I will admit, leaving my friends and family in Malta to come back to Germany was perhaps a bit more difficult this time round. I've been living in Munich for two years now and while I have made some wonderful friends here and I really do love the countryside I can access so easily, leaving family and friends who have known me since I was young was tough. I still also struggle with the language and it upsets me to have to think twice about, for instance, asking about a gym membership and I keep putting it off (oh what a good excuse for those New Year's resolutions...).
But by the time I had unpacked a few interesting things had happened. As soon as I had sat on the plane, I picked up the latest issue of the inflight magazine to find one of my articles published in it. I always take pride in seeing my work in print and always want to point out to the crew or someone on the plane, "hey, I wrote this" (though I never do). At home I was opening my three-week-old mail and found a Christmas card signed by five people at a publishing house I work for. It really touched me and I felt appreciated, even welcomed in a country I sometimes feel very alien in. And I looked back, to the magazine article, and the Christmas card, and thought how well timed they were. These were little signs that coming back would be a good thing. That there were people who appreciated me and my work.
This may sound obvious but to me it wasn't and I think that to many of us it isn't. We have a propensity to focus on the negative and not give the positive things the attention and worth they deserve. One culprit for having aggravated this is social media. Everybody seems to be either always having a better time than us - whether they really are is another matter entirely - or everything is terrible in the world. But the effects this has on us don't differ and we are often left feeling like we're leading a life inferior to others or feeling down because the world is in such a terrible state. I am by no means saying everything is fine, but I do agree our view may be distorted sometimes. We know social media has this effect on us and indeed it's almost old news, but that hasn't reduced the time we spend on social media - we spent 135 minutes a day on social media on average - nor the negative effects it can have on us.
Our interaction with social media is on the rise (we spent 126 daily minutes on social media in 2016) and I don't think the solution is quitting social media, but rather how we interact with it. You see, I have lost track of the number of times I decided to reduce my time on social media. I cannot ever quit - even though I wish I could - because I need it for my job. But even reducing time is difficult. I have spoken to countless friends who have said the same thing, some even going off it for a while, many returning after a while.
So this is why I am sharing two photos of my Christmas card and my magazine article, not because I want to show off, but because I want to encourage us to find the positive things in our lives at a time when it is more difficult than ever to do so:
The reasons we try to quit is because we are aware that social media paints an unreal portrait of the fantastic lives we all seem to be living and even of the news. We've known this for years, but now it is official that social media is bad for our health. Facebook itself has admitted that social media can harm mental health.
I was inspired by an article I read by India Knight on the subject. Reading a foul detail pertaining to a court case or seeing a picture of something terrible can ruin our day, she says. And none of us is immune. Essentially what she says is that there is something we can do about it by being careful who we follow. Knight is talking specifically about news, but the same logic can easily be applied to everything posted on social media.
If negative posts are upsetting you, unfollow the source. Follow people and organisations who post things you like and make you feel good. And cats, of course. Always cats. The same applies the other way round. Do think about what you are posting. This is the reason I want to write. I want my writing to make people happy, to teach something perhaps, or just make an interesting read.
So what made you happy today?