I was a rugby player in my youth, and studied Japanese Karate-Do from the age of 8. I achieved third dan black belt in Shotokan and first dan in Kyushindo. I was, and am, physically very strong: lots of endurance and a healthy pain threshold. I was always taller than my contemporaries in primary and high school. I looked older, was bigger, and more developed than my contemporaries. I was different and this made me very shy and self-conscious. 

I hide my self-conscious shyness with confidence and physical achievements. And, I became knowledgeable in many academic disciplines.

Physical strength, martial ability, academic knowledge have always been my defence mechanisms to hide my true self from too much scrutiny. Just in case someone else rejected the REAL me.

Eventually my defence mechanisms added to my problems.

My confidence interpreted as arrogance. Martial ability as showing off. My intellect demonstrated aloofness and disconnected me even further from those around me.

Examples of my unconscious mind positive intentions to keep me safe. The results were to make things worse for me. I dread to think what my life would have been like with the added stress of instant, and constant social media.

Blame is heaped on social media for so many of our modern social ills. Eating disorders, self-harming, social anxiety, or exclusion to name a few. If not for causing these problems, at least for making them worse. Sure, I agree there are major differences that today’s social media has introduced to society at a global level. Placing the blame exclusively at its feet though I don’t think it is just.

You see for some, social media has given a voice to otherwise voiceless people. It has given eyes that can see beyond walls. And technology making the inaccessible accessible to people in isolation.

Every generation, I think, has had its own social media. Even the Romans had it. Young lads boasting about how many sexual conquests they had. Rhymes of undying love. Messages that two brothers posted on the walls of a friend’s house. Of course, I do mean literally writing on their friend’s wall, because I’m talking about graffiti. Like social media, Roman graffiti influenced the everyday lives of people all over the empire.

I do not want to oversimplify or trivialise the effects of social media on society. It is a complex phenomenon.

What I can confidently say, is that some of my clients experience real, harmful effects of social media. The effects have affected the very foundations of their personhood. Affecting not only how they see themselves in terms of body image, and social acceptability. But, also in how they experience themselves through the media of other media pages and posts.

Most of these clients feel they have to constantly present themselves as always beautiful. Always accessible, always with it, always strong. And, like our beautiful photo above of the pile of stones, always ready to crash down. If someone either deliberately or accidentally knocks the stack over (negative comments, or not enough likes) it all comes crashing down.

This constant stress results often in generalised anxiety and sometimes crippling panic attacks. If the experience is over a long period, it can lead to depression and sometimes complete social seclusion.

In learning the source of our anxiety, we can relearn its original intention for us. And that means we can change its hold on us. We may experience freedom again.

There are multiple reasons why this is important, one stands out above the rest. If I am so taken up with living my life through the media lens of other people’s media, who is actually living, me?

I help people live their life, not someone else’s version of their life.

Never stop being you.