Zeminar Presents Dr. Colman Noctor | Maintaining Wellbeing in a Digital Age


My name is Colman Noctor and I work with young people with mental health problems and em, I suppose in the last few years there’s
a kind of a change in in the landscape of teenage life and family life which is
really interesting and I think we’re living in the greatest social and
emotional experiment of our time and the reason I say that is because this is an
experiment. The introduction of Technology, the internet, social media
platforms – we don’t know what the outcome of those things are yet. There’s lots of
research says its good, lots of research that says its bad. If you don’t know the
outcome then you’re part of an experiment and we are all part of that
experiment but more so you guys because you don’t know an alternative or a
pre-internet world and so as adults we can commit to an experiment and consent to it but as children or young people you’ve been born in to it and so
you don’t really have a choice. And we talk a lot about well-being and a lot
of people say is wellbeing about being happy? And you know what is happiness? Is this happiness? Is this laughing and, I love a minion, but from the point of view
the fact is we probably spend less than 1% of our lives happy like that kind of
belly over, chuckling laughing. So if your desire of you’re sold this idea that you
should be happy all the time you’re going to spend 99 percent of your
time disgruntled and disappointed because most of life, as Freud said “the
most we can hope for is the misery of everyday life”, that’s a kind of a
negative connotation but in the world that we live in where we’re sold
expectations that we should be happy all the time, should never be bored, we
should never be frustrated, we should never be imperfect that expectation
creates a problem and I think there’s a formula for happiness. I think it’s expectation minus reality equals happiness. And that’s very simple
because if my expectations are up here and my reality is down here I’m going to
be unhappy and oftentimes we can’t change reality – reality is what it is,
so what we have to change is oftentimes our expectations. So for the point of
view of never before have we had mental health services our awareness than we do now but never before have we
been more unhappy and the question is why is that happening? Why is this? And
for me it’s because we now live in a comparative culture, we’re constantly
comparing ourselves all the time. I’ll tell you a story – about two months
ago my wife and I were sitting at home. It was Friday night, we were watching Graham Norton and she was happy and I was happy, and I was kinda saying isn’t this nice, we’ve got, the kids are in bed, everything settled isn’t it nice that we’ve gotten to this
point in our lives and I opened my phone and I went on Facebook and I noticed
that three of my friends were on a golfing holiday in Marbella and they were supping
pints and spending 13 euros on them and I said the lads never told me they were
going to Marbella! Then I looked at her and said “probably knew I wasn’t able to
go because I’ve three small kids”, and in two minutes I’d gone from “isn’t this a
lovely moment” to scowling at my wife and thinking “you ruined my life!” And from the point of view of – the problem is I invited that into the home my home. I looked at Facebook and ruined that moment – that comparison was unfair, because I was comparing myself and we
don’t have to just compare ourselves to looking over at the neighbors 12-foot
trampoline versus our eight foot one these intrusions come into our houses all
the time. The next thing is we’ve this tyranny of
choice. So we think aww more choices – great. It’s actually not – it creates more
anxiety and the reason I have these pictures here – see that guy, anyone know
who Bosco is? Right – I watched Bosco till I was about 12, not
because I had some sort of developmental delay. I watched it because there was nothing else on and I had to watch it and now I
have sky and I’ve sky cube and just short of a thousand channels – all I
ever say is there’s nothing on TV, because the tyranny of choice creates
more options but it makes us, it makes the possibility of making the wrong
choice even greater, and if you’re anxious more choices are not a good
thing. The second thing is this illusion of
control – the more effort I can put into making this text perfect the better the
outcome will be. In fact that’s not – we’ve probably spent ten times drafting and
redrafting that text back to that girl that we’re interested in then
we would actually saying hello to her on the street. The second thing is that
illusion of control is – when I was in school and I didn’t do well in an essay or I
didn’t have my homework or something I just say ah miss I forgot my book or I
forgot that I forget that, because you have the internet at your fingertips
that excuse is gone. You can’t have an excuse anymore because the greatest
library in the world is in your hand. That puts on pressure – you don’t have the
excuses that we had when we were younger. So this chasing of perfection and
perfectionism is for me the biggest epidemic of anxiety that we have at the
moment and I’m not saying you shouldn’t strive to be the best that you can be,
healthy striving self focused – how can I improve? But perfectionism is other
focused – what will they think? And if you judge your behaviors by that you’re
going to run into trouble. The other thing is vulnerability focused marketing
and this is where – I was at a talk recently and there were guys from Facebook there and they were all talking about personalization, it’s the way forward – your feed in any social network will be personalized to
you, it’ll only show you stuff that you’re interested in, but if I’m googling
how do I lose weight? How do I sort out acne? How do I..? Those keywords
are gonna be targeting me so I’m gonna get everything about acne and losing
weight. I’ll tell you another story in a minute. We live in an on-demand culture our sky is on demand, everything’s on demand – Netflix. You don’t even have to you know wait for the next series to
come out next week. we don’t even have to date – we just swipe left or swipe right.
