical physicist believed advances in genetic engineering could lead to a new superhuman species, ultimately resulting in the destruction of the rest of humanity.

In an extract of upcoming essay collection – which has been printed in The Sunday Times – Professor Hawking wrote:

I am sure that during this century people will discover how to modify both intelligence and instincts such as aggression,

Laws will probably be passed against genetic engineering with humans. But some people won’t be able to resist the temptation to improve human characteristics, such as memory, resistance to disease and length of life.

Those who are left unedited – i.e. us regular Joes – would face serious problems should this frightening prediction come to pass, helpless to even consider keeping up with the superhumans.

Speaking with the concern for humanity which endeared him to so many, Professor Hawking continued:

Once such superhumans appear, there will be significant political problems with unimproved humans, who won’t be able to compete,

Presumably, they will die out, or become unimportant. Instead, there will be a race of self-designing beings who are improving at an ever-increasing rate.

Frighteningly, Professor Hawking was drawing from existing techniques which are sparking debate within the scientific community.

DNA-editing system Crispr-Cas9, was invented back in 2012, allowing for the modification of harmful genes or for the addition of new ones. Children at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital who have incurable cases of leukaemia have undergone gene-editing.

However, some scientists believe parents wouldn’t run the risk of modifying genes for fear of side effects.

According to The Sunday Times, many scientist have welcomed Professor Hawking’s predictions, including professor of climate science at University College London, Chris Rapley.

Professor Rapley said:

Humans have arguably reached a critical moment,

We have moved beyond affecting the planet at the landscape scale to interfering with its very metabolism at the global scale. All the indications are that the limitations of our brains, both individually and collectively, leave us incapable of addressing the challenge. On this basis the future looks desperately gloomy.

Even after his death, Professor Hawking’s writings live on; encouraging each and every one of us to think about the future in a considerate and responsible way.

Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Professor Stephen Hawking will be available to purchase in bookshops from October 16, 2018. The perfect Christmas present for a brainy friend or family member.

If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via stories@unilad.co.uk

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Simon Cowell Donates £50,000 For Boy To Get Cancer Treatment In The US

KIDA COWELL WEBWhile Simon Cowell has a reputation for being brutally honest during talent shows, he also has a caring side. After hearing about a young boy who needed money to travel to the US for vital cancer treatment, the music mogul announced he would be donating an amazing £50,000 to the cause. With the family needing

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simon cowell judgeGetty

While Simon Cowell has a reputation for being brutally honest during talent shows, he also has a caring side.

After hearing about a young boy who needed money to travel to the US for vital cancer treatment, the music mogul announced he would be donating an amazing £50,000 to the cause.

With the family needing to raise a total of £500,000 to send four-year-old Zac Oliver, from Broseley, to America, Cowell has also urged X Factor fans to donate.

zac cancer simon cowellZachariah's fight against Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia/Facebook

Suffering from an extremely rare form of leukaemia known as Near Haploid, chemotherapy hasn’t had an effect on Zac’s cancer after four months of treatment leaving the family looking for alternatives.

Reading about clinical trials in America which have saved lives, although they are still classed as being experimental, Zac’s family are hoping to send him to Philadelphia for CAR-T therapy.

On a crowdfunding page which has been set up for Zac, his family wrote:

There is a price on our little boy’s life and we can’t afford it. This huge amount is only achievable with everyone’s help. Together we can give him the chance of a first day of school, riding a bike without stabilisers, falling in love, getting married, travelling, just growing up.

We are striving to get Zac the best possible treatment to give him the best chance of survival and a fighting chance for life, Zachariah is only four so he has a whole life to yet live.

Philadelphia Children’s hospital have Quoted $625,000 to carry out the treatment, the original Quote was $1,250,000 but this was reduced with the subsidy of some treatments. We would also have to relocate for a sustained period of time of which we are not sure yet.

Please help us get him to America and give him the best fighting chance.

With the family adding that ‘as of October 12’ they have so far raised £395,000, hopefully it won’t be long until they can hit their target.

Cowell’s £50,000 will certainly help and he even filmed a short video for the family to share which calls on people to donate.

He said:

This boy is four years old and needs money to get to America to get the help he needs.

