LOATHING LOCKDOWN | Mental Health and Mobiles

The introverts of the world may find bliss in the fact that for now, we must stay at home. Extroverts may hate it. The one thing that is for sure, is that we all must endure it. But none more than that group of people that suffer from mental health issues.

We should all know by now that mental health stability is a serious issue that can affect anyone at any time in your life. If you have mental health instability, then being alone with your thoughts is nightmarish, especially during a lockdown and especially during a lockdown when you have been forced to separate from your loved ones.

If you’ve followed #WhySoSocial, you’ll know that this is a subject that gets a lot of attention from me. Especially as it pertains to social media.

Read my article on data during the lockdown and you’ll know that one thing we all do a lot more of during this time is USE OUR PHONES… and when we use our phone; what do we like to do? Scroll through social media. Although it is has evolved into a human habit, there are a lot of things wrong with it. It has been ingrained into our nature since the introduction of smartphones. But it’s also opened up a dark side-effect of mental health degeneration. Especially within young people.

With the addition of more time on our hands, we search for instant gratitude or the next quick injection of entertainment to satisfy our needs. However, mixing this with a current or history of mental health issues is not a good idea. Now before we go further, let me say that I am no mental heal professional and I have no qualifications in the field but what I do have is a vast amount of knowledge through research.

Dr. Sandro Galea from Boston University said: ‘There will undoubtedly be consequences for mental health and wellbeing in both the short and long term” as a result of the lockdown, and this was further expanded upon by Roger McIntyre, Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology at the University of Toronto and Head of the Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology Unit who outlines the life-threatening implications: “The anguish in staying home intensifies” that could result in rising self-harm and suicide rates. He then goes on to mention that “A lockdown can exacerbate these feelings of loneliness and depression, especially for the unemployed or the young who are also susceptible.”

Mental health issues are a serious condition at any level, but it is safe to say that life-threatening issues are undoubtedly the most serious. Now, I am totally aware that there are worse problems than scrolling through your phone and going on social media as a result of being unemployed and staying at home. The burdens of financial, interpersonal, self-worth, etc, struggles also come into play. But one thing is for sure, the correlation between young people, social media, and loneliness is one that we cannot ignore.

The question now needs to be asked of what we can do past the time in an effective manner to compress the mental feelings of isolation?

As a social media professional, myself for over six years, I know the importance of stepping away from this so-called ‘social’ entity which can often be very ‘unsociable.’ Video calling friends, participating in in-home activities, and exploring new and forgotten hobbies have been a refreshing way for me to past the time. But then again, I do not have a history of mental health issues and not everyone is me. I am not going to sit here and write what I think people can do to counter this growing problem but what I can write is that there are always people in your corner and sometimes all it takes is a chat. If there was ever a time to call a mate, that time is now. Stimulate your brain, your body, and stay active.

DATA DUMP | Our phones are getting smarter, faster during lockdown!

Data is an interesting subject. Some people find it fascinating; some people find it boring and then there are some people that find it darn-right terrifying.

If you own a smartphone which I’m almost certain that 100% of the people reading this do, then you’ll know these little hand-sized devices operate completely on nothing other than data. Why is a smartphone given the word ‘smart’ anyway? I mean, it’s just a device you use to message your mates or look at images of sunsets in Thailand or even listen to your favorite beats while keeping a second eye on a video titled ‘top 100 cat compilations’… nothing smart about that? Right?

Well, like me, you’re probably one of many people on house arrest… sorry I mean lockdown right now and maybe you’ve decided to binge-watch a series on Netflix or re-live the best sports moments from the last decade on YouTube. If you’re part of the former group or even do both then maybe you’ve watched the critically acclaimed series Black Mirror and if you have, then you’d probably understand where I’m going with this.

Your phone knows a lot about you… a lot. The more you use it, the more it learns. We all know this, this is nothing revolutionary but right now, this minute, this second, your phone is learning a lot more about you on an increased rate. Its brain is working in overdrive and it’s being stuffed with knowledge while still yearning for more.

