The average Briton spends 12 hours per week on social media. Is the constant filtering, posting and scrolling damaging our mental health? If so, what can we do to stop it?
Sometimes it seems like communicating in 2018 is just an endless cycle of swiping right, double-tapping and pulling down to refresh. But as we navigate the ups and downs of our actual daily lives (as opposed to the curated versions of ourselves we share on our screens), does the constant influx of our wider social network’s #bestlife, #fitspo and #iwokeuplikethis negatively affect our mental health and wellbeing?
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
“Yes,” says London-based psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, who also runs the podcast The Psychology Behind. “And it’s because if you think about the time breakdown of what you focus on and engage with on an average day, social media probably makes up a big part of that.”
People in the UK check their phones every 12 minutes on average, according to a recent Ofcom study. And Papadopoulos believes that “the constant connecting, promoting, comparing and garnering of acceptance through likes and retweets impacts the way we think others see us and thus how we see ourselves.”
“Social media can take the most confident person and make them feel awful,” explains Papadopoulos, “because that is the process. At every step of you posting a photo – taking a bunch, choosing one, fixing it, hashtagging it – you are second-guessing yourself while trying to appeal to others.”
Katherine Ormerod, an influencer and author of the recently released book Why Social Media Is Ruining Your Life, first noticed the problem while visiting Tulum, Mexico, with a group of fellow influencers and entrepreneurs. “The penny-drop moment happened on a very Instagrammable holiday,” she says. “We were all taking calls from our offices and spending the majority of our time writing emails, but the only pictures any of us were sharing were of sunsets and nice hotel rooms.”
Like many social-media users, Ormerod was showcasing what she calls a “snapshot” of her life on her Instagram instead of the oft less visually appealing real deal. “I suddenly realised that I was making my life look easy when it really wasn’t. I started to feel complicit in this kind of endless fake perfection that so many of us have been involved in creating on social.”
And so Ormerod founded Work Work Work, an online anti-perfectionist platform for women who work in social media to talk about the less photogenic sides of their lives. From financial troubles to miscarriages, the site strives to shine a light on “things that are part and parcel of all our lives, but edited out of the social-media picture,” says Ormerod. This is her way of “adjusting her digital footprint” and reminding her followers that no one’s life is perfect. The idea is to “let the followers know they aren’t the only ones struggling,” an important message to spread when so much of the mental health issue with social media is about comparing ourselves with those we see online and the impact that undoubtedly has on our self-esteem.
“You have no idea what you look like and how others see you, and that’s a precarious place to be in,” says Papadopoulos. “At the end of the day we are social creatures and we are programmed to want to be liked. But now instead of having the centuries-old group size of around 100 people, suddenly 12,000 or 30,000 people are weighing in. Our emotional and psychological evolution is not catching up to our tech.”
That’s where the crux of the issue lies. Social media intentionally plays on our innate desire to be popular, while constantly increasing the number of people we are striving to please. Even Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster and the first-ever president of Facebook, admits this to be the case. He explained in a 2017 interview that social-media platforms are explicitly designed to trap users in a “social-validation feedback loop,” in which they keep coming back for more of the “little dopamine hit[s]” that getting a ‘like’ instantly triggers.
Ormerod agrees. “It’s brain hacking,” she says. “Even the founders of these platforms admit that these apps were created by human code to be biological crack. They profit from the amount of time we are online, so every new update and feature is devised to lead to more eyeballs, more minutes, more time in our day.”
“The metric for these platforms is time spent,” says Papadopoulos. “The whole concept is a veritable rewards system, which entices us to stay longer. The apps are using our psychology against us. Our dopamine and the way we react to veritable rewards is being hacked.” The good news is that as long as we are aware of this, we can take steps to prevent it.
The first step is simple, says Ormerod. “If you practice any form of self-care, never take your phone into your bedroom,” she urges. “You are at your weakest last thing at night and first thing in the morning, so this is one area where you really need to exert proper discipline. You don’t need your phone while you’re sleeping.”
She also suggests making sure to “actively seek people to follow who inspire you and make you excited. It’s not always easy to do,” she admits, “because brands often work with the same type of people, but just as you wouldn’t eat McDonald’s every day, you need to be as mindful of your social-media diet and try to find content that feeds your soul as much as just entertains you.”
Papadopoulos uses a similar food analogy but moves it offline entirely. “Make the point of having a varied diet in terms of how you socialise. Meet friends for a coffee, go for a walk – you should be doing things in person, not just on your devices. Not all the media you consume should be online.
“Humans are adept at the big picture,” she says. “A hundred and forty characters or less is great, but it’s not the stuff of Rodin or Michelangelo. If you stop consuming and thinking like a human being, you may very well lose that ability.”
The power, like our phones, is in our hands.
Wednesday 10 October is World Mental Health Day. To highlight this, Culture Trip is looking at how different societies are shining a light on this important issue in innovative and alternative ways.
The content of this article is provided for general information only and is not an attempt to practise medicine or give specific medical advice, including, without limitation, advice concerning the topic of mental health. The information contained in this article is for the sole purpose of being informative and is not to be considered complete, and does not cover all issues related to mental health. Moreover, this information should not replace consultation with your doctor or other qualified mental health providers and/or specialists. If you believe you or another individual is suffering a mental health crisis or other medical emergency, please seek medical attention immediately.
If you are experiencing mental health issues, in the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can contact the mental health charity Mind by calling 0300 123 3393 or visiting mind.org.uk. Please note there are no affiliations of any kind between the aforementioned organisations and Culture Trip.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.