So, I want you to go onto Zac Oliver’s JustGiving page and whatever you can donate will make a difference.

And because I don’t like those who tell people to do something and don’t do it themselves, I’m going to donate £50,000 so we’re going to get there.

You can watch the video here:

Thank you to Simon Cowell for doing such an amazing job at supporting our cause. I explained to Zac that Simon has helped to pay for his special medicine. Zac said 'thanks si' lol little does he know exactly what this actually means and how much closer we really are to getting him to the US. Xxxx

Posted by Hannah Oliver-Willets on Friday, 12 October 2018

Hopefully Zac will get to America and that the treatment is successful! We certainly wish Zac and his family all the best in the future.

If you want to donate to Zac’s cause, you can do so on his JustGiving page.

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, and want to speak to someone in confidence contact Macmillan’s Cancer Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 8pm).

If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via stories@unilad.co.uk

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Health

Today Is National Be Bald And Be Free Day

bald day wwebBald is beautiful and although we remember this every day of the year, October 14 dedicates itself to celebrating the naked crown. That means today is officially Be Bald and Be Free Day, sometimes referred to as Bald and Free Day, an annual event which is celebrated worldwide. Whether you are bald by choice or

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dwayne the rock johnsonPA

Bald is beautiful and although we remember this every day of the year, October 14 dedicates itself to celebrating the naked crown.

That means today is officially Be Bald and Be Free Day, sometimes referred to as Bald and Free Day, an annual event which is celebrated worldwide.

Whether you are bald by choice or not, man or woman, today is the day to leave your wig or hat off and embrace your baldness, showing off your scalp.

cara delevingne baldGetty

Although it is not clear how Be Bald and Be Free Day started, why not have a national day to celebrate the chrome dome in all of its glory.

Baldness is certainly not a sign of weakness, in fact it is the opposite symbolising strength.

Just look at notable bald men and women including Sinead O’Connor, Mahatma Ghandi and Bruce Willis. I don’t think anyone would be quick to label these people as ‘weak’!

People have been taking to social media throughout the day to share their bald selfies.

Shaun Staunton took to Instagram posting a photo after he ‘braved the shave’:

Although this national day doesn’t have a huge amount of awareness, I sympathise with those going through hair loss themselves. I know there are far worse things that can happen to you but for me the only way I can really describe it is as if your body has betrayed you.

And as such I wanted to share the day I decided to shave my hair off for anyone else struggling with hair loss too.

This picture was taken yesterday (at a Roman Fort) and I still prefer my head cleanly shaved. So in appreciation for Be Bald and Be Free day (and when in Rome, of course) I bring you ‘The day I shaved my hair off’.

Jennifer shared an inspiring post on her Instagram writing:

Self confidence is the key to your happiness!!! Happy National #BeBaldAndFreeDay. Never forget to be who YOU are, and always listen to your heart.

There’s already someone else, so why not show the world a lil’ something unique? Feed your passion. Love y’all!

One Twitter user even shared a photo of their hairless cat who is also proud to be bald:

October 14th is officially known as Be Bald And Free Day. It’s a special celebration for humans of the less hirsute variety, but it’s also a smart prompt to take a peek into the very distinctive world of hairless cats.

According to a study, bald men are seen to be much stronger, confident and dominant compared to those with locks of hair.

Psychoanalyst Steve McKeown, founder of MindFixers and owner of The McKeown Clinic, spoke to UNILAD about how the study was conducted and the results.

He said:

In a study, researchers have found there are positives gains psychologically, where bald men have been perceived more dominant, more confident and more masculine, stronger and taller.

The study included a group of participants who would score photos of men with full heads of hair and another group that would score the same men, but with their hair computer digitally removed and because only their hair was adjusted any dissimilarities between the groups had to be due to baldness.

Researchers also wanted ascertain whether this idea was consistent even when men were described in words with no photos were studied. This time they used men whereby their hair was just thinning but not completely bald.

The researchers noted bald men were again perceived as more confident, dominant, masculine and stronger but men who were thinning or trying to hold on were worse off opposed to bald men or those with a full head of hair.

So happy Be Bald and Be Free Day folks!

If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via stories@unilad.co.uk

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