What you may not have noticed is that, you (the average Joe – like me) are using your phone a lot more now than before COVID-19 attacked and when the world was a ‘regular’ (I use that word sparingly) place. By doing this, you’re subconsciously feeding your phones more knowledge about you than you ever did. Now, the everyday distractions of life have significantly decreased – I apologise if you have kids… I don’t! You no longer have to travel to work, you no longer get to visit your mates, you no longer get to well… do what you used to. So, what are we doing instead? We’re searching for the perfect holiday to travel after this is all over, we’re video calling almost every day and we’re looking at baking recipes.

All of this is making your smartphone salivate and it will soon, if it hasn’t already start telling you that you’re interested in things you never thought that you were interested in.

Scrolling through Facebook one day, my phone advertised and easy-bake oven for eight-year-olds to me. I thought, ‘why would I be interested in that?’ However, thinking about it properly, when this lockdown started, I was one of those eager people who ran to the supermarket to buy flour and guess what? I started baking. But most importantly, I scoured through the interned to find not too difficult baking recipes. I was successful and now I’ve baked three cakes so far and I can’t wait to use my easy-bake oven for eight-year-olds (that arrived yesterday) to bake some fairy cakes, topped with strawberry jam and powdered sugar.

Back to the point… although that was part of the point (if you’re paying attention). We’re living in a time of wanting to pass the time. My baking anecdote is only a small level example of the data I’m providing my phone during these times. Of course, I didn’t have to be in lockdown to start baking but I did start baking because of this lockdown and I did provide my phone with new knowledge and the longer this continues, the more knowledge I and also you will give our phones.

Is it fascinating? Is it boring? Is it terrifying? Maybe it’s all three. But one thing is for sure, our smart phones are getting smart… faster. And by the time we’re allowed to go outside and smell that July air. Yes, I said July! Your phone will probably know things about you that you didn’t even know about yourself.

That being said, I have to go… my blueberry muffins are almost ready!

Netflix and Chill is taking over Cinema

Cinema once dominated the movie industry because it was simply the only player in the game. Society was fed a monopoly where there was only one place to watch big budget, fresh off the film movies.

As years past, the cinema industry has had to fight off opposition from illegal downloading, illegal streaming, DVD releases and television movies and have yet still managed to come out on top.

However, there’s a new kid on the block.  A digital streaming powerhouse that has got everyone talking. Netflix is the major player in the game that is on its way taking over the world of filmmaking and cinema. Along with the likes of others that battle it out in the industry like Amazon and later down the line, Facebook Watch. Netflix has the power to steamroll over the cinema industry.

It’s hard to fight against a service that only costs £6/£7 per month that allows you to watch anything they offer on their service with new titles coming weekly. In this day, an adult cinema ticket could cost you anywhere between £6 and £12 for one movie… Without the cinema essential, popcorn!

We are in an era where Netflix is producing big screen, cinema quality films for their platforms. These are movies that only a year ago you would have only been able to see at the cinema. They are now attracting big-time A-list, award-winning actors. Actors that in-turn help drive the marketability and advertisement of the films they make, driving more traffic to Netflix. A cycle in which Netflix simply keep winning.

People don’t want to spend their money to leave their house, travel to a cinema and watch a film on an uncomfortable chair with teenagers yelling in the background. Many people in the western world nowadays have access to a big screen TV, a comfortable sofa, a supermarket down the road where they can buy popcorn for £1 and finally, a movie and TV streaming service, allowing them to sit back, relax and enjoy a film in the comfort of their own home. A much more attractive proposition going to the cinema. Netflix and Chill is a thing!

At What Age Should We Start Engaging With Social Media?

 

Following on from the previous post, Olly and I thought it would be good to discuss at what age is it appropriate to engage with social media.

Oliver Campey writes his thoughts below.

A study back in 2014 conducted by Dr Richard Woolfsen and knowthenet.com highlighted that more than half of children had used social media by the age of 10. The report also found that 43% of these children had messaged strangers or engaged with negative comments by the age of 12.

