Mental Health, Pandemic, Social media, Technology, Teen fiction, Uncategorized

What social media doesn’t show

I’ve been feeling a bit down in the dumps just recently. I mean who hasn’t?

We are all still feeling the shock waves of the COVID crisis and I’m sure we will do for years to come. Naturally this might be what is causing my mood management trouble.

After all we have lost out on so much fun and a very real question mark remains over how life will be post June.

In an effort to combat my bouts of depression I took some time to really consider what might be the root cause of my suffering.

Although there was no immediate light bulb moment, in the few days that followed I couldn’t help but notice my mood seemed to take a nose dive after each and every session on a social media platform.

Although I have a lot going for myself right now, I happen to be at that awkward stage in life, where everything is in question. As a 31-year-old engaged (but not yet married man) with no children of my own, it is clear that I am becoming more of a minority as increasing numbers of people my age have now crossed that bridge. In my rational and not usually envious mind I am able to make peace with this fact and focus on what is happening in my own life rather than compare with others.

That is however until I take one innocent scroll through social media and for some reason my head becomes awash with feelings of pressure, envy and to be brutally honest, anger. Every single post I set eyes on has pictures of people parading their new born babies or bragging about how amazing married life is; and for some reason this triggers me.

The bombardment of content is so overwhelming it often results in me now throwing my phone aside. I can’t imagine the soul sucking tech giants anticipated that happening when they chose to cast their bait at me.

The problem I have though, is that I always end up coming back. This is unfortunately an outcome I’m sure that big tech giants evidently do bank on time after time.

Since recognising this effect social media has on me, I have had several conversations with people close to me, during which an unsettling conclusion was reached.

People only post stuff on social media that they want people to see! Furthermore, social media platforms only show you stuff that they want you to see. When you consider that we all have this tendency to fabricate how we really feel and paint a picture-perfect vision of how we think our lives should be, is it any wonder we fight to exceed expectations all the time? If we maximise this perfect vision by let us say 500 Facebook friends and imagine that there is an algorithm somewhere spoon feeding you this stuff for a reaction, is it any wonder that it is driving me (and all of us perhaps) to despair?

Think about it this way, how many posts do you see from people announcing the death of a family member, a failed IVF attempt or details of a violent relationship? Ok perhaps there are a brave handful of individuals who might do us. Perhaps that adds a fraction of perspective. It is sad to think in reality though, people who post about the bad stuff are often ridiculed as attention seekers, even if people do not openly admit it to their faces.

Think also about all those people who are unlucky in love, have crippling health or mental health problems or might not even be able to afford the luxury of social media due to extreme poverty?

Just because it appears as though everyone online is living the life of riley; it is quite simply NOT TRUE.

Let us not forget either that people rarely post pictures in the middle of the night when their teething baby quite simply will not stop crying or when a couple’s happy marriage is tainted by one or both having been unfaithful.   

I know this also sounds rather sinister of me. And I Just to clarify I am not one of these sick individuals who gets a thrill off the misfortune of others; far from it. The issue I have is more due to the fact there is little to no platform in which to relate and empathise with others on social media. This for me is a critical factor in helping to maintain our well-being.

Before I get berated by all the families I’m friends with online too, I also want to make clear that I have nothing against you and your children. I’m sure you all have wonderful families and that is great.

I think this crisis has come about partly by accident and partly by the sheer greed of the tech companies.

I don’t think any of us really think before we post a nice-looking picture. Maybe some of us do so out of vanity, but that is a separate issue in itself. It is hard for us to grasp the concept that our little mark on the world can actually have a negative impact on someone else. It is a deep thought to consider when you are in the moment.

I think the biggest issue of all in regards to the potential for harm from social media is that most of us simply do not realise that it is these very platforms that are causing us harm.

Therefore if this blog helps just one person to give a thought to how social media might be affecting their mental health (and that of others in fact) that for me is a start.

As many of you may know, my feelings towards smartphones and social media addiction are well documented in my debut novel The Invite, aimed at young adults everywhere. If you found my insights above of interest and you haven’t read my book already, you can grab your copy now @ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invite-C-P-Riches-ebook/dp/B08MCDYPPL

I think at some point, big tech firms need to take some accountability, but in the meantime we are on our own, swimming in unchartered waters. Let us all help each other, rather than letting some of us sink.

Books, Pandemic, Technology, Teen Novel

Over the Brick Wall

I want to first apologise for those of you who have been waiting patiently for an update on my publishing progress.

