Social Media, Business, and Mental Health

Some people claim it is true, while others dismiss it as utter hogwash. There are many who also piggyback on this theory in order to market themselves in a different light. What could this theory be then? It is the theory that your social standing could be judged by the social platform you use. Of course, when you signed up, it is likely that you went along with what might have been the more popular social platform at the time. And the idea is that the older the platform you use, the older your age.

Hence, if you are a Facebook user, and use it regularly, it is likely that you are in your mid thirties or forties – at least, while those who prefer Instagram are supposedly younger. The theory however hinges on the notion that social media users stick to one platform. There is nothing to stop one from switching across platforms, or using more than one platform, especially if one wants to appear hip.

Over the years social media has opened up possible avenues for income streams, mostly in the area of sales. After all, the possibility of sales is what drives advertising. If you have a large following, and you have created a product to sell, you can market it straight to your followers. This product can be anything from web templates, books, SEO advice, or crafts like jewellery. If you like singing, you can make a cover song and sell it, but just as long as you register for a mechanical license which allows you to do so. Cover songs can be better and more profitable than the original. Did you know that Hound Dog was not Elvis Presley’s own work, but a cover of someone else’s? (You can read more about this in the Piano Teachers N10 blog.)

You don’t need to even produce a product to sell in order to derive some form of income. If you have any followers who do these, you could market their products for them and get a percentage of the sales, in a process known as affiliate marketing. The role of social media influencer has also evolved over the years. This is a less direct form of marketing, where individuals present themselves as accomplished in their field, and refer to products that they use, in order that aspirational followers may follow suit. Think of the female blogs that talk about the beauty products they use. There is no buy now link, but people are subtly influenced to try out the products, after buying them of course, because they have read a good review which they don’t realise has been paid for.

Social media is great, but be aware of the toll it can take on your mental health. Initially you will be able to respond individually to your followers, but as they increase you will find it more and more difficult to respond and keep up, which may leave you mentally exhausted and dissatisfied. So while you open yourself up to more business opportunities, be careful that they do not overrun you!

The mental health strain of unwanted fame

What would you do if over a period of months you awoke to the reality that you were some sort of a popular celebrity? And what sort of a celebrity? The kind that features everywhere across the world, and has your face recognised and seen by many people.

The welcoming image of Shubnum Khan is one of the first things that people to countries such as Canada and Uruguay might notice. It is probably one of the things they have seen before they arrived, actually – because they will have had seen the face that welcomes immigrants to various countries such as Canada and Uruguay in a newspaper advertisement. But Khan is a muti-skilled entrepreneut. She manages a career as a writer and artist, in addition to being a consultant to a business in New York that sells carpets. She has also led treks to far flung regions such as Cambodia, she has appeared on advertisements by the McDonalds group in China, and also is involved in dentistry in Virginia. A multi-skilled lady, she also has links with a French dating website.

The wide scope of her involvement is amazing. Unfortunately none of it is actually real. It turns out that the South African author’s image was used without her knowledge when she unwittingly signed over the rights for her image to be used as a stock photo image. She claims that she was unaware, perhaps slightly naive in her thinking then, but many years earlier she had participated in what was called a 100 Faces Shoot, where a photographer promised professional portraits in exchange for being snapped.

So her image is plastered all over the internet, and she cannot do anything about it because the legality of the matter is that she HAD indeed signed off the rights to those images. I suppose anyone who woke up to that reality of unwanted fame may have cause for mental health concerns from others around them. After all the unwanted publicity can be detrimental to health. But Khan seems to have embraced it well, and the publicity from her sharing of her story can be actually leveraged to make the public familiar with her work. Her real work, of course.

A lesson to be learnt is that sometimes being shrewd and cautious are good skills to have in business dealings and can work to your advantage. In this particular case, owning the rights to your own image and other things you create can work to your advantage. So don’t be too keen to join things such as the Creative Commons Licence, because it is signing away your developed work. The composer Irving Berlin, for example, made sure to own the rights to Alexander’s Ragtime Band, a tune that made him millions in royalties and leveraged his career. (You can read more about this from the Piano Teacher N4 blog.)

