Mental Health, Social media

Social Media Cleanse Diary – Day 4

I feel like the honeymoon period of my social media cleanse challenge is coming to an end today.

I don’t feel cocky in saying that I smashed it yesterday, but today has been a whole different ball game.

Looking at the logs, I have used social media 3 times altogether today which still isn’t bad considering there is no real urgency to go t-total as yet.

That being said there is no denying that it is worse than yesterday. Aside from the stats, it is more the urge to kill time on social media today that I found crippling. After the busy start to the week, I have had a day littered with periods of boredom and the weather has also taken a slump. I found that during these dull periods I craved some interaction and entertainment through actions such as sending Snapchats or scouring for news on Facebook.

I did allow myself to indulge somewhat, but I feel if I hadn’t enforced some serious restraint I might have been on and off the platforms like a yoyo all afternoon.

Maybe this is time where things do start to get taxing. It is a challenge after all.

The good thing this time is that I felt accomplished for showing some willpower. I have also been lucky in that my state of mind has remained pretty upbeat throughout the day. Hopefully this indicates that even though I did use social media a few times, I might have been hitting a healthy balance.

So even though it’s been tough, plenty of positives to take forward as we approach the latter half of my first week I would say.

For those who are yet to read up about my current challenge, get up to speed @ https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/16414670/posts/510

Don’t forget, if social media addiction is something that interests you, why not check out my young adult novel The Invite and join troubled teen Lindsey Hookwink on her night of virtual horrors that well and truly expose her unhealthy smartphone habits. 

Lifestyle, Mental Health, Social media, Teen fiction

Social Media Cleanse Diary – Day 3

After yesterday’s myriad of mind games, I feel like today has been much more straight forward in terms of my emotional response to this social media cleanse.

The great news is that I have managed to build once again on yesterday’s success and in fact only used social media once all day!

In my wildest predictions I would not have expected myself to curb the habit to such an extent at this very early stage.

Oh I do hope the whole 2 months will continue in this vain.

The one time I did use social media, it was a quick 1 minute check on Facebook. I was immediately greeted once more with the social media post that has annoyed me all week and so I went straight to refresh the newsfeed wheel of fortune which decided I would like to read about a burned out car instead. How lovely.

It is worth mentioning at this stage that my partner is a bit sceptical about my methodology for this challenge.

She believes I should go cold turkey from the offset and she also doesn’t believe that I should keep Direct Message platforms such as WhatsApp available for usage.

She even believes that using my blog to post updates is in fact using social media and therefore contradicting what I am trying to achieve.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and my other half doesn’t hold back with her opinions I can tell you that much for sure.

Perhaps her observations are valid to some extent and maybe this is why I have found things rather easy so far. It is difficult to say.

In spite of this I will continue on with the same plan, but I am now contemplating whether to up the anti for the final few weeks of the challenge and simply ghost any and all online avenues until I reach the end.

Maybe I could go as far as chucking my phone out and communicating via barn owl. Who knows?

All I know is I’m feeling good at the moment and hopefully this will be a feeling that grows as the challenge goes on. Only time will tell.

For those who are yet to read up about my current challenge, get up to speed @ https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/16414670/posts/510

Don’t forget, if social media addiction is something that interests you, why not check out my young adult novel The Invite and join troubled teen Lindsey Hookwink on her night of virtual horrors that well and truly expose her unhealthy smartphone habits. 

Lifestyle, Social media, Teen fiction

Social Media Cleanse Diary – Day 2

Success is Relative. I would like to think that all humans… | by Mitch  Massman | Live Your Life On Purpose | Medium

So, I breezed through my first day of cutting out social media yesterday and this injected me with confidence as I prepared for day 2.

All things considered my second day was another great success. Looking back at my log, I can see that I did in fact access social media one time less than yesterday which I’m ecstatic about.

I should note however that not everything was as rosy as it sounds. I experienced a strange complex whereby I found myself instinctively reaching for my phone in search of social media but then stopping myself before deciding to click on the App. Sounds like a good thing right? Maybe it is, but the problem here I feel is that this prevention tactic is actually preventing me from getting a clear picture of my social media habits. It has also meant that the few times I actually did access social media, it was accompanied with feelings of guilt and shame for some bizarre reason. 