The cynic amongst us may question the validity of the report or condemn certain elements in terms of how easy they are to measure. However, the fact does remain that children are engaging with social media at an increasingly younger age and it needs to be investigated as to whether this is safe.

Firstly, one the foundations of adopting any form of new technology or service is having an education on how best to use it. It’s a fact that when looking into the syllabus for younger age groups children are not educated by this stage on the positive and negative effects of social media. Personally, I think this needs to change. I wouldn’t say there’s an issue with the age that children are interacting with social media because as a generation we are adapting to new technologies at an earlier age than ever before. However, what does need addressing is providing children with an education from a young age so that they have a greater understanding of how to appropriately engage with social media.

Secondly, there needs to be further research into the negative effects of dopamine on the human brain and the formation of an addiction to likes and positive engagement across social platforms. As discussed in the previous post dopamine can be triggered by things such as gambling, alcohol, and smoking all of which are regulated and carry age restrictions of 18 or above. As highlighted by AdWeek, social media channels generally enforce an age restriction of 13+ and so there could be an argument to bring it more in line with the age restrictions for smoking, gambling, and alcohol.

Thirdly, social media is having a hugely negative impact on the younger generations ability to socialise and form meaningful relationships with their friends. Only yesterday was I sat in a cafe and I witnessed a group of friends all sat on their phones and not conversing with one another. To make things worse, when one of the group did spark up some form of a conversation, the others responded with a nod of the head or a mumbled grunt and continued flicking through their phones.

What kind of message does that send out to the person who initiated the conversation? It’s essentially saying, you’re not interesting enough for me to listen. I agree with Nat that we need to ensure that from a young age people are connected and have the ability to consume information whenever they need it. It’s common knowledge that teenagers are spending more time on sites such as YouTube and Vimeo to learn new skills and acquire new information.

I just think their needs to be a greater level of education on the safe and effective use of social media across the school system and for parents. A report by the NSPCC found that “More than half of parents are unaware of the age limit on Social Media”, this means they aren’t making well-informed decisions when allowing their children to roam free across social channels. If more work is done to provide children with a better education, it will eradicate so-called ‘social bad habits’ and allow us to become better communicators both professionally and personally.

Check out Nat’s vlog below for a greater level of insight into this topic!

The Takeover of Fortnite

This video game taking over a generation.

When we think about popular video games that attract a youth market, we think of such games like FIFA, Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. Games that are prominent with a male under 30 demographic and games that cause a wave of media outcry and popularity when they are released.

Well now, there’s a new kid on the block and this new phenomenon is not just a game, but a game-changer.

Fortnite is a game developed by ‘Epic Games’ and whether they knew it or not when creating this masterpiece, Fortnite has taken the internet by storm.

Firstly, Fortnite is free to download… Yes, free.

In an age where it is not un-common to spend £40-£50 on video games, Fortnite was released to the world for a grand total of £0. If you’re like me, you’d expect a free game to be subpar… Not the case for Fortnite. It’s a solid third person shooter that has a lot going for it. Sure, it’s not Halo or Call of Duty but it does offer a great piece of gameplay that is difficult to get anywhere else.

Fortnite is aimed at a younger, male audience that either still get pocket money from mum or simply don’t earn enough money to justify buying a £50 game that doesn’t come with years of accolades. So, when a free games pops up on the market, downloads go wild.

Along with the launch, came a wave of user-generated social media content that drove the publicity of this game to a new level.

People started using Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Twitch to talk about Fortnite. Bigger accounts that don £10m+ followers started to upload content because it is where the conversation lies. People didn’t and don’t want to miss out on what everybody else is making noise about. People aren’t addicted to Fortnite, it just has the same calling that any other new craze has. Young people simply do not want to get left behind. Heck, it’s the reason why I started playing it. It’s not an amazing game but it’s a solid game, it’s a free game that everyone is playing… So why don’t I start playing it?

But what do the developers get out of this? Sure, there’s a wave of free user-generated publicity, sure they have millions of users across the globe. But if the game is free, then how are they making money? There’s no advertising in the game so there’s no third-party income coming in through that traditional route.

