Digital minimalism: the future of social media.

Published by Kitchener Today

There’s a new trend in town, one that promises engaging conversations – minus sneaky glimpses at phones. Digital minimalism is driven by a quest for tranquility and inner contentment – but what will this detachment mean to those who make a living online?

Local influencer, Azra Gregor – mindset coach, blogger and owner of Matrescend – says she “began as a mom blogger who wrote honest reflections of the many ups and downs of motherhood – something that wasn’t all too common back in 2015. That niche has exploded since then and I begin to feel a pull to expand on the topics I discussed online.”

Rather than measuring her personal success based on the number of followers she has she says, “it’s the one-on-one connections. I find that I’ve gathered many new friends and genuine connections, so it has never felt like a job to me.”

“It is a universal truth that less people will see your post in their feed than they did 2-3 years ago, however; which translates to a lesser amount of likes per post. I simply see it as change, not less success.”

How has/will Instagram’s removal of ‘likes’ change your business?

I think that there are a million factors at play when it comes to how well a business will do. That said, I’m not too concerned about “likes” being removed – it’s an artificial showing of how many people truly connected to your post. I know my message will still resonate with those it is meant to.

What does the future hold for online influencers?

There are so many people working with brands and writing blogs these days that it’s hard to keep up! I don’t think that will stop. But I do think that more people will get tired of the inauthenticity of sponsored posts and try to niche down to make more meaningful connections. At one point we all have to realize there’s a social responsibility we have to the public and our kids regarding what kind of content we produce.

What would you say to your followers who wish to take a break from social media?

Just do it! Start with a few days and lead up to a week. If it makes you terribly anxious, it’s probably a sign that you’re letting it affect you too much.

What do you love the most/dislike the most about social media?

What I love about social media is the potential it has to connect like-minded people so they feel less alone. What I dislike is the power it has to influence massive amounts of people and how it’s turning into a marketing platform.

Will you regulate your children’s access to social media?

In my world, the kids won’t have a phone until they’re at least 11. That means no tablets for my toddlers. We’ll see how realistic that is when the time comes! They’re still little.

What is online authenticity?

We don’t realize how much is a produced show with people as actors – which is fine for entertainment purposes. What I have an issue with is when people start jumping on bandwagons solely based on what someone has said or promoted – that doesn’t sit well with me. Meet these people in real life before going and changing your entire diet or wardrobe based on what one person eats or wears. The danger with following influencers and trends online is that critical thinking often goes out the window.

Azra is speaking, on this topic, on June 13 at The Causerie in Kitchener.

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Written for and published by Kitchener Today

Eating Disorder Awareness week resides in early February, but Ontario remains one of the only provinces that doesn’t actually recognize it. In December, Bill 61 2018: An Act to proclaim Eating Disorders Awareness Week was introduced by NDP MPP Jill Andrew to rectify this.

Eating disorders are defined as insufficient or extreme food consumption which can lead to the destruction of personal well-being. Common forms include Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder.

“Many people who start with a diet go on to develop an eating disorder. They affect people of all size, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background and age. Eating disorders are considered a mental illness – there is a biological component and even a genetic component – they can be influenced by one’s environment and socio-cultural influences,” says Suzanne Dietrich, who refers to herself as a non-diet Dietitian.

Anorexia is a condition driven by an intense fear of gaining weight, and an unhealthy perception of personal body image. A person with Anorexia will limit their food intake, lose drastic amounts of weight, but still see themselves as overweight. The risks, including death, are highest with this form of the disease.

Bulimia involves ingesting large amounts of food, followed by remorseful behaviour: vomiting, obsessive exercise, and use of laxatives – at times, a combination of these. Repercussions of the secretive behaviour include digestive problems, dehydration, and heart issues.

Binge Eating Disorder, in contrast to bulimia, includes over-eating without the purging. As a result, people who suffer from BED may become obese increasing health risks including heart disease, breathing issues and diabetes, among others.

There aren’t any definitive numbers on how many people in Waterloo Region suffer from the disease. Dietrich, who is also a member of the Waterloo Wellington Eating Disorder Coalition, says “that is one thing they are advocating for; research to look into and collect this data.”

