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Lockdown Blog #30 - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Here we are, with another blog and this week it's the 30th blog from us! (and the last to be titled 'Lockdown Blog' as technically we are not in Lockdown anymore... so watch out next week for 'The Blog #31'!)

How on earth did we get to 30? I hope you have enjoyed reading them, as me and Antony have had fun writing them. Letting you into our little world and showing you there is more to us than what you see on a youth night or at church.

This week has been a bit of a weird one. Not a lot has happened at Catalyst Youth UK. We’ve recorded another podcast meaning as I write this we now have 5 podcasts, however only 3 are currently live. Which means we have some in the “vault”. If you’ve not already, head over and check them out. We are available on Soundcloud, Spotify, Google Play Music and Apple Podcast.

We also have some new videos to upload on YouTube, so again check out our YouTube page, subscribe, and don’t forget to hit that notification bell so every time we upload a video you will be notified (sound like a proper YouTuber there LOL).

I am currently sat in my office (no change there) writing this blog, it's Friday 4pm and I am trying to think what can I write about. Looking back over the week the only big thing that pops into my head is that we have ANOTHER restriction on our lives! This week Boris has announced only 6 people can gather indoors and out. Meaning some of us are unable to visit family or have family visit us. For me that road leading to us returning to youth groups and bible studies has been made much longer and I still can not plan any programs for us as Catalyst or at my church. Me and Antony have both said we will continue to do the joint Zoom meet-ups, so we can still have a laugh together.

This week the topic of TikTok has come up, as Brenden keeps asking if he can have it. For me when it comes to social media, it has its positives and negatives and this week hearing the story of a guy who committed suicide during a live on Facebook has got me really thinking, is this really what we are becoming as a society?

Now I know what you’re thinking “here Darren goes saying social media is bad and we should just give it up”. Well I’m not! I love social media. I love how we can have glimpses of peoples lives, connect with friends we had from years ago and connect with family that live too far away to see as much as we like. But social media has a dark side and it's this we should be careful of.

We are all (including the males species) multitasking and it's becoming a common theme in our lives. We depend on our smartphones for work, school, our personal lives and our social lives. I can not remember the last time I left home without my phone!

Rewind to 2005, when social media was in its infancy and only about 5% of people in the UK were using it. Jump to today and 72% of people in the UK use social media. That's a massive increase in just 15 years. 

If you have an iPhone (these are the best, I don’t care what anyone says! lol) have a look in your settings, jump to the tab that says screen time and then hit 'See All Activity'. Have a look at last week, how many hours did you spend on your smart device and how much of that was social media?

I am going to be honest and tell you mine, I was shocked! Last week I spent 45hrs on my phone, 12hrs of that was on Social media! 

Yours maybe lower or higher. This was just for fun, just to see if you realise how much time you are spending switched off from what’s happening around you in the physical world.

Here is what I have noticed and I have popped them into 3 sections, named, you guessed it.

‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’

The Good

  • Social media and modern technology offers us a greater convenience and connectivity to the big wide world.

  • Staying connected with family and friends worldwide via email, text, FaceTime, etc.

  • Quick access to information and research (I use the internet for so much!).

  • Banking and paying bills at our fingertips (for us oldies).

  • Discovering new hobbies and those who have the same interests as you (YouTube) (Have you seen epoxy resin videos, soooo cool!).

  • Involvement in your wider community (fundraising, social awareness, provides a voice).

The list goes on and I am sure you can name a few more.

Social media can be a good thing, but if you ever feel uncomfortable about something you see or read on social media, you should ALWAYS trust your gut (your own feelings) and talk to someone – a parent, a teacher, youth worker or another trusted adult. Bullying, threats and cruelty on social media are all signs that the person doing those things needs help.

The Bad

Unfortunately along with the good comes the bad. With all of its benefits, the nature of social media presents a range of potential issues.

Online vs Reality. Social media itself is not the problem. It is the way people use it in place of actual face to face communication and in-person socialising. “Friends” on social media may not actually be friends, and may even be strangers.

Increased usage. The more time spent on social media can lead to cyberbullying, social anxiety, depression, and exposure to content that is not age appropriate.

Social Media is addictive. When you’re playing a game or accomplishing a task, you try to do it as well as you can. Once you succeed, your brain will give you a dose of dopamine and other happiness hormones, making you happy. The same mechanism functions when you post a picture to Instagram or Facebook. Once you see all the notifications for likes and positive comments popping up on your screen, you’ll subconsciously register it as a reward. But that’s not all, social media is full of mood-modifying experiences.