But if you ever find yourself a victim of misrepresentation, because an image of yours was used without your knowledge, don’t panic – calm down and seek proper avenues of redress.

What football fervour can tell us

You can’t really escape World Cup fever this month in England. The football fever has taken over the country and everyone has been following the exploits of the England football team, and tracking the highs and lows.

England’s victory over Sweden in the quarter-final game was greeted with jubilant scenes. Fans were expectant and thought that this might be the year that football was coming home, to quote the words from the song by David Baddiel. It took place on a hot sunny afternoon, at 3pm, and so when the final whistle blew, an alcohol-fuelled crowd celebrated the victory. There is footage of fans smashing taxis, trashing furniture in IKEA, and generally other forms of anti-social behaviour. To say that this is the work of a few is rather masking the issue. It was a handful that caused the damage, but they were egged on by others who took part in the festivities.

Why are we such a repressed nation? And why is it that celebration cannot take place without alcohol, or happy scenes cannot be celebrated without the need to let loose and trash things?

Unfortunately – and you may disagree – this lack of respect for society and shared social things is inbred in people nowadays. Despite the technology and number of followers on Twitter or Instagram that people have, technology has made us less sociable in real life. People seem to care less about the things that go on around us unless it affects us directly, we have a stake in it, and it has the possibility of affecting us adversely. Otherwise we just carry on, ignoring the stimulus of life around us. We can blame the overflow of information around us – overloaded by information stimulus of life, we just switch off the parts that don’t matter. And as life continue to overwhelm us with information – remember that many terrabytes of information are produced every single day – it is not conceivable to think that society will become more and more disconnected with each passing day.

One may argue that we are just showing different sides to ourselves. We all have many faces that different people see parts of. The music composer Mozart, for example, was privately melancholic, yet outwardly choleric and effusive. (You can read about this in the Muswell Hill Piano Lessons website.) But is it healthy to partake in that contradiction – a happy celebration that involves anti-social behaviour? It only promotes mind and body disconnect, and sets up human beings to be more deluded in the future.

What the World Cup can tell us

The World Cup takes place every four years and this is the year that it is happening. If you have been following the football news on this blog, there was a post about how football, and the repeated impact of the ball on the head, can cause dementia.

But more importantly, there are effects that extend beyond physical deterioration. One is the impact of the “win at all costs” message that seems to be be perpetuated within the football industry.

Fair play seems to have been slowly eroded. Sportmanship appears a thing of the past, and being sporting is being soft; giving the opponent an edge.

The problem with this sort of thinking is that it promotes winning at all costs, such as through hoodwinking the referee, play acting, cheating in order to gain an advantage through a sending off or suspension.

What does it do for one’s mental health if we are so concerned with winning, that it overshadows how we view others and our actions?

You can view this pervasive attitude during many games. A player may have been guilty of a contravention, but when he is shown a card he may shrug his shoulders wiggle his fingers, and shake his head like the referee has made an incorrect decision.

This sort of behaviour influences impressionable minds of teenagers watching the game, and can distort their sense of right and wrong.

Football seems to be breeding delusion.

It teaches people to think they are never wrong, the fault lies with the decision, and that any admission of guilt – perhaps a bad tackle – only results in hampering your own team in the long run.

The price we pay for success is delusion and narcissism.

VAR was supposed to stop players harassing the referee. Now they surround and harass him to go to a video decision when he decides against them.

It is a new world from old beginnings, and for those looking for change, unfortunately it is still tinged with the past.

When the soft metal group Poison topped the pop charts, critics were quick to slam their style as “light keyboard music with guitars”, “hair metal” and all other derisory terms. But they proved that far from being deluded, going against the grain was refreshing, and there would always be a place for it.

And so football could do with a refreshing view, a new outlook. One where winning at all costs is de-emphasised in favour of more honourable values. Because if that sort of deluded narcissism is indulged, you will find more individuals going about their ways believing they are right, and society will implode.

Being too clever can make you blind – really?