It is important to remember eating disorders can be treated. Local supports include CMHA, an outpatient support group. In-patient treatment can be found at Homewood, in Guelph. There are also local private practitioners who specialize in eating disorders. Dietrich adds, “Ideally, an individual needs a full team to support them which includes a physician, potentially a psychiatrist, psychologist and/or social worker, and a dietitian. They also need support from family and friends. NEDIC offers a 1-800 call line which is also helpful.”

According to Dietrich, if you suspect a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, there are two important steps to consider:

1. Be aware of the signs & symptoms

  • Change in eating patterns – be it quantity, type of food, anxiety around eating, clean eating, following social media for biggest fat diets or eating alone.
  • Change in behaviour – pre-occupation with weight or body image, binging, purging symptoms, use of laxatives, withdrawn socially.
  • Change in activity levels: obsession with exercise
  • Change in weight, but not always. Eating disorders can occur in all shapes and sizes

2. Approach the person with concern and kindness

  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness
  • Express concern
  • If they reject your expression of concern, they might not have defined their behaviour as a problem and may not feel ready – this may appear as denial, and anger. It is important to be persistent

According to National Initiative for Eating Disorders (NIED), a Southern Ontario study of 1739 teens concluded only 4% of the girls who reported current binge eating and 6% of girls who were purging had ever received any assessment or treatment for these problems.

You can find a list of local services at Waterloo Wellington Eating Disorder Coalition

The bright side of the saddest day of the year; Blue Monday

It turns out the saddest day of the year’s humble beginnings were a publicity stunt, released as part of a press release for a British travel company. The man behind the formula, Dr Cliff Arnall, created the concept 14 years ago for Sky Travel.

Written for and published by Kitchener Today

January, the most underappreciated month of the year. Known as one of the longest, coldest months, it also finds itself typecast as the unhappiest. Nestled between World Religion Day and National Hug Day, you’ll find Blue Monday.

Happy Coffee

The theory behind Blue Monday suggests that the third Monday in January takes Mondays to a whole new level. This year, the ‘saddest day of the year’ falls on January 21.

What is Blue Monday and where did this unofficial day of sadness originate?

There is an actual mathematical calculation that predicts when it occurs. One of the components of the calculation includes the timing of when Christmas bills will begin to arrive. Couple this with our unmet expectations of cold-turkey resolutions, lack of daylight hours and a return to the daily grind, and we have ourselves a formula for the blues.

There are days dedicated to hats, sandwiches, and bubble wrap so why shouldn’t sadness get one too? While Blue Monday has no actual scientific backing, we choose not to fact check the equation, burying our vitamin D deficient selves under a blanket of self-fulfilling misery.

It turns out the saddest day of the year’s humble beginnings were a publicity stunt, released as part of a press release for a British travel company. The man behind the formula, Dr Cliff Arnall, created the concept 14 years ago for Sky Travel.

 “The formula uses many factors, including weather conditions, debt level (the difference between debt accumulated and our ability to pay), time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling of a need to take action.”

The first Blue Monday was January 24, 2005. Not everyone embraced the idea, in fact, neuroscientists have described the calculation as pseudoscience; meaning while it claims to be scientific it’s never actually been proven factual.

In his defence, Arnall has said he identified the date “in a bid to encourage people, where possible, to take a positive outlook on the time of year as an opportunity for new beginnings and change.” Although labeling a day as the ‘saddest’ seems like a setup to be, well, sad. The alternative could be to find solace in the fact that if Blue Monday is indeed the saddest day of the year – every day afterwards must be inherently happier.

While we can’t control weather patterns, or the sun, we can face one of the components of the equation head on. Martha Adams, Certified Financial Planner with Tier One Investments says we should start by creating a plan that makes us feel like we are being proactive. When it comes to paying off holiday debts she suggests “starting with paying down/off the highest interest rate first and considering consolidating high interest rate into lower interest rate debt if you have availability. For example, if you have a credit card with 29% debt and a Line of Credit with available room and an interest rate of 7% you can utilize the lower interest rate to gain more traction from your payments. That means paying off your debt quicker and feeling like you’re accomplishing more than just interest payments in the process.”

The bright side to the sadness equation is we’re heading towards the happiest day of the year. According to Arnall’s calculations that day can be found on July 15, based on weather, extended daylight hours and reduced traffic – thanks to school vacation. If that feels too far off; the international day of happiness, which also happens to be the first day of spring, is March 20.