Perhaps this is just helping me to achieve my full social media blackout more quickly? I do hope so.

Worse still the very few times I did access social media, I was displayed with the same update from an individual that filled me with anger and sadness. I felt as though Facebook knew that the post hit a nerve and decided to keep throwing it in my direction.

I feel all of this emotion is making me more determined to get rid of the damn platforms as quickly as I can, which is surely a good thing.

Another interesting conclusion I found from today is that I felt less likely to use social media as I knew it would involve making a log of it, which I simply could not be bothered to do.

Maybe I have just been overthinking things with the challenge today and hopefully tomorrow will be less tubulous and even more of a success.

For those who are yet to read up about my current challenge, get up to speed @ https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/16414670/posts/510

Don’t forget, if social media addiction is something that interests you, why not check out my young adult novel The Invite and join troubled teen Lindsey Hookwink on her night of virtual horrors that well and truly expose her unhealthy smartphone habits. 

Mental Health, Social media, Technology

Social Media Cleanse Diary – Day 1

3,561 Day 1 Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

Let the fun and games begin I say. I have started the first day of my 2-month long challenge with surprising vigour.

This positive midframe and approach has already helped me reap rewards as I have in fact barely touched social media all day!

I have certainly surprised myself.

I must say however it does feel less of an accolade when you consider that I have been super busy with work all day, having just returned from a week-long break on the South Coast. This was further assisted by the fact we had a house valuation after work and lots of household chores to contend with thereafter.

I ended up utilising social media sites a total of 4 times throughout the day; twice I used Snapchat and twice Facebook. Total time spent was 10 minutes.

Not to blow my own trumpet or anything but I think this is quite impressive when you bear in mind that the time spent on Facebook was primarily to post about this challenge.

So far so good and my mental headspace is so far in check.  I am under no illusion that these are very early days though and I know not every day will be cluttered with so many welcomed distractions.

Let us see what tomorrow brings.

For those who are yet to read up about my current challenge, get up to speed @ https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/16414670/posts/510

Don’t forget, if social media addiction is something that interests you, why not check out my young adult novel The Invite and join troubled teen Lindsey Hookwink on her night of virtual horrors that well and truly expose her unhealthy smartphone habits. 

Books, Mental Health, Social media, Technology, Teen fiction

See you later social media, time to practice what I preach!

Isn’t it ironic how I created a work of fiction that explores powerful themes on how social media has the potential to cause harm, but yet social media is my main outlet in which I use to promote it?

A bit controversial I know and maybe this makes me a hypocrite? On second thoughts don’t answer that!

In my defence I feel the world we currently live in left me with little choice in this matter if I was serious about reaching my intended target audience.

None of us can seem to live without our trusty platforms and so for months now I have bit the bullet and utilised them more than I should, in spite of my beliefs.

From the start of my self-publishing journey, I have pleaded with myself to approach the book promotion with a military mindset, go in, spread the word and leave. There would be no lingering to snoop on everyone’s latest Insta post or scroll mindlessly through Facebook.

And for a long time, I convinced myself that I was doing just that.

One day however it struck me that book sales had well and truly simmered down and I hadn’t posted any meaningful content of relevance in ages! In spite of this it occurred to me that I was still spending the same amount of time (longer even) on all the usual social media suspects. If I wasn’t promoting my book then what was I doing I hear you ask…?

In truth I’m not entirely sure. Looking back, I think the best way to summarise is, I would almost instinctively go on each platform and scroll mindlessly at content at random intervals throughout the day. At first, I think I assured myself I was doing it as a way in which to build my networks. Maybe at first, I was. But after a while it became clear that the network building had come to a complete halt.

So what is the big deal I hear you ask…?

I felt terrible is what. For months now I have been battling with depression and I’m all but certain social media has a lot to answer for in making me feel this way. 

All things considered I figured it was time to set my own example. I have therefore come up with a challenge to cleanse my soul of social media and keep a daily diary of how I feel to record the experiment.