Fear of Missing Out. ‘FOMO' has become a common theme, and often leads to continual checking of social media sites. The idea that you might miss out on something if you’re not online can affect your mental health.

Self-image Issues. Social media sites provide tools that allow people to earn others’ approval for their appearance and the possibility to compare themselves to others. It can be associated with body image concerns. The “selfieholics” and people who spend most of their time posting and scrolling are the ones most vulnerable to this. In fact, most school girls who use Facebook/Instagram at least five times a day are likely to link their self-worth to their looks. That doesn’t mean that the main problem is social media; it only provides a medium for it, which further elevates the problem. It also promotes the same sort of behaviour to others.

The Ugly

Sadly, there is an ugly side to all that technology offers. While bullying is not a new concept, social media and technology have brought bullying to a new level. It becomes a more constant, ever-present threat - cyberbullying. 

There is no legal definition of cyberbullying within UK law. However there are a number of existing laws that can be applied to cases of cyberbullying and online harassment, namely:

  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997

  • Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994

  • Malicious Communications Act 1988

  • Communications Act 2003

  • Defamation Act 2013


“Cyberbullying” means bullying through the use of technology or any electronic communication, which shall include, but not be limited to, any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, texting or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photo electronic or photo optical system, including, but not limited to, electronic mail, Internet communications, instant messages or facsimile communications.

So I have explained it.

I don’t want you to give up on social media as I think its a great piece of technology but, there is always a but!

Be careful, Stay safe and don’t forget the people around you that won’t be here forever, and if you spend so much time looking at that screen, by the time you look up those that you love may be gone.

This week included suicide awareness day (10/09) and as I have briefly touched on the subject earlier in my blog I think we all need to look up from our phones and see those around us, as the statistics are heart breaking.

In 2018, 6,507 took their own lives, and of that 263 were aged 10-19 years old. When I saw this I could cry. I have no idea why they took their lives, but I know we can all do something about it.

Below are some of the possible warning signs that a person may be at risk for suicide:

  • Excessive sadness or moodiness: Long-lasting sadness and mood swings can be symptoms of depression, a major risk factor for suicide.

  • Sudden calmness: Suddenly becoming calm after a period of depression or moodiness can be a sign that the person has made a decision to end his or her life.

  • Withdrawal: Choosing to be alone and avoiding friends or social activities also are possible symptoms of depression. This includes the loss of interest or pleasure in activities the person previously enjoyed.

  • Changes in personality and/or appearance: A person who is considering suicide might exhibit a change in attitude or behaviour, such as speaking or moving with unusual speed or slowness. In addition, the person might suddenly become less concerned about his or her personal appearance.

  • Dangerous or self-harmful behaviour: Potentially dangerous behaviour, such as reckless driving, engaging in unsafe sex, and increased use of drugs and/or alcohol might indicate that the person no longer values his or her life.

  • Recent trauma or life crisis: A major life crisis might trigger a suicide attempt. Crises include the death of a loved one or pet, divorce or break-up of a relationship, diagnosis of a major illness, loss of a job, or serious financial problems.

  • Making preparations: Often, a person considering suicide will begin to put his or her personal business in order. This might include visiting friends and family members, giving away personal possessions, making a will, and cleaning up his or her room or home. Some people will write a note before committing suicide.

  • Threatening suicide: Not everyone who is considering suicide will say so, and not everyone who threatens suicide will follow through with it. However, every threat of suicide should be taken seriously.

If you think that a person is having suicidal thoughts or if you have seen a decline in their mental health, ask them. Asking someone if they are thinking about suicide is not going to make it more likely that they will carry out their thoughts. If someone says they are thinking about suicide, ask them if they have a plan, how will they do it? Where and when? These question can be scary but I’m sure the person having these thoughts are also scared and this allows you to assess the level of risk. 

Lots of people have suicidal thoughts that they will never act upon, but it’s important to have a safety plan so when the thoughts are strong, the plan is there to keep them safe. This plan can include: who they are going to tell, a place of safety, how they can improve their mood, what distractions can they use, names of their support network and an emergency professional support number. This plan can of course be used for yourselves as well if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts. 

What should I do if someone I know is talking about committing suicide? 

If someone you know is threatening suicide, take the threat seriously.

Do not leave the person alone. If possible, ask for help from friends or other family members.

Ask the person to give you any weapons they might have. Take away sharp objects or anything else that the person could use to hurt themselves.

Try to keep the person as calm as possible.

Call the Samaritans 116 123 or call 999 or take the person to an A&E.

Stay safe!


This week’s resource...

Take some time away from social media.

Check on a mate.

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