Everybody’s Talking At Me: Social media and your mental health

Everybody’s Talking At Me: Social media and your mental health

Another day another bloody awareness day, penguins, vegans, sugar.  However this one is worth paying attention to (as are all the others, obviously), it’s Mental Health Awareness Week (#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek).

Social media has come under a lot of scrutiny recently, around the effects on our mental health.  Is Instagram making us all depressed? Is Twitter making us all snarling balls of rage? Is LinkedIn causing us all to become parodies of ourselves.

As far as running a business is concerned, I’m all too well aware that social media, rather than lightening the load, is often just another thing to add in to a busy to do list.  Added to that, time spent on our phones is eating into family time, our relationships and an ability to hold a conversation without checking the latest Brexit tweets.

Whether you are a business owner, marketing a business, expected to use social media as part of your role, or simply scanning Instagram in your spare time, you can suddenly realise that it’s making life difficult.

So here’s the Armadillo Handy Guide to keeping your social media life as healthy as possible.

1. Look for the helpers

Social Media gets a bad rap for its effects on mental health, bullying culture and trolling habits.  But it’s also a wonderful place, full of supportive people who will be more than happy to provide some support or light relief.  On of the great victories of Social Media is that it has shone a spotlight on mental health issues (Mental Health Awareness Week being a case in point) and provided a place where people can share, discover or just hang out.  It has allowed people to talk about their mental health without having to look anyone in the eye. It can be a lifeline to those people who have found social interaction, or leaving the house difficult at one time or another.

Make sure you have identified your tribe to turn to when needed.  I have a list called The Biscuit List, of people on Twitter that I like to read that are guaranteed to make me feel better.

Authors such as @matthaig and @technicallyron are glorious examples of this, and the world is a better place because of them.

2.  Listen out for the echo chamber

I can see how social media can be held responsible for making people’s mental health worse.  Certainly news reports around suicide and self-harm, particularly amongst young people, can be terrifying.  However recent studies have found that it’s not as damaging as first thought, specifically to teens.   What I think it does do, is amplify feelings that already exist.  So if we feel low, social media could make that worse.  If we are fine and dandy, it’s probably going to be OK.

The main reason for this is that we follow accounts that resonate with us, and then we are suggested similar accounts.  Before you know it, you have a feed filled with similar messages and similar world views.  Great in some cases, but potentially damaging in others.

Take a few moments to look at your feeds and pay attention to how they make you feel.  Is it full of unrealistic body images or lifestyles that make you miserable?  Are you constantly finding new things to be angry about?

Try to mix it up a little.  Personally I think the world is significantly improved with dogs in jumpers and @inotternews, but that’s just me.

3.  Watch your screen time

Do you know how much time you spend on your mobile phone?  Honestly?

It’s something that I’m very conscious of.  I am well aware that screen  time and my mental health are related.  I don’t think that too much screen time causes mental health issues, as much is a symptom of them.  I know that if I’m particularly anxious, I will check my phone more often. It’s almost like a nervous tick.

The latest iPhone update has introduced Screentime.  This will tell you how much time you spend on each app on your phone.  You can also set limits for yourself for individual apps, and your phone as a whole.  What’s more, you can also do this for your children!  I still secretly delight at my son’s fury when his phone shuts itself down each night at 8:30.

We have all now heard of social media’s addictive qualities.  Those likes and shares can have the same dopamine hit just as a cigarette, so it’s important to have boundaries.  Try to check your social media at certain times of the day.  It might be over breakfast, with your mid-morning coffee, in front of The Apprentice, but having set times of the day will really help keep it all contained.  More importantly, try not to check your social media while you are also doing something else (if you learn how to do this, let me know how).  Multitasking is a fool’s errand, so if you need to focus on something TURN IT OFF.

4. Enjoy the silence

This is a major one for me.  Social media is my living, so it’s difficult to put it down. However sometimes, the noise can be deafening.  Trying to keep that many clients in my head, answering endless Whatsapp updates and thinking of something witty to say about Line Of Duty can be overwhelming.  There are days when I want to scream into a pillow.  Quite a lot of them actually.

So I try to be extra vigilant about turning if off (I did say ‘try’) and finding plenty of things to do where phones are not required.  Yoga, running, reading.  I’ve tried to replace my phone with my kindle on my bedside table.  As an aside, may I also recommend Box Sets with subtitles, as you haven’t got time to check your phone as you instantly miss what’s going on.

The work life balance is even more important than ever, and even harder to maintain.  Don’t be on 24 hour call, and don’t expect those around you to be on 24 hour call either.  Remember when “I’m sorry, I was out” was enough!

You might also consider turning off your notifications.  That way you can use it when you want to, not when the world is calling.

5.  Keep some perspective

We all know this, but you need to remember that not everything on social media is true.  You may be stressed about work, home, money, family and it can often look like everyone else has got it all figured out – but we really haven’t. Not everyone is making as much money as they say, or living their best lives, and those #makingmemories usually ended in a row in the car on the way home.

