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!

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.

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.

Diverting negative energies into positive gains

You’ve heard of Twitter. You’ve heard of trolling. And if you haven’t heard of the latter, you must be of the social media landscape, which may be a good thing for you. Trolling is the process – some may call it art now, unfortunately – of sending someone offensive messages in a bid to get them to respond. Some might liken it to baiting. It was a way of provoking conversation by say something to unsettle someone. I personally call it needling. It is like one of the silly things children used to do, to poke each other with a finger until someone got fed up and reacted. Over the years it has evolved into and art form, of saying something objectionable until someone “flames”. Unfortunately the development of such social terms only conveys how acceptable a practice it has become.

Twitter was a good medium for trolling – some say it still is – because it offered anonymity. And it was instantly responsive to news. Back in the days of the Arab Spring, and the London riots, people were using Twitter to communicate instant messages alongside Blackberry IM. It was almost as if these events opened the eyes of the authorities to the power of social media and how they needed to police it. To this effect, many have social media accounts to “communicate” with the public. Twitter may have had its twitterstorm, and while Facebook and Cambridge Analytica are having their turn in the news, Twitter remains an important feature of the social landscape nonetheless.

The responsiveness of Twitter and its immediacy mean that people can send anonymous messages to others and watch the impact as it unfolds Imagine receiving a message from someone who purports to know you somewhat like “The guy at the next table is watching you”. Immediately you would react to the sense of danger, and then feel a sense of embarrassment if it turns out to be a hoax and that you have been pranked. That’s what one form of trolling is. A cheap, inconveniencing laugh at someone else. And when you’ve been hoaxed, there is the embarrassment too that your hoaxer is in the vinicity observing you. But sometimes others troll (trawl) the Twitter landscape just to be objectionable, to say things to others without being physically around to be accountable for their words.

It’s not nice being trolled. It is akin to be digital bullying. A BBC report investigated some teens who had been trolled. But when they dug deeper, they had a nasty surprise. The ones responsible for the trolling, the cyber-bullies were the teens themselves.

Welcome to digital self-harm.

Why do people leave nasty online messages for themselves. One of those teens said that it was a way of getting attention and sympathy. When we are bullied online, we get some words of sympathy from others and a bit of their time and attention. Julian – not his real name – received the message “Nobody cares what you think. Just deactivate your account. No one likes your posts, and you’re a waste of everyone’s time.” Later it was discovered the digital hate mail originated from himself.

As he says of those who have been trolled, “they were quite popular so their followers would really support them through it and send them nice messages. I didn’t have many followers at the time so I thought sending myself a hate message might be a good way to get attention.”

Another girl, Sophie, sent herself hurtful comments in order to open up a discussion with herself, she said. She said she suffered from anxiety and to bring it out to the open, she penned a 1000-word response to her online hater – herself.

It may be useful, especially if you were concerned about an issue such as, say, one’s sexuality and needed to bring it out to the open. And one can perhaps understand that. But when a trolling comment is used only for the sake of generating attention, it really calls to mind the state of one’s mental health.

What kind of state is the mental health of someone who abuses themselves online to draw attention? Most would say “not good”. To that effect there are attempts to track those who do so. One of these methods involves checking the IP addresses of user accounts, to see if two have the same address – meaning they were sent from the same computer and individual.

What can you do if you are feeling down and need an outlet for your mental frustration? Sometimes it is useful to learn a new skill or do something to deflect your mental situation away briefly. You may find it useful to learn a new skill like learning the piano. And try to channel your frustration into a creative activity, because it will keep you from dwelling on your circumstances and the drive, directed correctly, will propel you to greater heights. The composer Ludwig van Beethoven, by all accounts, had a difficult childhood, but as a Piano Teacher in Crouch End expounds, Beethoven managed to transcend the difficulties faced to become a skilled musician and composer.

Certainly it is better to do something self-fulfilling, rather than self-harming!

The social signal of music

If you look around you, on your daily travel to work, or perhaps just as you are moving through society, you will notice that many people are plugged in to their headphones, listening to music, trying to pass the time. And how headphones have evolved. They used to be merely a tiny pair of plugs to stuff into your ears, now they have become large ear mufflers that purport to cancel out exterior noise, and many of them are bluetooth enabled, meaning you are no longer limited by the length of a wire and can be unencumbered by its messiness.

