Staying Healthy on Social Media
So last time you heard from me, we were talking about the perils of Social Media (SM) addiction. It’s now a recognised problem, especially amongst the younger demographic, and when we consider the fact that yachting is by default a bit of a younger person’s profession (research shows the average age people start on yachts is 22-30, and stay in the industry up to 8 years), coupled with being away from home, family, friends and mentors for long periods, we can safely assume a large percentage of crew could be overusing social media platforms.
In the past we didn’t always have internet onboard, and also didn’t have free roaming across Europe so having to hop off and get local sim cards wherever we went was not only a major pain but also not always possible!
These days wifi on board is pretty much a given, and the fact we can roam on our cheap pay as you go sims makes being connected far too easy. It’s harder than ever to manage our screen time and let’s face it, a large number of us are online almost constantly.
We’ve talked about the negatives of SM addiction so now let’s focus on how we can help ourselves stay healthy.
The main point raised by everyone, is to limit your usage. Schedule your time: set aside a specific time each day to catch up on SM, then make sure you step away. There are even apps out there designed to help you with this; Freedom, Moment, ZenScreen to name three, and two of those even work on desktops if you’re office bound!
Whatever method you use, try to stick to it. Pick a time - it might be first thing in the morning, lunchtime, after work, but avoid checking your SM before bedtime as it could affect your sleep.
Chief Stew Zoe* told me, “Checking my feed was becoming obsessive. On the advice of a friend I downloaded an app which really helped me bring it under control again. I had been isolating myself and sitting in my cabin rather than interacting in real life. I still go online but now it’s considerably less, and if I see any of my junior stews displaying the same signs I am able to help them avoid falling down the rabbit hole too.” Deckhand Tom* agreed with the sleep issues, “I used to always check my feeds in bed at the end of the day and not only would I end up staying up later than I had planned, I’d have trouble switching my brain off and getting to sleep. When I started waking in the night and reaching for my phone I realised I had to stop – I was exhausted during the days and that’s when accidents happen.”
If you find the notifications are a distraction or worse, give you anxiety, then switch them off. That will also stop you from checking your SM when you’re not supposed to. First Officer Doug* said “Rather than ruthlessly ban all devices during the working day which my captain did once – there was near mutiny onboard, I request that the whole team switch off their notifications. If they can’t manage that, then at least put their phones on silent with vibrate off so there’s no distraction when we’re working. It’s ridiculous I have to enforce it but safety first, especially on deck. If I’m up the mast and the guys below are staring at their phones instead of monitoring me, well that’s not going to end well for anyone.”
Before you log on, try and set yourself a bit of an objective. How many times have you gone onto a platform to look at something specific, then an hour later find yourself watching endless fail compilations or dog videos, or just endlessly scrolling looking for something… anything? Make yourself focus on the initial task that you wanted to carry out (i.e. reading the post you’ve just been tagged in) and then log off once you’re done.
Now this is a super important one… Unfollow pages or people that don’t make you feel good. We all need to remember that many of the posts we see aren’t reflective of real life; don’t forget people generally only post the good stuff. So don’t you dare compare your life to theirs, you don’t know the half of it. After a week of 20 hour work days anchored off Ibiza, clearing up the partying guests’ vomit from the master suite, scrubbing skidmarks off the toilet and taking a verbal bashing off a drunk deckhand, that dreamy Sunday bikini clad stew selfie clutching that bottle of rose on the cote d’azur might be a reflection of that particular afternoon, but it’s certainly not of the past 2 week charter from hell. Influencers, businesses and organizations will be posting stuff to make you want to buy/follow/want their products. If you find your feed full of things that leave you feeling overwhelmed, or notice a dip in your happiness or self esteem, then it’s time to chuck out the trash.
Easier said than done? Sure, we can unfollow businesses or influencers as they won’t notice/care. But actual “friends”? And harder still – often it’s family members. So, if it’s too political to unfriend a person on SM then you’ve got options. Snooze them, or hit unfollow, then you’re still connected but won’t see their posts unless you actively seek them out. And don’t forget you can put people on restricted so they only see your public posts. Fill your newsfeed with positivity, so you’re not met with doom and gloom in your SM time. That even includes news channels, if you’re finding the state of the world a bit overwhelming then unfollow news sources for a while until you’re in the right head space to read about current affairs again. I have removed certain news sources from my feed due to misinformation, even though I would see headlines and think “well, that’s not true” I found this would make me feel annoyed. And then… I’d start reading the comments and end up feeling angry. Delete, delete, delete.
That’s another point. Consider before you engage in a discussion online with strangers. Is it worth it? If they react negatively, or nastily, can you take it? Choose your battles. And don’t feed the trolls.
Think about what you’re posting. So many people post in the heat of the moment and then regret it; by then damage could be done and screen shots taken. Once it’s on the internet it’s out there forever, like it or not. If that passive aggressive post is something you wouldn’t say to that person’s face, then simple, don’t post it. And fact check, just because Karen from Cross fit posted it doesn’t mean it’s true. The amount of supposedly intelligent people who repost absolute garbage is astonishing. Not so long ago I was disappointed to see the head of a yachting company share an infographic about how drinking cold water causes heart attacks and cancer, so we all need to drink hot water. This was in August, it was 35C out. It’s not just stupid, it’s irresponsible to your followers.
Think about your connections. On the positive side, SM allows us to connect and build relationships with others who have common ground. There are groups out there for everything; from fun stuff like make up tips, fashion stuff, fitness groups, to more serious support networks for carers, people suffering with illnesses, and everything else. If these interactions help you, then great. If they leave you feeling isolated, or unhappy, then not great… try another group or (dare I suggest it) perhaps it’s time to talk to someone in real life. Stewardess Briony told me how a group helped her through a rough patch, “My grandma has dementia and as I don’t get to see her often, I feel all kinds of emotions. Guilt for not being there when the rest of my family are helping with her care, sadness to be losing the strong lady she once was, confusion when I do see her because she sometimes doesn’t recognise me, and pain, it’s painful to see how she is struggling with words and tasks… anyway, I have joined a few groups where others talk about what they’re going through with their family members. I don’t really comment, but I can read and learn more and just not feel so alone.” See? Sometimes SM DOES use its powers for good.
How about trying a full on digital detox? You’re going on vacation with someone you care about, or visiting family. Go on I dare you – go cold turkey… switch off everything and just use your phone as a camera. This is something I try to do a couple of times a year, switch off all notifications and actually properly disconnect. As horrifying as this sounds, this is what we used to do when we went on holiday a few years ago (in the pre historic days of Before Smartphones…). We’d go on holiday and have to use a PAY PHONE (what the hell is that?) to contact people to let them know we were still alive. It’s genuinely liberating.
Living your best life? Course you are! So enjoy it. Stay in the moment! Sure, take photos, but don’t spend ages filtering and uploading and missing out on the real life that’s happening around you. Do it later. Which also leads us neatly on to: put your phone away with you’re at work or with friends. Unless you’re expecting a super important call, keep your phone in your pocket, bag, or cabin. You’ll find that real life genuine interactions will trump online ones in the endorphin stakes pretty much every time. Plus it’ll improve your posture from not staring down at a screen all the time.
*names changed to protect the innocent!