Let’s talk about something a lot of us have and deal with everyday – anxiety. Mine comes and goes in different forms. One form is when I find myself anxious living in the moment, having to capture what I’m experiencing, in fear of losing it forever. I think many people experience this and it feeds into our reliance on iPhones at concerts, photo ops at events and snaps of a good time.
It’s being more worried about getting an Insta boomerang than actually catching up with the friends you’re with, its deciding your night won’t be as good because your phone battery is dead. Then I think back to when my parents were 21. How did they survive without a phone in hand 24/7, capturing it all? How did they survive without everyone knowing what they were doing??
What brought this on?
I recently upgraded my phone of two years and long story short, when backing up my old phone the update failed, prompting the phone to reload everything, risking existing settings and data. Two years of captured moments had ‘gone’. I just kept saying to myself, don’t stress – I’ve uploaded the keepers to Insta and Facebook. Which are now in RLY BAD quality. It was not a good time.
But it left me thinking, as the son of a photographer, even I wasn’t careful with my two years of memories. So I picked up the Nikon FM2 – one of the standard bearers in 35mm film photography. Ever since, it’s become clear that film is back and it might be a good option for those of us who struggle with social media. For as long as the technology has allowed it, we have yearned to document the world through photos – events, tragedies, wonders, memories. Joseph Nicéphore Niépce took the first recorded photograph, outside of his window in France in 1826.
Now, there are over over 80 million photos uploaded to Instagram everyday – I think Joseph would struggle to comprehend that. However, a recent UK study found Instagram ranked the worst social media platform for mental health among young people.
So does social media affect our mental health?
With over 90% of young people on social media platforms, this has been a topical question over the last decade. Different studies give us different results – but they usually conclude that yes, social media causes anxiety or yes, social media contributes to existing anxiety. It doesn’t matter which one you take up, they both show causation between the use of social media and adverse mental health.
The #StatusOfMind report went on to explain why this might be the case by pointing to a ‘compare and despair’ attitude that can arise from use of apps such as Instagram. Seeing friends enjoy a night out or a holiday are the sorts of things that can prompt the attitude, which can lead to loneliness, isolation and longer term mental health issues. I don’t need to tell you this, likelihood is you’ve experienced them somewhat or know someone who has.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) is another psychological phenomena often associated with social media. In fact, the National Stress and Wellbeing in Australia Survey found over 50% of young people suffer from FOMO, using social media before bed every night. Breaking this down, 54% thought friends were having better experiences then them, 60% worry their friends have fun without them and 63% bothered that they miss out on plans to get together.
These are distressing statistics that have only been included in the survey’s report recently. Scrolling through Facebook, going through Snapchat and Instagram stories is what most young people do before bed, so it’s not going away.
But are there solutions?
The common denominator in social media platforms that cause FOMO and other adverse psychological effects are apps that involve photos. So could a shift back to film be good for our mental wellbeing? There is significant research to say that creativity and art therapy are extremely beneficial to our mental health. I take a photo on the FM2 and it’s not immediately on my Instastory – it’s nearly a mystery until I get it processed. It’s a private affair and somewhat exciting – the way it used to be.
I’m not saying delete your Insta account, I’m not saying get off social media. I’m saying our parents might have had it better cause film is pretty bloody awesome. They had no pressure to be posting, no need to worry about being in that all important moment. I love my socials, all I’m advocating for is balance. Instead of having your phone in hand 24/7, take a film camera on holiday or to a music festival. It’ll be a weird feeling, but you’ll have a reel of memories to admire and upload later and be the coolest kid on the block with a REAL CAMERA.
Turns out our parents did survive, with photo albums and everything. Turns out my phone did back up all my photos. But in any case, mental health is too important to just do nothing. It’s so easy to be swept up in our social media world, but as we grow up it’s important to realise what we are doing with our lives and memories. So give those real Kodak moments a go and see what you think!