Does being educated lead you to become myopic? This is what recent research seems to be pointing at, and what the NHS website seems to be endorsing. According to a study of nearly 68,000 participants, the research suggests that for every year spent in education, there is a decline of 0.2 dioptres in vision.

We all know the typical stereotypes of kids being brainy and wearing glasses. Everywhere we look this stereotype is being perpetuated. If you look at the character Cuthbert in the Dennis the Menace cartoons, he is the smart one in the class in the class, and like the teacher, one of few who wear glasses. Wearing glasses seems to convey some form of intelligence. Harry Potter wears glasses. The alternative stereotype is the muscular but dumb individual, big on muscles, small on brainpower.

The sample size of nearly 68,000 makes it of worthwhile consideration, unlike some research that (rather pointless) tried to use only a sample size of 20! Believe it or not, there was a piece of research on an important area such as smoking and vaping that published results after a sample size of 20 people were consulted. How is that even feasible? We have seen in the past how sample sizes skew statistics and this is how some manufacturers try to initiate the process of research in their twenty-year monopoly in pioneering new drugs; one can only speculate that this was why that particular research was published.

The research assessed the eye health of individuals are correlated them with the years spent in education. On the face of things, this seems to suggest that the more you study, the more your eyes deteriorate.

The more educated you are aiming to be, the more you have to sacrifice your sight.

Which is absurd.

It is not education that spoils the eyes. If that were the case, then all professors would wear glasses and have worse eyesight than the general population. And no teenagers would have high prescriptions.

The answer – if you can call it that – is what we do with our eyes. If we read in poor lighting conditions, then we put our eyes under strain and develop bad habits. For example, if you read with a overhead lamp and a shadow is cast on your book, or you lie on your back while hoisting a book upwards towards the sky, then you are straining your eyes; and if you spend more years (presumably in education) reading like this then you are going to develop myopia. But if you have good reading habits, then it is not going to hurt you to educate yourself and read, because you will not be doing much harm to your eyes.

But reading itself is not going to harm your eyes per se. We can point to various different activities that strain your eyes, such as watching too much television with faulty lighting, too much glare from scrolling cellphones in the dark, too much playing computer games and not noticing it has got dark … all these things strain your eyes.

In fact, if the researchers went back to the 68,000 people they surveyed, and asked how many people owned a smartphone, they would more or less get a close to 100% response and might as well have concluded that owning a smartphone leads you to developing myopia. It does – only if you focus for too long on it.

Poor vision has many causes – diet, prolonged focus and habit. One of the ways to help your eyes recover is to minimise the time you spend focusing on things close-up, and then to spend time outdoors to focus on things that are far away so that your eyes are not consistently taxed. If you were thinking of taking up piano lessons and then had to focus on reading the notated music, which may be tiny, and under dim conditions difficult, minimise the time you spend on it.

Being educated does not make you myopic – the poor reading habits that individuals have can be exacerbated by the reading demands that the pursuit of higher education requires. It is important to note the difference!

Multi-vitamins increase risk of death in some cases

Over the last few decades, people have been more concerned about health. The fitness boom of the 1970s led to a running craze and the 1980s could be described as the supplement decade, where people started taking multivitamins. (We could refer to the 1990s as the bodybuilding age and the noughties as the creatine and steriod age.)

Why do people take supplements? As the term suggests, it is to make up for vitamins that might be missing in your diet. But a report by the Guardian found that not only did supplements not have any positive effect, some vitamins actually have a higher risk of death of poor health.

Researchers at the University of Toronto looked at the effect of various vitamins on the risk of heart disease and stroke. What were the results? There was no significant proof that vitamins prevented heart disease, although folic acid, found in the B vitamins, did reduce the risk of stroke.

However, niacin (vitamin B3) and antioxidants (vitamins A, C and E) were associated with an increased risk of all causes of death, according to the findings published in the Journal of The American College of Cardiology.

Too many people have assumed that multivitamins only have a positive effect, but the levels in the products on sale can be well over the daily recommended limit, sometimes by as much as 1000%.

