• Adam Whittaker

It's Relentless

Back in November, I was chatting to a client. We were discussing social media and marketing in general but then the conversation wandered to family life, COVID and the day to day stuff.

A few days previously a 4 year old girl had been found safe and well having disappeared from a campsite in Western Australia. With a daughter of a similar age, his concern was apparent and the fear of something similar happening was understandable. Empathy for the parents of the now safe Cleo, fear for his own, a resentment of the darker side of society, all manifested themselves into a anxiety inducing state that was unsettling.

Around a similar time, a news story on the homepage of the BBC website outlined how data showed that deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest had hit it's highest level in over 15 years. The discussion around climate change quite rightly heightened and we were gripped yet again by a reluctant understanding of what us, as a race, were doing to the planet we inhabit.

A few years ago, a good friend of mine witnessed Ruby Wax 'wax' lyrical about how 1000s of years ago, all we had to worry about was protecting our village from a sabre-tooth tiger attack, where as now we know what is going on in the remotest parts of the world not just within our immediate environs. I talk at length about how social media and the internet in general can have a negative effect on our mental health. But it isn't just the false and stereotypically beautiful existence of our peers or heroes on Instagram that can be detrimental. It's about how this has developed over time and destroyed a sense of innocence or possibly naivety that we had in the past. I've long bemoaned the loss of the icon at the hands of social media but there are far more serious implications than me not knowing what Sinatra had for his breakfast.

We are constantly bombarded from the minute we wake up to the minute we turn out the light with news of a terrorist attack in the Middle East, of a flood in Columbia, the discovery of a new COVID variant in South Africa as well as 'illegal' parties within our own country and who has avoided paying tax this week. Our poor little brains and consequently our mental health can't cope with all this negative information. Friends and colleagues of mine such as Karen Cargill talk about this with far more authority than I can but speaking from the heart, there are times when I just want the world to stop and let me get off. I don't mean that in any melodramatic way whatsoever, but this continual assault of information isn't good - in this context.

If a celebrity died in Hollywood in the 20s, we may have found out about it in the UK several days later on page 5 of a daily paper. When Sinatra died in 1998, the evolution of the media meant that it made headline news on TV and the radio and was front page of the papers the following morning. If Sinatra died today, we would know about it on Twitter within minutes of it happening. The immediate spread of information can be of great advantage of course. Comparisons have been drawn with what is happening today with the Spanish flu. Would less than the 50m people have died, or the allegedly third of the world's population that got infected have suffered less if Facebook was around? Or would it have had the opposite effect? If during the Great Fire of London, would there have been anti-flamers that refused to admit buildings were on fire. May sound dismissive and petulant but the two sides of what is now the instantaneous of Google and social media again adds to our anguish.

So what's the answer? In some ways there isn't an answer. Unless we down phones and turn off all notifications then we will be constantly faced by ALL of this. Since the world started to open up (for now), having that face to face communication and trying to stay in the real, local world can only be of benefit. Taking the time to engage and speak to people within your local economy and community will focus your attention on what matters more to you as a business and a person rather than a locust swarm somewhere in a country you have never heard of. With the work that I do, social media HAS to play a part. But how many of us can say that our business social media is Monday to Friday, 9-5? Mine isn't. When I check on business related things on my phone, I can't help but notice that somewhere, in the deepest parts of Africa, the outer regions of Asia or in the deep south of the US, someone has died, been kidnapped or shot (all in that order). The cycle is relentless