In these ever-changing times, the past few months have gifted us the opportunity to get out and live life again, albeit in this weird new normal we must adhere to. I have therefore had a bit of a break from the pen and paper in order to squeeze what little we have left of the great British summer.

I’m pleased to say I’m now powering full steam ahead towards completion and I can see a glimmer of the finish line ahead.

Aside from the obvious delay caused by the break, it has still felt a bit like trekking through thick mud at times in order to achieve my completion goal.

In the last update I convinced myself that the gold ribbon was a mere whisker away, when in reality the editing process took a few more beatings in order to create a conclusion that delivers what you, the reader, deserve. I had to battle my restless impatience in order to get things right.

The editing is now done and dusted and the book is with the proofreader for a final polish over. Touch wood, there should be no more set-backs from here and I think I will go ahead with the title reveal in my next update.

Now that life is getting back to normal, it is a race to finish line before my life is once again plunged into the full-time work routine of old. I can finally say with confidence that my warped new world will be with you in time for one more summer read before the leaves turn.

Watch this space.

Chris 

Environment, Pandemic

Leave Our Lungs Alone

amazon rainforest deforestation 2

This year has been tough and tragic for people across the globe. Not since the 2nd World War have we seen pain, suffering and death on such a grand scale. The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly the struggle of our generation and one we will tell our grand-kids about in years to come.

Or should I say ‘we hope to tell the next generations about it in years to come!’

Now the reason I say ‘hope’ is not derived from the fear of a complete wipe out of the population, due to the virus. No, these extreme concerns are born out of the even larger struggle of our generation. This is the elephant in the room; climate change.

For many weeks I was able to take some comfort from all the sorrow, fear and difficulty of these terrible times as I watched nature being gifted the break it so vitally needed. Transport and pollution across the world had diminished and it was clear just from looking out the window that mother nature was reclaiming her rightful throne again.

 As soaring spring temperatures continued to pummel the UK throughout the main months of lockdown, I was however, troubled by the thought that climate change is a very real threat in spite of the virus.

These fears were soon to be consolidated in a sickening sitting of the evening news one night. Aside from all the usual horror, a story was broadcast that shocked me to my core.

Whilst the world has been held captive by the corona virus, a mass of unscrupulous criminals have been mindlessly hacking away at the Amazon Rain-forest illegally. With the focus of Brazil’s authorities, cast solely on the pandemic, the prevention of illegal logging was no longer being enforced. This basically meant that greedy tree fellers were free to do what they wanted and they did exactly that. It is believed that illegal logging had doubled on the same time last year during the initial month of lock-down and up to 2,000 square miles had now been cleared during that time.

I felt physically sick after absorbing the implications of the scandal.

It was quickly confirmed that the damage caused, had well and truly trumped all of the eco gains made by us all in these times of isolation. To me this felt like another stab in the back.

For those who might wonder why this news felt like such a big blow to me, I will try to explain what it means in layman terms.

The Amazon rainforest is arguably our most crucial ally in the fight against climate change. It is common knowledge that trees absorb carbon dioxide from our atmosphere and expel oxygen in return. The Amazon’s trees play an overwhelming role in this process and also have the ability to form weather conditions.

Some people call the Amazon rain-forest ‘the earth’s lungs.’

Now as difficult as the image is, those illegal loggers could be compared to the corona virus that looks to destroy and consume our lungs. The loggers are doing exactly the same to the earth’s lungs. There comes a point where the virus overpowers our lung’s ability to cope and I fear exactly the same is going to happen to our home if things are allowed to escalate any further.

What worries me most is that Brazil’s current government sound reckless and greed fuelled. They should be at the epicentre of the climate emergency response, when in reality they are exactly the opposite.

Given that we are all focused on the fight against the virus, it worries me that this problem will continue to get ignored. The problem I see is that if it does slip under the radar, the virus will be the least of our worries.

Ironically, they say that the destruction of natural habitats is one of the main dangers to new viruses being unleashed around the world. I honestly believe they will soon become more frequent. I see this current pandemic as a warning call from mother nature. We really need to listen to her cries.

It sickens me to realise this harsh reality.

I guess all I can do from my isolated existence is call out to everyone online to raise awareness of what’s going on.

After what has been everyone’s worst year yet, let us hope that some good can come out this and we can save the rain-forest. If not, I think we should all prepare for things to get a lot worse yet.

Interested in environmental issues? Check out some of my other related articles https://criches90.wordpress.com/2020/01/07/climate-hush-results-in-smouldering-bush/