We’re meant to look after both our physical and mental health so why are we pretending that a diet of online junk is compulsory?Pixabay

So, it’s the New Year, hooray. Thank God 2018 is behind us and the whole Brexit debacle is now fully sorted and put to rest once and for all; unburdened we crawl into the next 365 days. 

I always find it slightly ironic that for most people, the New Year is invariably welcomed in by open arms, a few bottles of prosecco, and an accidental intoxicated snog with someone unsuitable. Yet, at the same time we all sit smugly about claiming that this year we are in fact going to learn French, go to the gym, eat clean, engage in more self-love, be kinder to others, aid the refugee crisis, not get back with our ex, blah blah blah.  

We all know that three weeks into January everyone is piss poor, back on the booze, shagging their ex and using the pages of their French text book to roll fags. I have therefore resolved to not pretend to myself or others that I will be bettering myself on any commendable scale in the foreseeable future. 

Keep your favourite meme page but unfollow some of the Missguided-endorsed-reality-tv-stars

However, with the oh-so-typical focus on diet when it comes to resolutions in the New Year, I'd like to focus our attention on a different kind of diet altogether - our social media consumption. Instead of jumping to extremes in the way that resolutions often lead us, let's think about how we can foster a healthy balanced attitude towards our online consumption.

We are, increasingly, a supercritical society when it comes to food consumption. Everyone is judging the contents of each other’s plates: have you watched that documentary on the meat industry? Do you know how many calories are in one of those? Isn’t it crazy how palm oil is destroying the rainforest?  While waves of new, expensive health crazes are a constant - people are suddenly willing to pay four-quid for a cup of blended celery - it is interesting that no one seems to be concerned with their ‘social-media-diet’ in the same way.

Is social media inherently bad? Or are we just bad consumers of it?

But let’s face it, alongside, maybe even above food, isn’t the internet, social media as a whole, the thing our society is consuming most on a day-to-day basis? And, a lot of what you hear about social media today, not just from old-biddies who don’t understand how to use Facebook, but from young people as well, is how terribly damaging it is: how it’s forcing unrealistic beauty ideals down women’s throats and numbing a generation’s brain with various cat videos and taggable memes.

But I’m not sure I really buy that. Is social media inherently bad? Or are we just bad consumers of it?

Frankly, if your feed consists of every member of the Kardashian family, twelve different supermodels, a few love island stars, nine meme pages, an account featuring cute-dogs and one of those cake decorating ones, then you are consuming rubbish.  We’re meant to look after both our physical and mental health so why are we pretending that a diet of online junk is obligatory?

You have a responsibility to protect your mental health in the same way that you do your physical health

In my mind, junk mostly equates to advertisements. And although, some are unavoidable because of various cookie policies, you’re often scrolling through and being bombarded by advertisements endorsed by celebrities and this is not good for your health. Think about it: all adverts want to do is sell you something, but, in order to do that, they first have to convince you that you are deficient in some way and therefore need this product. You’re buying: protein powder because you don’t look ‘manly enough’; blackhead peel because your skin isn’t good enough; anything from a clothing company because your wardrobe isn’t current enough. From drinking vitamin water to playing with fidget spinners, these are the things you never thought you wanted until social media convinced you that everyone was doing it.

80/20 is the rule for a healthy balanced diet; of course, enjoy an ice cream in the Italian sunshine but get your five-a-day as well. Keep your favourite meme page but unfollow some of the Missguided-endorsed-reality-tv-stars. And if that means your feed is going to be massively depleted, here are a few healthy alternatives to switch into your media-diet:

-       1. Beautifuldestinations. Ultimately, does what it says on the tin. With pretty much daily updates of perfectly taken pictures this account will not only feed the aesthetic desire of your millennial hearts but also provide a lot of holiday destination suggestions for your wandering mind.

-       2. Jamie Oliver. And yes I know, a lot of us are still pissed off about the turkey twizzler thing from 2005, but, it’s time to move on. Not only will your following be gifted with the occasional picture of Jamie’s cherub like children and lush country home but, archives of his classic recipes for wholesome meals and content; two birds one stone people.


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-       3. _nitch. Probably my favourite Instagram account, so if you’re also a floundering arts student, this one will be right up your ally. _nitch posts black and white pics of all of the great writers, artists and musicians from over the decades and each caption is a poignant quote from them.Perfect for some library procrastination or fuelling your general resentment of Brexit.

-       4. Barack Obama & Michelle Obama. The ultimate presidential heartthrob and the inspirational first lady are both essentials when it comes to a fulfilling feed. Barack offers cute anniversary posts and political content which encourages taking action and supporting those we exist alongside. While Michelle plugs her commitment to voting, higher education, and impressive work ethic. All in all, a positive and influential combo.

-       5. Humansofnyc. Already a popular favourite, Humans of New York is the social media sensations that tells the stories of everyday people’s lives, both the successes and he tragedies. If you’re looking for something to ground you and make you feel that warm-fuzzy sense of human connection than this is this place to start.

-       6. Girlboss. Pure and simple female positivity, Girlboss is the home of women empowering other women. From pop art to careers advice, self-care to Sex and the City, this is the place for ambitious people to be getting their daily fix of feminism.

You might think it sounds a bit naff, because realistically cleaning your feed doesn’t sound like a particularly important or fun thing to do. But, we’ve all thought, at one time or another, that eating a family sized Tiramisu would be an enjoyable activity, only to discover, on nearing the end of it, that we actually feel violently sick and are full of regret. Online junk is the same. Initially filling your feed with bright, shiny celebs and reality tv stars, seems like a great idea - but eventually, if you consume too much of these unrealistic ideals, beauty expectations and  product placements, you’re going to feel sick. You have a responsibility to protect your mental health in the same way that you do your physical health.

In the same way that you may not like kale or beetroot, one, or all of my suggestions may repulse your media appetite, and that’s fair enough, not everyone has the same palate. But for all the time you spend scrolling aimlessly through adverts and vapid pics of the rich and famous, take some time to try and clean up your content; invite some inspiration and healthy ideals into your Instagram. We need to stop being subject to ‘dangerous social media’ and engage with our content so that we have a balanced feed and a better mental diet.

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