Vitamin C, in particular, is assumed to be good but too much can be dangerous.

There should be no need to take multivitamins if you are on a balanced diet, and the money spent could turn out to be a waste, or even harmful, if you happen to get supplements that have high levels of certain vitamins.

The pianist Robert Schumann suffered from poor health and even lost the use of his left hand, causing his performing career to be over. While part of it was reportedly due to a device that he used to widen the reach of his handspan, medication he was taking did not help either – which goes to show you must be careful what you put in your body.

Part of the problem is due to what we call anchoring. When we have a fundamental belief in an assumption, subsequent opinions are formed relative to that first opinion. If you believe supplements are good, then successive formulations of opinion are assumed to be good too, even though they may be distorted.

Why outlets for stress help mental health

´╗┐According to data scientist Seth Stephenson-Davidowitz, Google searches are a more accurate indicator of our innermost thoughts and emotions, because people believe they are anonymous on the internet. Well, in light of the recent developments of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, people are more aware of the issues of privacy, and if you haven’t, certainly you would have been bombarded by companies asking your data consent, to opt in voluntarily, instead of being opted in. But the latter concerns over privacy also are a breeding ground for spam. Wait to receive “opt out” messages from spammers who then ask you to fill in your account details on their site – beware!

Coming back to the issue of using data trends for insights, people are less inclined to tell the truth face to face or in a survey, because of how they feel it would reflect on them. They may worry about how their innermost thoughts are perceived and the effect it has on others around them. For example, did you know that many adults regret having children? The time and energy devoted into parenting detract from promising careers and pursuits. But yet admitting this would be akin to telling a child “I never wanted you”.

The problem with modern life is that we have to manage a lot of contradictions. For some, children are a source of happiness, but they detract from our own and cause us unhappiness. Ever seen an adult who wanted to do something but couldn’t because he or she had to stay home with the kids? In the 1980s, work was rebranded to look cool, to be able to do the thing you enjoyed most as a career, but for many the enjoyment of work is not as what it seems. We don’t necessarily do the things we enjoy, just the things that give us the financial freedom. Enjoyment is secondary.

The whole thing points towards a big, fat disconnect between the way our lives are going and the way we want them to.

And disconnect breeds mental stresses and health deterioration in the long term.

It is my opinion that society is walking towards a social and mental health timebomb.

As companies trim their workforce, and job security wanes, and the stresses of life impact on us and causes us a disconnect between the reality of life and our expectations, what can we do?

We can learn to manage our expectations of life.

There are many things that people around say which are not necessarily true. Things like “You should enjoy your job”, “no pain no gain” and other sayings or axioms that we take to heart but are actually not helpful. Try telling a homeless person “no pain no gain”, or talk about “trading it all in, to do the things you love” to someone who is struggling with job security, with a mortgage and children to bring up. Don’t listen and accept blindly the things around you, because as Seth says, everybody lies.

The second thing you can do is to find outlets for your mental triggers.

Seth’s research into Google data trends suggest that money and climate are high causes of depression. So what if you live in a cold place, and have no money to spend? Are you screwed?

Seek to establish some form of financial security. Spend less, save more. Work towards maximising income and minimising expenditure. Forget momentarily the trappings of modern appearance; we all want to look cool but life involves knuckling down and setting aside the need to look hip. This is how society encourages us to spend – it tells us we need the most modern gadgets and things, the best clothes – but we really need to live frugally, although it is easier said than done.

Find outlets for expression. Listening to music may be cool or great, but it is also receptive, not productive, so too much music can only cause you to feel more stressed. Instead, seek to do things such as learning to draw, or learning the piano, which uses a different part of your brain and allows you some temporary from of escape from life’s stresses and stressors. And learn to channe frustration into something creative, like many other Classical music composers in the past. And something like taking up piano exams could provide a target to aim for, in terms of self-fulfillment, and a diversion from daily life too. It is something meaningful you can do for yourself.

Modern life is about contradiction, and we have to learn to bridge the ever-widening gap. Learning to straddle the two is one of the most important skills we could teach the generations to come.