In our regular mental health and wellbeing column this time, a few thoughts on social media, and how it sits in our lives.

Hello and a very warm welcome to our piece of the Film Stories website where we talk about mental health and wellbeing. If you’ve not read one of these pieces before, it’s a place where we chat about things that may be affecting you, us, or people around us. Nothing more complex than that. Our simple rules are: not every article we run is going to be of use to everyone, but hopefully across this series, there’s something that’s of use to you. And also, comments are very welcome.

This week, a quick natter about social media sanity.

My personal social media platform of choice is Twitter, which – against the experience I know a lot of people have had – has been primarily a positive place for me. It’s helped me in low moments, and put me in contact with a bunch of supportive, friendly people.

However, I’ve got there the hard way, and I’ve learned – as many of us do – that social media amplifies the worst of things very easily. What I learned to do, and I can’t recommend this enough, is firstly, choose carefully whose accounts to follow and look at. Then, not to be afraid to use the block and/or mute functions available. Generally, on a service like Twitter, the same people constantly pop up as trending, because they’ve said something shitty. Truthfully, it’s a long time since I’ve noticed them: we all know who they are, and they’re long since blocked.

What I’m left with is a timeline that’s cut out the people on there to make a living via Twitter hate. I’ve found it a lot healthier.

I also resist doomscrolling. This is easier said than done, particularly over the last two years. At first, I was getting lots and lots of news via social media and was endlessly scrolling to find out more. Now I don’t do that anymore. I have a small circle of trusted news sites that I’ll check out, but I cut out their social media side. I make exceptions for film and entertainment sites, but in terms of the daily global news, I’m careful.

I also make a good fist of never reading an article that someone marks as ‘must read’.

The other problem with social media, and I find this particularly on Facebook, is the temptation to see posts as they are. To get the impression that everyone else is leading some idyllic, perfect life, with pictures of well made dinners, kids with perfect school reports, that sort of thing (top tip: don’t go near LinkedIn unless you can help it, and if you do, avoid any ‘motivational’ post that puts a carriage return after every sentence).

Social media is projection. It reflects the best and worst of people’s lives, but rarely the day to day middle bit. I think about that a lot. I’ve come back to the point several times that we don’t know people’s stories really. We don’t live in their heads. That someone may be posting really happy things, but actually their life is hell (and I dearly hope it’s not). Loading Facebook without a pinch of salt is not something I do anymore.

Make social media work for you, but don’t let it define your life. I’m one of the few who believes it can still be something positive in the world, but that’s only after I’ve put a bit of effort in to make sure it remains that way.

You take care and stay safe. This column returns next week.

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