I figured it would be a cool idea to tie this is to the 1st Anniversary of my book The Invite on 31st October- aka Halloween.

The plan is to undertake a gradual withdrawal of my screen time over the coming months until I reach the stage where I am T-total. Research suggests that this is the best way to obtain a healthy benefit from the online break.  

On September the 6th I will embark on my 2month-long quest which will include a phased approach to my ultimate goal of achieving online freedom. I have created a week-by-week plan, which (fingers crossed) will proceed as follows:

  • First week – Figure out the problem and note down how many times I used a social media platform, detailing which one was used and when
  • Week 2- Try and reduce overall useage by half
  • Week 3 – Delete the platform I use least and try to reduce useage of the others by half again
  • Week 4- Limited social checks to every other day
  • Week 5- ‘Cold turkey’ This will be the time to delete all social media. I will only be keeping chat options such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
  • Weeks 6-8- Remain social media sober

To monitor the impact of my challenge I plan to create a daily diary which will outline the specifics of how I am finding the experience and more importantly, how my mental well-being is being affected.

I will post my daily entry right here on the blog (which will hopefully be the most online interaction I have throughout the 2 months) but will refrain from engaging with any kind of responses my updates may summon.

It is going to be a fascinating and possibly excruciatingly difficult task, so do come back to check out my daily up and downs in just over a week’s time.

In the meantime, if social media addiction is something that interests you, why not check out my young adult novel The Invite and join troubled teen Lindsey Hookwink on her night of virtual horrors that well and truly expose her unhealthy smartphone habits. 

All that is left to say is, wish me luck!

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, New Fiction, Teen Novel

I invite you to join my debut novel adventure

Seeing The Invite on sale for the first time

How on earth has a month passed by already since publishing my first ever novel?!

I mean seriously.

It feels as though I am frozen in continual state of disbelieve at what I finally managed to accomplish. And now that its over it feels surreal.

I’m awful for returning to my amazon account on a regular basis to see how things are going and to simply remind myself that it wasn’t all one big, crazy dream.

I’ve been so caught up in the madness of it all I’ve only just found the time to sit and reflect. This has also been hindered by my long-awaited return to work after my 7-month stint on Furlough.

It is safe to say that it has been a manic month!

On this cold, December night I can at finally cast my mind back to how the book launch unfolded on a night full of trick and treats.

Halloween was the day I decided to deliver the goods. It only seemed fitting as this frightful night of celebration 2 years back was the day I finished the first draft of The Invite. Scary how fast the time has gone.  

Myself and my partner Jenny had a jam-packed day of treats and spooky activities planned for the occasion. I was so excited for the big day but soon after it began this nervous energy began to boil over.

I had created a countdown to the big release for 12pm and it wasn’t long before I felt restless, nervous to ensure that everything ran smoothly for the big moment.

I had little time to dwell on my thoughts though as Jenny had me working like a slave in the kitchen as we prepped a wicked afternoon tea.

In what felt like an eternity (in spite of being busy) the clock eventually informed me that I had 2 minutes to go before the final mission. 

I took off my apron and fired up the laptop.

After a quick social media update, I began to undertake the final steps on Amazon to set my dreams into reality.

After years’ worth of preparation, I only had a few buttons to press, but my mind seemed to have melted like hot butter and it took longer than it should have.

I was finally greeted by the invitation to publish my book to the world and after a mere moment of holding my breath, clicked ‘ok’.

I was rewarded with a message congratulating me on the published work, but my heart quickly sank as the small print said it could take up to 72 hours to appear in the Amazon store.

I had promised excited family and friends they could purchase their copies in a matter of moments and now I was faced with the unbeknown and embarrassing job of updating my prospective customers with news of a delay.

I was furious but did all I could to appease people. Afterall it was only a couple of days added to many month’s of waiting. 

I posted an update on social media and then tried to force the issue from my mind and crack on with the fiendish fun.

After a couple of hours, I couldn’t resist having a cheeky check on Amazon on the off chance that The Invite had bypassed the waiting time and I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was there.