Of course, this has meant that the music industry has taken advantage of it. Now that many people are listening to music, thousands and thousands of hours are devoted each week to producing music for listeners to devour. This has of course given rise to the number of people producing and recording their own music, and the number of apps and other music technology software for that kind of purpose. But what does the increasing popularity of music really tell us?

It doesn’t really tell us that music is increasingly popular on its own merit. That is to say, that the music nowadays is of good quality. What it does tell us, unfortunately, is that society is fragmenting socially.

You might be thinking that is a crazy thing to say, but if you examine what situations you see the use of headphones in use, it may shed some light on this viewpoint.

People use headphones to shut off one of their senses to the world. This means that on public transport for example, if they are hogging a seat that has been prioritised for a person that needs it more, for example, an elderly person or a pregnant lady, they may avert their gaze and pretend they have been so immersed in their music that they did not notice the need. One of the unwritten social contracts is to give up your seat for someone – a young child, a pregnant mother or an elderly person – who may need it, but using headphones means that one can break out and default on this without hearing the reprimand of the others.

The above is only an example. But what it highlights is that we use headphones not so much to enjoy music, but as a barrier to the social world around us. If you travel on a bus, and a group of youths are making a ruckus, no one dares to even utter a word for fear of retribution, being involved in a discussion with those out to get attention via argument, or lack of bother. The solution? Headphones. Pretend you never heard. Shut out one of your senses to the world.

It is a shame really because music was meant to be enjoyed, but now it is a shield to the world. Actually, not a shield, but a lance to say keep away. As a Crouch End piano teacher tells us, it could offer us such positive experiences. But it is somewhat disheartening that we use music to divide rather than to bind us. And it is not just merely the use of headphones. A noisy car blaring out noisy music, or a person playing loud music on public transport, is equally guilty of trying to impose some sort of social control on the people around that they do not like or want. We should try to use music more positively instead of as a divisive tool.

Disconnect for a better quality of life

We live in a world that is more technologically advanced than our grandparents’ generation. For some, the gulf between generations is even closer. Those of us who have parents in their late forties and fifties will almost certainly find that their version of the twenties is much more different than ours. The difference can almost solely be put down to the impact that technology has had on our world.

When computers were rolled out en masse, and the influence of technology was making its way into daily life, we were told that they would simplify life. Computers would do the drudge work that humans used to do, giving us more free time to explore leisure pursuits. At least, that was how it was sold to us.

 

Has that happened? Not really. The average citizen found himself needing to be more computer literate. As the society became more dependent on things like emails, mobile phones, and computers, human beings found themselves needing to know how to work such devices and all their functions. Remember the days when all you had was a simple choice of a digital or traditional film camera? Nowadays the choices have exploded exponentially. Of course, unless you are a purist, you would say having digiital cameras isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t. But making the transition to using them as part of daily life has only increased the mental burden of information we hold in our heads, and that is making us actually less productive. And that arguably is one of the problems with technology. It has resulted in an explosion of information – the information overload that overtaxes our mental processes and leaves us mentally fatigued and less able to focus on important issues.

Social media is another area – touted to enhance links between people from your past, now the need to catch up with the latest social gossip, to promote yourself, to be on track with it all, to be in … all that has a bearing on one’s mind and mental health. It is no wonder that some people report being depressed after scrolling through social media sites like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Has technology enhanced our lives? It has made it easier for companies to push work that used to be done by employees onto users. For example, if Wikipedia existed in the 1980s, it would have had big offices and employees to research and type out the information on its databases. Now it encourages collaborative work – in short, it makes uses do it for them.

The problem is that information is endless and cannot be fully captured, and runs perpendicularly to our innate need to grasp everything. We want to box it all, yet it cannot be boxed. The human civilization generates terrabytes of data every year, and trying to keep on top of it all will leave us tired and fatigued and restless and depressed, an ever-insatiable need.

The solution? Disconnect. It would do you a (real) world of good. And if that is too drastic, trying limiting the amount of screen time you have.