Guest Blog: Caroline Foran
Social Media: A double-edged sword for a Dublin-based creative
Introducing our very first Hivemind guest blogger and top buzzer - Caroline Foran.
We sat down with Caroline, author of two best-selling books and a number one podcast to get her take on social media’s pros and cons. Here’s what she had to say…
“As an author, a journalist, a podcaster and a public speaker, social media has, for me, become somewhat of a double edged sword. On one hand, it’s essential for my work. To go without it would be to drive a nail in the career coffin. From selling tickets to self-run masterclasses to announcing news of a new book release or sharing my latest podcast recording, social media is the platform through which I have enjoyed success. It’s my most reliable marketing tool; as it connects me directly with my target market, it cuts out the middle-man, meaning I’m no longer at the mercy of traditional press, which would have been the case for all writers before the advent of social media.
What’s more, working with brands on partnerships that align with my core values as an author to create content that lives on my Instagram page, with which my audience will engage, is a large part of how I make my money. Say goodbye to the social media accounts - though to some it sounds idyllic - and I’ll say goodbye to an incredibly lucrative revenue stream. Income and work aside, though, social media has also allowed me to connect with people all over the world; people with whom I would otherwise never cross paths. Recently, I had a conversation with a woman living in Bangladesh who had found and read my first book about managing anxiety - Owning It - and decided she was going to set up a support group in her town where mental health issues of any kind are frowned upon and stigmatised.
Meanwhile here at home, I can share a story that discusses how our body’s production of cortisol (the slower releasing stress hormone) peaks first thing in the morning (on a side note, this happens as part of our circadian rhythm between cortisol and melatonin from morning to night) explaining why we might feel added anxiety when we wake up, if we’ve already found ourselves in a period of heightened sensitivity. Instantly, I’m on the receiving end of countless messages from people saying ‘I had no idea this was the case, I am so glad to have an understanding and explanation for this, it will make me cope better throughout the day’. At the risk of blowing my own trumpet, it’s incredibly rewarding to have built a positive community of followers who find their days that little bit easier because of the content that I can share with them directly.
BUT THEN THERE’S THE FLIP SIDE…
The side of social media that fuels the anxiety I make it my business to quell, leaving me in quite the vicious cycle. From the physical grabbing of the phone every few minutes to open and refresh all apps - at this stage I can hardly complete a paragraph without reaching for it - to the endless scrolling, I know that social media does more harm than good when it comes to my own anxiety. And then there’s the social comparison that social media gives rise to. We consistently compare our behind the scenes with other’s highlights reels and from this, very few of us are immune. We’ve always measured ourselves against others as a way to assess our self-worth, it’s human nature, but social media takes this up several notches, while skewing things in such a way that if we’re looking to others as a way to confirm our self-esteem, we’ve entered a losing game.
On top of this, research confirms it splinters our focus to such an extent that our performance also suffers; my concentration goes massively downhill as a result of overuse of social media - time slips by with nothing achieved - and as a writer, you need to be able to slot into periods of deep work without distraction. One of the biggest killers of concentration is a concept called ‘attention residue’, where you flip from app to app to emails to trying to get something of value done and part of your thinking remains stuck on the task that preceded the one you’re now trying to focus on. It’s fair to say that social media is not remotely conducive with writing as a journalist or when you’re writing a book, but to go off it in order to get deep work done means you’re cutting the aforementioned benefits out too.
Is there a solution? I’m not sure. I take weekends away from it but I always have to go back, and that’s because of the career I’ve chosen. Is there a way to be on it without enduring the downsides? As more and more of us find our cognitive bandwidth compromised by social media, it’s a balance we need to figure out. At the very least, we need to be militant in our efforts to ensure that social media is no longer the place we go to for validation or confirmation of our self-worth; let’s keep that part IRL.”
Caroline Foran is the author of international bestsellers Owning It: Your Bullsh*t Free Guide To Living With Anxiety and The Confidence Kit: Your Bullsh*t Free Guide To Owning Your Fear. She is also the creator of the number 1 podcast, Owning It: The Anxiety Podcast. She is currently writing her third book, due for release in Autumn 2020. www.carolineforan.com