The Social Media Diet (first written in 2017)

So the featured image that I’ve included here, courtesy of Morguefile, isn’t actually me. There isn’t a beard but the hair isn’t far off!

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t look at a social media outlet.  A channel of communication between myself and others, propagated by a company that provides a platform to talk to others and to digest information and content generated and shared by other users.  This is social media, and it has radically altered the way that the world works for those that are fully submerged.  The drowned victims of the ‘always-on’ generation are submersed in this constant need to know what’s happening, a constant need for the feed.

Unfortunately, the benefits of social media are joined with just as many drawbacks; for our brains, the constant flow of information is like nectar and the constant need for an audience is drives the endorphins that are generated as we share or digest the content.  Like any addiction, it can cause a whole heap of problems including anxiety and depression and for me, I needed to go on a diet.

MALE HAND HOLDING SMARTPHONE 2.jpg

It isn’t unheard of to disconnect from social media – recently Ed Sheeran decided that he wasn’t going to bother with Twitter given the amount of abuse that he has suffered recently at the hands of internet trolls.  I have a few friends who have taken themselves off social media completely after it became all too much, but my situation is a tad difficult.

I am a food blogger and social media is my bread and butter (groan).  I get much interest and engagement via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram so I can’t just disappear – it isn’t even an option.  So instead I decided to just go on a diet.

IMG_7263

You don’t have to cut Social Media out of your life completely, it isn’t cold turkey.  Just be mindful of how much you’re using it each day and take away things that make it easy.

This Lifehacker article is actually really good in showing readers ways to disconnect – so I’ll leave it right here for you to have a look at.

TL:DR if you didn’t read it –

1. Eliminate Gadgets for One Hour Before Sleep and After Wake Up

2. Turn Off All Your Push Notifications

3. Keep your phone in a drawer while you’re working.

4. Use Only One Device for Checking Social Media

5. Give Yourself 30 Minutes to Stay Connected

6. Allot One Hour of Your Day to Respond to Emails

7. Subscribe to Your Favorite Websites via RSS or Email

8. Use Third Party Applications to Post on Social Media

9. Live a Real Life

The last one is the most important.  If you can master getting off social media, then you’ll realise that there is a life to live.  One thing I cherish are what I call ‘analogue friendships’ with friends who I have who are not constantly online; you have to see them and talk to them or talk to them on the phone.  These are the friends who make it special to actually see them because not everything is out for the world to see, there is much to talk about and to catch-up over.

And, it doesn’t have to be forever! Give yourself a week on, then maybe a week off, then another week on, etc. Or do it by the day? Schedule days where you’ll be completely off-line and other days when you know you’ll be checking it regularly.

I’ll leave you with a quote:

“Turn off your email; turn off your phone; disconnect from the Internet; figure out a way to set limits so you can concentrate when you need to, and disengage when you need to. Technology is a good servant but a bad master.”  Gretchin Rubin

That Mindful Existence: my journey so far

Had you told me ten years ago, that I would be reading around the subject of mindfulness, meditation and mental health I would most probably have laughed.  Then, most probably had some sort of panic attack about being panicked. Or the fact I was talking to myself ten years in the future.

Mindfulness has gained a lot of traction as a scientifically proven method of controlling stress, overthinking and a whole host of other negative brain-isms. It’s not an easy road, but the end rewards, as we are told, are plentiful.

I am generally much calmer than I was, even last year, and a lot of this has been down to a doctors appointment that I had about four years ago.  It followed a panic attack that I had experienced whilst working in IT Support, my line manager suggested I go to see my GP after a small meltdown.

My GP is an old-school type, his appointments are very swift.  He gets irritated if you come along with a great long list of things, but he’s fine if he’s able to actually do something proactive.

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

He mentioned Mindfulness as an alternative to medication and gave me a self-referral to CBT. I went to the CBT but found out it wasn’t really for me.  So decided to punt myself off in the direction of discovering what Mindfulness was all about.