Clear as crystal my book shone out on my screen, patiently waiting for new customers.

Except it hadn’t been waiting at all. I further check on social media confirmed that a couple of people had already bought the thing before I even knew it was on sale!

From here on in the day was a whirlwind of excitement as I shared the news and people embraced my journey to make the event more of a success than I ever could have imagined.

I was pretty much on cloud 9 as evening approached, but this was soon shot down somewhat when Boris spontaneously invaded all of our celebrations with grave news of a second national lockdown.

Even this shoddy news couldn’t break my spirits though and we celebrated with fizz and our afternoon tea. I think this is the first time I have ever been toasted an achievement and it was a humbling moment.

Toasting the release

We then had fun all evening watching scary films, carving pumpkins (mine was Harry Potter themed) and then fancy dress before enjoying our latest zoom quick with the in-laws; Halloween themed of course.  

After what had been the most amazing yet bizarre day, the following days (or weeks in fact) were spent observing all progress and spreading the word before a nervous wait for feedback.

The first finished reader comments came from immediate family and friends who loved it. They could just be being polite, but I welcomed the kind words anyway.

During this time, I was busting a gut back in the office, enduring long days in retraining whilst helping to train a new addition to our team. It was so frustrating when all I wanted to do was shout about my book.  

Even though I couldn’t spend too much time promoting, the feedback has continued to trickle in and I’m ecstatic to state that I still maintain a 5-star feedback rating on Amazon. I can’t thank those of you who have taken the time to download a copy, read it and then leave your constructive comments.  

Now the initial launch is kind of coming to a close I am torn between spreading the word about The Invite some more or starting a new book from an archive of ideas that I have accumulated over the years.

As authors we can’t keep away from the pen for too long, so no doubt I will end up doing both. Looks like 2021 is going to be just as crazy as this one. Hopefully with a little less Covid this time though!

If you haven’t checked out The Invite already, you can grab your copy now @ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invite-C-P-Riches-ebook/dp/B08MCDYPPL

Books, Lifestyle, Smartphone, Technology

Smarten up on the dark truth

Teenagers chained to their phones

After sharing an update on my new book release, I received a comment online that intrigued me.

It was a suggestion to watch a documentary on Netflix called the Social Dilemma.

I was told it would blow my mind… and it did!

This production was suggested due to a strong overlap of themes to my book release, The Invite.  In my haste to find out exactly what these might be, I decided to watch it that very same evening.

The first thing I noticed is that the documentary was being presented by original employees from tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter and Google. I immediately thought this was unusual and so did not expect the content that was to come.  

The whole thing was cleverly done and quickly turned from being light-hearted and conversational to deeply disturbing.

The best way I can surmise this unnerving watch, is as a stark diagnosis and warning about our relationship with social media. The content focussed primarily on the sinister psychological methods of social media technologies to manipulate us, the people. We were educated about the use of clever algorithms that learn our behaviours and exploit them to the achieve the goals of the tech companies.  

The key message was that we are the product and social media companies will do whatever they can to keep us plugged into their pages.  

Without giving too much away, some of the shocking topics discussed included revelations such as how your phone knows what you are looking at, for how long and then feeds you info related to this.  

Scarier still, these algorithms conveniently refrain from showing you content that may contradict the opinions/views that you are being spoon-fed. When you factor in that social media sites do very little to filter out fake news, which in fact often enhances consumer engagement with their sites, it is very easy to see how many of us can develop a warped and extreme view of the world.  

There are various key messages conveyed throughout the short film, but rather than verging any further into spoiler territory, I will zip my lip there and strongly recommend you give it a watch. https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/81254224

The more engrossed I got into the documentary the more I realised how the content directly mirrored a lot of the dark themes presented in my own book. When you consider my story is fiction and this is real life, that is a rather terrifying conclusion.   

The warning conveyed on my screen made me realise that the release of my book might actually be the most important thing I ever do and is needed right now!  

