To raise funds for The Humane Centre for Technoloy (THCT) I will be slamming a sledge hammer on a tractor tyre just over the equivalent amount of times as pairs of steps (one left, one right) it would take me to complete a marathon, within 24 hours. Or simply put 28,000 slams in 24 hours.
The event will be held at Force Strength & Conditioning in Llandow on May 28th
After launching a successful fundraiser for Mental Health Research UK last year I read more into mental health, it’s symptoms, causes, and treatments especially ones that avoided pharmaceutical drugs or expensive therapy sessions although both can be helpful, I can vouch for this having experienced therapy myself for past experiences with depression and anxiety, however I found different methods far more effective including meditation, journaling, and the great outdoors.
One of the most staggering juggernauts of mental health problems is social media, not only has it massively correlated with mental health statistics including suicide in children and rates of depression but having experimented with it’s usage myself I can reassure the validity of the effects it's claimed to have on our mental well-being.
It is for this reason I have decided to choose THCT as my non-profit organisation for The Hammerthon.
You may be familiar with TCHT if you have watched the dramatised but informative Netflix documentary ‘The Social Dilemma’ which featured one of TCHT’s founders Tristan Harris. It’s highly informative of the unethical way social media can be used to influence politics, behaviour, and profits.
I am not anti-social media, I think it’s a wonderful tool for connecting with others, producing content, and starting businesses when used right. I am simply pro a happy, strong, healthy mind and platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Google & Tinder that employ the psychology of behaviour modification in their algorithm and the use of negative/ positive emotional feedback loops does not contribute towards that goal when used without caution. It abuses what is very well known about forming addictions.
Not only is it manipulative and underhanded to users, it can be incredibly damaging to the larger world by normalising extremes and providing each person with vastly different experiences online which reduces relatability, helps build up political rivalry amongst the general public and destroys mental well-being. Each individual user get's a custom experience to squeeze out the maximum ‘engagement’ and unfortunately the unbiased methodical computer algorithm normally uses outrage and depression as it's more cost effective at meeting the goals of the third party customer than happiness and contentment. Your attention is the product, you’re not the customer, that’s a third party that doesn’t always have your best intentions in mind.
You may be thinking not me, I am aware of this so it doesn’t effect me, I thought the same thing too for years but it started to make sense when I thought about it so I thought it'd be worth experimenting with just incase.
We daily, probably more actuarially hourly keep using it, checking it, anticipating it. Sounds a lot like an addiction to me. The whole point is it’s sneaky and chips away subconsciously at you. You don’t know it’s effecting and changing you, in fact we all probably think we're above it, aware of the effects but it just sort of happens and is only obvious In retrospect once you get some time apart, it's like we're all in a toxic relationship with our phones, to some degree.
Social media often get's compared to a fruit machine. You roll (scroll down, swipe left & right) and maybe you’ll get a reward, sometimes you don’t. Research shows when randomised so there’s a risk you won’t get the reward (a new posts, red alert symbol), the object of attention like your phone becomes even more addictive. It's classic risk and reward. It’s not bad signal stopping your feed and notifications reloading sometimes, the people who built these platforms are coming fourth and admitting it was designed this way, it’s not speculative.
Each persons experience is tailored on it based off of what demographic they fit into so the algorithm knows exactly what to show you at what time and for how long to both keep you staring at the screen longer and to modify your behaviour. It may sound like it's not so bad but it's about how this addiction that has formed feeds over into the rest of your life and that conditioning is taking place every single day for probably over three hours - 3 hours 23 minutes is the average UK screen time. How long are you using your's every single day?
Here is my experience of experimenting with social media over the past year and a half, I hope it sheds some light:
“I deleted the apps off my phone for several months at a time, deactivated accounts, deleted some entirely like Snapchat and turned off notifications for unimportant apps leaving just texts, calls, and WhatsApp (As I use it for a work). My average screen time dropped from a fairly common 3 hours or more to just 25 minutes a day with the bulk of that being work related or YouTube.
After several months I returned to using social media and experimented (mainly with Instagram) by unfollowing accounts (sorry if that was you, I’m slowly refollowing people). First I removed accounts that posted anything negative, boastful of the wrong things and/or inauthentic (think accounts that pedal images of dehydrated models as beauty standards for men & women, flexing wealth and status, a few meme accounts & false happiness). I instantly found my news feeds more uplifting and it was far easier to enjoy content and keep up with what's going on in the lives of people I know or care for. I didn't feel that itch to check the app so often when I had more control over the content I was viewing everyday. Then I did a massive drop to only following a small 40 person handful of my favourite athletes, authors, and creatives for some time, but it was simply overkill, it was more like an inspiration mood board than a thread of what's going on in the lives of people I know.
Now I don’t blame anyone for behaving like the more negative accounts I unfollowed, the algorithm sets up pitfalls that reward that sort of behaviour which would train the brain to keep seeking out those actions and I’ll be first to put my hands up and admit it’s caught me at times and made me act in ways that I’m not always proud of like overly documenting my life instead of anything relevant to my work or preparing for these challanges, but I’m happy I became aware of it and cut it out. It made me pause more to think each time I share things. Does what you post make you personally feel happy?
I was amazed at the change I witnessed in my behaviour over months. My sleep improved as I spent less time staring at a phone before bed and having a more peaceful mind made drifting off even easier. I woke up feeling good with my first actions being to stretch or grab a coffee before I thought about looking at a phone and then I was normally intentionally using it to do something, not just to check. My mood was very stable, even given the circumstances of COVID-19. This is the healthy standard mind not getting that little itch to check the Instagram feed or the screen hoping to see something new. My default mindset was so much more positive and peaceful, partially because there was no negative posts trickling away in the background daily but mainly because that little addictive link of checking and reward was pretty much broken so you wouldn't get that empty feeling social media is often linked to. A lot of authors discussing social media often talk about this weird hard to describe sense of shame we often feel associated with it as is common with most addictions, but whatever it was it was gone and the only way I could put it was feeling high on life.
Off of the fruit machine (it’s even got an apple on it) I was surprisingly less lonely and more connected with every person I interacted with, despite lockdown - that’s real engagement. I had more patience for everyone with a slower less instantatious pace of life, even people who couldn’t drive properly, they were probably busy on their phones anyway!
My interactions with family, friends, and strangers were far more enjoyable when there was no itch to check a shiny dopamine drip in my pocket. That sort of mindfulness breeds ambition and creativeness as your thoughts are less tainted with doubt and distraction. You focus better - less noise, more you. The Pen-Y-Fan Tyre Push actually came from that lack of doubting and the fear of looking like an idiot both doing the event and proposing it as a good idea to anyone in the first place. It's not everyday you broadcast to the world you're gonna attempt something that hasn't been done before but I was just focused on my goals, how they made me feel, and how I could utilise them for good - not what anyone else thought about it.
What I learnt is that to truly get to know yourself and let your potential grow in many different ways, as a an athlete, creative, friend, mother, engineer, musician, as a person one of the best things you could do is simply stop using social media and turn off unimportant notifications for just a few months. This doesn’t have to be forever, it’s a reset."
Thank you for taking the time to read and hopefully supporting my fundraiser for THCT. As the events of 2020 have been hard on a lot of people financially it's more than understandable if donating isn't possible but you can still help and be involved in the social media conversation by taking steps to keep your mental-wellbeing a priority and taking a stance to help make a change in the platforms we use daily.
For information please visit the THCT website.
All donations will be paid directly to THCT the month following completion of the event.
Please try to avoid giving cash donations to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
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