Get some social media perspective

6. Prioritise

You can’t do it all.  Don’t feel you have to be an expert on every social media platform.  Pick one that suits you, and what you’re trying to achieve, and do that one well rather than spread yourself too thinly.  Similarly, don’t feel that you have to accept every request or follow every person who follows you.  Your newsfeeds and timelines will end up overrun with rubbish and you’ll be in a permanent panic.  Streamline your Twitter feed with lists, putting certain accounts into categories which will make things easier to keep track of.  You can also get mobile notifications for people who you really don’t want to miss – meaning that you don’t have to keep checking every 5 minutes or worry that you have let something slip by.  Have a look here for more details

7. Haters gonna hate

There are undoubtedly, some wronguns on social media.  They may be people who annoy you, or are more actively aggressive.  Feel free to block.  There’s no law against it and you don’t need to justify it.  If that feels too severe a sanction, there are also more subtle things you can do.  Muting people on Twitter allows you to still follow people but not see their tweets. On Facebook, you can change your newsfeed preferences to hide certain people and pages and prioritise others.

But there is absolutely no need to put up with abuse.  I’ve reported several people for abusive comments on Twitter (these generally followed me saying something about Jeremy Clarkson) and complaints are dealt with swiftly.  Also harassment on social media is taken seriously by the police, if you feel things are getting out of hand and you feel threatened.

And finally ….

8. Use your powers for good

Your phone can also be your friend.  These a huge range of handy apps to help take the stress out of life.  Here are my favourites

Headspace. The lovely Andy will take you through a variety of guided meditations for every woe you may have in your life from sleeplessness, anxiety, grief, or just general life grinding you down.

Runkeeper. Running is great stress reliever and Runkeeper is the best app I’ve found to help you along.  Mainly because I like the amusing voice settings that call out your progress.  ‘Conscience’ is my default setting of choice

Podcasts. I love a podcast and they are a favourite way to relax these days.  There is another blogpost in here somewhere about my Top 10 podcasts but if you’re not listening to David Tennant chat to Olivia Colman, you really should be.

So all in all, social media doesn’t have to be hazardous to your mental health, and it could do some good as long as you, in the words of Jerry Springer,

“take care of yourself, and each other”

To find a list of good mental health people to follow, take a look at my Twitter List

To find out more about Mental Health Awareness Week, visit the Mental Health Organisation website. If you or someone you know is struggling, then call The Samaritans free at any time on 116 123.

What do you think?  Do you think social media has a positive effect on your mental health, or make everything worse?


Guest post: 5 Ways to Use Illustration for Your Business

Guest post: 5 Ways to Use Illustration for Your Business

I couldn’t do the work that I do without knowing some incredibly talented people.  Being an ace at social media is all very well, but you have to have the content to back it up.  I work with designers, developers, film and audio producers, photographers and writers to create brilliant content for a client’s digital strategy.

Over the next few months I’ll be inviting some of the creatives I work with to give their expert advice.  First up Michelle Abrahall.  Not only is she an incredibly talented graphic designer, she also resides in the office next door and regularly gives me biscuits.  Here she explains why having your own illustrations could do wonders for your business.

5 Ways to Use Illustration for Your Business

When it comes to commissioning visuals for business, most people think of graphic design. You get a bespoke logo made, and maybe follow up with business cards or a brochure.

But have you ever thought about how your business could use illustration?

They can be a great way to boost your branding. A lot of big brands have cottoned on to how using illustrations can help them stand out in the marketplace – look at the lovely animated drawings used in the latest TSB adverts. And anyone that uses Mailchimp will be familiar with the cheeky monkey that gives you a rockin’ hand gesture when you schedule a campaign.

Using illustration doesn’t only have to be for the big brands, however. Here are 5 ways you can use illustration in your business, whatever the size.

  1. Infographics

Illustration #1

Lots of businesses use infographics to illustrate key findings from research, as they make even the driest of data much more appealing. They can also be used to show a process in a simple way, like this ‘circular economy’ infographic I created for Valpak.


  1. Maps

Illustration #2

If, like me, your office location is a little tucked away, a cute illustrated map is the perfect solution. It shows a lot more effort than just emailing someone a link to Google! They can also be used to illustrate the area your business covers, or where you’re able to deliver to.


  1. Brand mascots

Illustration #3Small businesses often overlook the potential of a brand mascot. They’re a fantastic way to inject personality and warmth into your brand, like this cute jack Russell terrier I created for an accountancy firm. His name is Merry and he appears on all their Christmas cards, flyers and event signage!



  1. Icons

Illustration #4

Yes, you could use stock imagery of icons for the various sectors and services for your website. But bespoke illustrated icons can be tailored to your branding and stop your website looking too ‘off the shelf’, like these fun images commissioned by P4D couriers.