So all these things are on demand and they’re not anything that we have to
think about and we don’t have to do that kind of awkward “hey” – we don’t have to
develop that skill because the technology allows us to bypass that but
bypassing this is not good. These skills are necessary – it is
necessary to feel bored, it is necessary to be frustrated and it is necessary to
be disappointed. They’re important parts of how we learn and how we learn
to cope but most important we need to learn how to regulate her own desire. Our
desire is an issue. You’ll hear lots of people on technology saying “we need to
regulate the internet”. We do – but we actually have to regulate desire because if I spend nine hours on YouTube watching cats on skateboards I’m not doing
anything illegal but it’s probably not the best use of my time and so that’s regulating my own desire not regulating the internet. And we
desire what is not good for us – we desire donuts, burgers stuff like that. So we
desire what we want, not what we need and that’s an interesting point because
technology mediates our desire it decides what you should want and what
you should need and your expectation about how quickly that you come. So
essentially you’re living and we’re all living in a village of desire and if you
imagine Google and Apple and these companies are the town planners of this
village so they decide whether we have sidewalks or sanitation or car parking
but they know we don’t want that so it just gives us what we want not what we
need. There’s no ethical obligation. So if you
want donuts but then these platforms will give you donuts. So it’s like me
waking up in the morning, going to my bedside locker and it goes ping “Conal
would you like a doughnut?” I think I will. So I go down and have my porridge and then my social media platform goes “another doughnut?” don’t mind if I do.
Sit in to my car – “another doughnut?”, don’t mind if I do
and so from that point of view I’m, I’ll get to five o’clock and I need my
stretchy pants because all these donuts are filling me up but with technology
there’s no physical sign. We don’t see a visual of a bulging waistline or we
don’t see our money going out because it’s free and it’s invisible but there’s
nobody in this space to tell us what we need. I’m going to tell you one quick
story – I searched, I was on Facebook when I looked into a video of Ronaldo and he
had, he was selling a slender tone belt. Familiar with these? Electric currents they give you a six-pack abs in a week. And I looked into that and it was about 75 quid so I forgot about it and came out of it but this was my timeline ever since.
Twenty-four-year-old Adonis bodies to a 41 year old man is not into entirely
ideal. So how do we cope? What I’d say to you is forget these external
relationships, the most in relationship you’ll ever have in your
life is the relationship you have with yourself and from the point of view of
that that’s one you have to invest in. You have to take time to get to know who
you are and develop that relationship rather than that. Everyone says resilience is really important – your generation lack
resilience, you need to have adversity, Adversity doesn’t create resilience.
Resilience not born out of tough times, it’s created to a good sense of self and
be authentic with who you are. So what we need to do? We need to regulate our own
desire. We need to disconnect and we need to create connection. And I’ll just tell you
this – In a culture of online pornography we need to discuss intimacy and consent.
In a culture of outcomes we need to acknowledge effort and in culture of
outrage we need to instill calm. In a culture of offense we need to instill balance and in a culture of distraction we need to
instill space. Will this pass, will it go? I don’t think it will but I will leave
you with this There was – how do we manage this, how do we cope? There was a guy came into a class and he showed the class a jar full
of stones and he said to the class – is it full? And they said yes. Then he got
some pebbles and sprinkled it in between the rocks and he said now is it full? and they said yes and then he got some sand and he put it in between the rocks and the
pebbles and he said now is it full? and they said yes and he said that represents a
full life. The rocks are the really important things in your life – your family,
your health, your trusting relationships. The pebbles are the things that you do
well like academic, sporting achievement whatever and the sand is the cosmetic shite that your sold as important, right. In reality we need to know, in order
for it to be full we need to put rocks in first, then pebbles, then sand. We live in a
world that sells us sand sand sand. If you fill it with sand you will have no room
for rocks and pebbles. So the most important thing you can do is decide in
your life what is a rock, what is a pebble, what is sand and prioritise.
Thank You

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