Thankfully I can announce that my book is ready to make us all think about online addiction. You can actually order The Invite now by visiting  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invite-C-P-Riches-ebook/dp/B08MCDYPPL

In the interest of objectivity, I should say it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The narrator’s believed that it was never the initial objective of tech companies to brainwash society. Like any other business, they just want to make money. It is just that somewhere along the way, things have got out of control. The key message I guess you could say, is that we need to get it back! 

Technology, Uncategorized

Concerns over social media curb

Phone for blog

Due to the continual doom and gloom associated with social media and the negative impact it can have, I decided to swallow the pill of reason and go cold turkey for a month.

I am one of the millions of guilty culprits of mindless Facebook feed scrolling, even though I am actively against too much phone time.

Hypercritical I know.

I have also suffered from a toxic mix of panic disorder, general anxiety and depression over the last few years and so I figured a social media cleanse could provide a big boost to my mental health.

After all I have lost count of how many articles demonise social media and find them responsible for the current mental health epidemic.

So to tie-in with Mental Health Awareness week, I decided to embark on the perilous quest to purge myself (specifically) of Facebook for a month.

I did consider doing it for a good cause, but then I figured that I couldn’t possibly spread the word enough, without the power of social media.

Oh the terrible irony.

So like an addict checking into to rehab, I went all in, alone.

I expected the first few days to be brutal. I thought I would have to wipe the sweat off my brow as I etched across the phone screen trying to resist the seductive temptation.

But it was in fact, easier than I thought.

There was no constant desire to check my news feed. No crippling anxiety at not having everything on tap.

What I didn’t anticipate though, was how automated my actions were in navigating towards the enemy. It didn’t even require any thought.

I lost count at how many times my finger came dangerously close to clicking on Facebook during that first week.

Otherwise, it was going great. So much so in fact, that I had stopped using other social media sites too.

But then at around the halfway point, I hit a brick wall. I was starting to get frustrated at my loss of contact with the wider world.

And if only I could say this was a phase.

I was getting quite frankly cheesed off, and this resentment continued to blossom as the days went by.

Interestingly I wasn’t plagued with anxiety or a burning desire to get my fix though.

I just found the whole thing pointless; and it just made me irritated.

I figured that at some point right at the end of my struggle, something would click and I would feel reborn.

Instead, I found myself latching on to other social media sites again and lusting for news the conventional ways.

And this is how my mission ended.

I just had a very small moment of satisfaction for what I had achieved.

What was strange though, is that I didn’t feel the desire to download Facebook again after the month was done; and so I probably went Facebook free for about 6 weeks in total.

I think I was kind of hoping that another few weeks would have a more substantial impact.

But it didn’t.

I can only conclude that I felt mildly more irritated and isolated as a result of my experiment.

I’m sure this will come as a shock to many and believe me I was most surprised.

And it took me a good while to assess why I obtained the outcomes I had.

So if I was to summarise my conclusion in one word, I would say it was down to ‘circumstance‘.

See I work from home everyday, a ‘circumstance’ born little out of choice, but rather necessity.

In a world that is littered with just me and four walls, it occurred to me that Facebook offers me some kind of connection to the world, that I would otherwise not have.

Now it is not to say this is in any way natural, but I think the big issue here is that we as a society are no longer living in a natural world.

The bigger problem that I see, is the overwhelming pressure our society places on us to succeed and sacrifice happiness for work.

Where I feel we have gone wrong, is by looking at our phones for an escape, for all the answers to our problems.

The simple fact that we have been forced to conjure up happiness rather than it being a natural occurrence.

What compounds the problem is that most of us simply look to our phones for happiness; and it is not the answer.

So what I can conclude is that I never really had a problem with phone addiction in the first place.

I was simply using it as a way of trying to conjure up happiness, without success.

Don’t get me wrong I think many of us (particularly the younger generations) may have slipped into addiction territory.

And for those that do, I think the media needs to add some further emphasis on what the real signs of phone addiction are. For example, using phones whilst conversing with other people. Or by turning to the phone as an avoidance strategy.

Otherwise, we are just being spoonfed yet more scaremongering news that will further compound our society based depression.

I’m no expert, but when put to the test, the conclusion was quite clear really.