The way Epic Games makes money through Fortnite is through in-game purchases. This has been a model that has been around since mobile gaming first jumped on the scene. You download a ‘free’ game from the app store and then once in the game you can pay for certain add-ons to make your gaming experience even better. The console gaming industry adopted this same model a while ago and it is still being used to extreme effect today. The best example of this probably comes in the form of FIFA Ultimate Team. Where you can physically use your own hard-earned money to pay for FUT points to buy or bid on players.

Fortnite allows users to pay for in-game add-ons that can make you a more formidable opponent when you’re up against your friends in the game. As more people play and the competition levels rise, people will want to outdo their counterparts and this is what Fortnite counts on to make money.

Fortnite is an online gaming example that has taken social media by storm and…

Sorry, Ryan’s online and asking me to play… Gotta go!

The Comparison Factor

Firstly I’d like to introduce a good friend of mine called Oliver Campey who runs ‘olliecampey.com‘. We got our heads together late last year and have decided to get started with a series of social media related blogs/vlogs. Our first blog will focus on the perception vs reality aspect of social media and the comparison factor and you can find Ollie’s written analysis with his thoughts embedded below.

In an age where social media has intertwined itself with almost every aspect of our daily lives, it would be fair to assume that as a population we have acclimatised fairly well to the psychological challenges that come with opening up our world to the public.

The use of social media grew at a far faster rate than anyone could’ve ever predicted and not just from a personal perspective, in business too, social media has now become one of the most powerful tools for marketing your products, creating customer engagement and promoting your brand. There is no doubt that the birth of Social Media has introduced some incredible platforms into the world

Instagram – Being able to visually present your life to the world has put everyone back in touch with their inner creative (optimisation tips available here)

Facebook – Being able to connect with friends you’ve met around the world so you don’t lose touch and share all types of content

YouTube – A platform for masses to create, absorb and share video content
And these are just a few examples…

However, whilst Social Media continues to develop and we continue to improve at marketing our personal and professional journeys there is a much darker side to the all of this. I feel it’s important that it’s brought to the surface so that younger generations can develop the correct coping mechanisms for dealing with the negative implications that can arise when Social Media is misinterpreted or misunderstood.

One of the most widely talked about side effects of Social Media is the ‘comparison factor’. Particularly amongst people in their early teens, the upward comparisons being made against content posted by they’re friends/peers is leading to a reduction in self-esteem, higher levels of jealousy and in turn higher levels of depression amongst teenagers.

However, the problems run much deeper than this and only now are we beginning to see more and more cases of the vicious circle that is consuming many young people in society. The ‘comparison factor’ can often be the trigger point that sets off the cycle of negative thoughts although there are many other reasons and external circumstances which can influence the mood of a person when engaging with Social Media.

One of the biggest issues is a chemical called dopamine, often referred to as the chemical behind all of our sins and secret cravings. In it’s simplest form dopamine is a chemical that acts as a messenger between brain cells and is responsible for things such as movement and speech.

However, it also plays a role in addiction due to the heightened sense of satisfaction we receive when the brain receives a so-called ‘fix’. You see it most amongst smokers (nicotine), alcoholics (alcohol) and gambling, now it’s beginning to take effect on Social Media too, particularly when people receive a ‘like’ or positive comment. It’s been proven amongst various research articles that dopamine triggers the ‘reward molecule’ in our brain and this okay for people who live with a very low level of stress and in broader terms are on good terms with the way their life is being played out.

Where the problem needs addressing is amongst people who suffer from depression, sadness, mental trauma or even temporary stints of unhappiness. The reason being is that people are turning to Social Media to get the ‘likes’ which as we know triggers the reward system in our brain leading to a feel-good factor. As we are aware with the other types of addiction, if this is prolonged over a period of time then the reaction becomes hard-wired in our brains and lo and behold forms an addiction.