There are tons of books, YouTube videos, retreats, courses, apps and all sorts that now exist to make us more mindful.  Some are useful, others are not.
Apps like Headspace give you meditations to work through, voiced by the relaxing Andy Puddicombe who takes you through various things, it is super popular and it’s easy to see why.

Matt Haig has been a prominent voice in talking about anxiety and mental health issues, so has Aaron Gillies (TechnicallyRon on Twitter) who wrote his semi-autobiographical book about his life and anxiety ‘How To Survive The End Of The World When It’s In Your Head’ and of course the books are written by Jon Kabat-Zimm, the man whose research much of the secular mindfulness practice has been based on.

women s white top and orange floral skirt

Photo by Samuel Silitonga on Pexels.com

It is easy to get overwhelmed at the choice.  I have a terrible habit of compulsively buying mindfulness books.  It is amazing how many exist, and how many look at mindfulness through a myriad of lenses.  But where do you start?

I have embarked on a few strange paths with learning about mindfulness.  This includes a rather full-on Udemy course presented by a Scottish chap with varying degrees of facial hair, a few rather boring-assed books and many YouTube videos.  My first introduction was via Eckart Tolle’s phenomenally good ‘The Power Of Now’ – a very rambling and spiritual introduction but, for me, it clicked.  There is also the fantastic https://www.bemindfulonline.com/ which puts you in touch with people that can teach you mindfulness.  And then there is also Buddhism, the Stoics… the list goes on.

I’ve just finished reading Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig, not just because it was easily readable, wonderfully written, but also because Matt doesn’t exclaim to be perfect.  It spoke to me because it wasn’t being written by a master – it was written by someone who suffered from the extremes and who has largely conquered it, but at the same time he is still very grounded and humble.

Mindfulness practice is a life-long dedication, that we have to, you know… practice.  The human brain is not naturally inclined to be mindful particularly, in fact, quite the opposite.  It takes time.  I have learnt this the hard way, by lapsing back into habits of  negative thought, forgetting the stuff I learnt, then having to go back and re-learn it.

Our brains are still wired for a world with sabre-tooth tigers, threats and life-ending cliffs lurking around the next corner.  Instead, we are faced with social media, images, expectations and the constant need to conform to the things we think we should.  This is the modern sabre-tooth tiger.  And we have to unlearn this natural instinct to be nervous.

I consider myself an eternal student. I will always be learning about how to control my brain. Some people find it super easy to just switch off, but others like me are programmed to mull, overthink and worry.

First past the post…

It’s just over four months since I discovered I was being made partially redundant and, I’ve had to make some tough choices.  Over the last few months I did some soul searching, some scheming and plotting, and Apron has been the end result.  A brand that unites my freelance activities under one name that isn’t necessarily all about me.

The freelance journey has been an interesting one so far.  My main client has been Proud to be Green, where I’ve been assisting with PR and content creation.  I’m really enjoying my time with them, and Nigel has been a big star in helping me get my feet on terra firma.  I also believe strongly in their cause and the need for action – we can all do out bit, no matter how small.

Working in the public sector (still partially) there is a certain way of doing things, which exist in a very different universe. Slowly getting myself into the mindset of a new way of working is very valuable experience.  Also selling myself and putting value on the work that I can do is very hard for anyone who isn’t used to selling themselves.

I’m still very much involved with Dining Devon (this is always trundling along in the background!).  I was absolutely bowled over by the lovely food at The Ginger Peanut a few weeks ago, Peter Mundy has created a lovely boutique Restaurant with Rooms in Bampton which is worth a visit!  More recently we attended a delicious evening at Ashburton Cookery School at their Charity Dining event where students get to cook for the public, all proceeds go towards a charity which changes each year.

In between I attended a really fun event at Hotel Du Vin put on by The Samphire Club (thanks for the invite John Harvey!) and the Princesshay Wimbledon event.  Networking is pretty important with freelancing, and I’m really grateful to know some excellent humans already!

Now. To make some sustainable business cards…