  1. Storytelling

Illustration #5Comic-strip style illustrations are a very effective method of storytelling and can simplify even complicated processes. Warwick University had some very serious-sounding guidelines around research ethics, such as their anti-plagiarism policy. Adapting them into eye-catching comic-strip style posters made the subject matter much more accessible and engaging.


Hopefully I’ve given you some ideas about how your business could use illustration. It could really help you stand out from the crowd!

If you’d like to find out more, get in touch with Michelle or pop in and see us (you’ve got the map).  I’ll make sure she has plenty of biscuits in.

How NOT to ‘PEPSI’ your social media video content….

How NOT to ‘PEPSI’ your social media video content….

Social Media Video Content by Emma Spellman

Our guest blog this week is brought to you by Emma Spellman from Oojamaflick

Marketing gurus spend months agonising over their client’s campaigns, but it’s the short films and social media video content that really bring on the cold sweats! If some of the highest paid marketing minds (cough PEPSI) can’t pull off a social media film, then what hope in hell is there for the rest of us? The good news is there’s boundless amounts of hope because we have something they don’t, ‘common sense’ – now there’s a creative concept.

Whether you’re a new venture at the start of your social media life or an established business changing tack to keep up with the pace of social media engagement – boosting your online presence with social media films is an absolute must. You don’t want to make a ‘Pepsi’ of it though and you’re terrified at the thought of looking like an arse on camera!!

Keep it real

Your customers really want to see your lighter side. The social media films that get shared, liked, loved and remembered are the ones that drop the facade. Forget this idea that you have to behave in a certain way because you’re a business. Everyone has a personality and trying to hide that on film will do you a disservice. I film a lot of ‘meet the team’ films where colleagues team build in all sorts of active ways or have a fun lunch date or coffee together. It’s here I see the real people. Real emotion. You’re a professional outfit – there’s no doubt about that, but there’s a lot of very different and amazing personalities under one roof and it’s these personalities that make the cogs turn. Let viewers go behind-the-scenes. If your Team Leader ‘show jumps’ and your Graphic Designer does ‘stand up’ – these are great visuals and great stories. Look what Strictly did for Ed Balls. 
OK – so you’re reading the above paragraph and you’re pulling some faces along the lines of, yeh right – there’s no way I’m doing that! The other option is to think about a client that really inspires you. Is there someone you’ve worked with that has truly benefitted from your business; someone that makes your day better and leaves an imprint on you every time you meet? If you feel like that then viewers will too. Let’s get them on film instead. An inspired, honest client testimonial is easy to film and when you extract the right soundbites in the edit with beautiful, relative visuals you have an impactful social media film to shout about.
I follow a beauty salon’s social media updates avidly, purely because they film product ‘role plays’ on their mobiles and they’re absolutely hilarious. They get their willing clients involved and create scenarios about fake-tan sprays and eye brow pomades that you just can’t forget and come to think of it I’ve purchased both products!  Now that’s a win, win strategy. The camera phone is an extremely effective marketing tool and you can do some beautiful imagery with it. The film Tangerine, entirely shot on the iPhone, won an Oscar! 

Keep it beautiful

There’s always the ‘beautiful images of your amazing business’ option, accompanied by powerful on-screen text. Let’s see those products up close and let’s see what you do in a visually exciting way. Get creative with words and grab your customers from frame 1. Keep it really short and leave them wanting more. It’s really easy to create this type of film and with some clever thinking you can roll out a stunning visual narrative. You don’t need thousands of pounds to make social media films; of course you want them to look amazing, but the idea is that they’re fast turnaround and they reflect the ever changing landscape of your business. You need good ideas, clever ideas, mind-blowing ideas. The idea is ‘everything’ and you can leave us filmmakers to worry about getting that idea on screen.  

Keep it short

The other thing you have to remember is this – and this makes me want to cry, to be frank! You do it, I do it, your customers will do it! We browse social media whilst we’re already doing something else. All those hours spent grafting and crafting a film and to think nine times out of ten it will be watched with no sound on a train, in the park, at the pub, or half-asleep on the sofa whilst you’re watching Game of Thrones!! Unless it grabs you quickly…it might not even be watched to the end of its little life. Your loyal customers ‘should’ stay on-board, it’s new customers you want to worry about. They’re picky! They don’t have much time and they’re already busy scrolling up the for the next best thing, which might just be a video of ‘the uncensored reviewer’ talking about how to prevent poo smells. There’s no hard science here, but I’m certain of three things –
keep it real, keep it short, keep it beautiful.  
Emma Spellman runs Oojamaflick films and  and has spent a career filming, producing and directing documentaries for ITV, BBC, Ch4 and Sky TV.
If you’d like to see more from Emma, or talk to her about your social media films, get in touch with her at www.oojamaflick.com, like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter & Instagram