It becomes a double-edged sword on many levels. The craving to get the likes/comments places extreme amounts of pressure on people to find content that will generate that type of engagement and when they can’t achieve this a sense of unfulfillment and sadness sets in. It’s also acting as a temporary fix and so the next day it becomes a repeat process meaning people are never actually learning to deal with the root of what’s causing them to feel sad, they’re only ever masking the problems and making their life seem something it’s not to the outside world.

This is extremely dangerous because to their friends, family, employers, it will seem as if everything is great and therefore they can’t offer the kind of support and advice that is needed to help nurture them through the period of negative thinking.

When we think about someone’s life and how they’re getting on, we tend to scan their social media and from the outside everything often looks great. The pictures of nights out with friends, sunny holidays, smiley selfies but in reality on the inside it can often be a very different picture.

To conclude, there is no doubt that social media can have an extremely positive effect on both our personal and professional journeys. There does, however, need to be a greater understanding amongst society about the negative implications that come with prolonged usage and most importantly how we deal with that.

Rap in the Digital Music Industry

Rap is the most streamed genre of music in the world. With the rise of digital media streaming services like Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Apple Music, etc it has now become easier for the fans of this genre to listen to their favourite artists. SeinHQ helps me delve deep into the rise of modern day rap and how digital media has influenced its growth.

10 years ago, an African American inner city youth may have only had enough money to purchase one album per month – if that. He may have recieved $10 from his mother as pocket money and that would have to last him for the month. But the problem was that there was more than one album that he wanted to listen to and with each album costing him $10 how could he listen to all the rappers that he wanted head nod to? Now, things have changed. That $10 will get you a month’s worth of unlimited music that does not stop delivering.

This new generation of mumble rap artists are producing content on a level of close to a song a week, feeding their audience with content. The rise of digital media has been there to help do that. Their music has become more accessible than ever before. We are now able to quantify digital streams and measure just how popular rap has become. Hip hop listening increased by 74% in 2017, this is due to the rate of which artists are delivering music. They are also helped by the promotion of famed social media accounts like World Star which itself boasts around 14 million followers.

There is a culture in which the audience is brought into the lives of these artists, with Instagram being a leader for these musical stars to portray their lifestyle and music behind the scenes like never before. This creates a fan following that only continues to rise.

Creative Design

Why do we design products?

We want to make life easier, we want to build new artifacts that if going to make our children and our children’s children life simple to live.

We need to think about the way we design products and think for not only the present but the future. Therefore, in creation, we must adopt and understand the object in which we are trying to create through visualising its use.

“The design opportunities that would otherwise go unnoticed emerge nor from what people know about or desire for the object, but from deeply pursuing the nature of the object itself.”

“To design something effective, the designer must depart the realm of the human, at least temporarily, and enter the universe of the object.”

Creative design is what we need to produce a better living for the present but to also enhance the future.

Love on social media

In this new age of social media, can relationships be what they used to be? Can you love someone unconditionally without showing the world how much you love someone? Of course you can but there are people who choose to document their relationship online for the whole world to see?

Getting more “likes” or more “views” or simply just more engagement has become far more important to people than many other meaningful things that we could label as meaningful only a few years ago. We are now seeing people share the most intimate part of their lives as a show to gain an audience and a following to ultimately gain a more monetary status. This is more than a reality TV show, this is reacting to people, demanding to see the ins and outs of the life you live.

But is this really a meaningful relationship? Is sharing every facet of your life keeping your relationship together? If it is… Is that true love?

Trends and social stigmas

We’re living in a life full of trends and what I like to call “the new age of peer pressure.” We’re now more so than ever trying to fit in with our social crowd and doing things that we would have never thought about doing five, ten or even fifteen years ago.

Let’s look at tattoos, gluten free or even veganism and try and understand how and why these have become social trends. Yes, people are educating themselves and become more “open” about such things but people are also seeking a way to become a part of a social setting that where they can “fit in.” With the rise of social and digital media, information is much easier to grasp that in the 90s and we’re being taught or some may say “brainwashed” into following trends unconsciously.

But maybe there’s a point to that…