Two former Tyne Metropolitan College students have stepped into the limelight to share their experiences of how mobile phone use can impact – both negatively and positively - on young lives.
Bev Held, 21, and Lauryn Neasham, 19, made a short film about how the all-pervasive mobile can trigger or worsen depression or feelings of inadequacy – but can also be a life-line for people feeling isolated or unhappy.
Filmed last summer, they have returned to TyneMet to show their work, titled Social Media Anxiety and filmed in conjunction with Fixers, a national support organisation for 16 to 25-year-olds, to current students to gauge its impact.
Such has been interest in their unique take on modern life that their visit was filmed for broadcast on Tyne Tees television this week (NOTE – expected date January 11, 2018).
The pair used personal insight of the distressing effects of mental health conditions, as Bev has battled depression, and Lauryn previously suffered with social anxiety issues.
They say their aim was to let other young people know that life can, and does, get better, no matter how dark it might seem at times.
Lauryn, who is studying computer and digital forensics, said: “Everyone always has a mobile in their hand, and at down times, they can be your link to the outside world.
“But you can also suffer cyberbullying, or can become addicted, always updating your social media. That can seriously impact your life and mental health.
“I wanted people to understand the bad side of social media, that there’s cyberbullying and pressure to be a certain way, but that there is also a good side.
“When you see people on social media sites like Instagram, and they appear to have perfect lives, you feel a lot of pressure around that.
“Doing this film has definitely helped me with my feelings of social anxiety, and I hope it helps other young people.”
She added: “It was good to see the reaction of the students at TyneMet.
“Many said they couldn’t agree more about feeling some anxiety around using social media, because of having to live up to what they see as its standards.
“Working with Fixers has been a very positive experience and I would recommend it to any young person who has an issue they want to raise.
“It’s been the best thing that’s happened me.”
Bev, 21, who is taking a computer science and web development degree, added: “Quite simply, you can suffer from mental health issues because of your mobile – but it can also be the tool to get help.
“Help is out there, and it’s easy to find, as it’s all there on your phone – with one search, you can find the numbers, websites and email addresses to contact.
“I found going back to TyneMet to show the film to be a good experience.
“There was a positive reaction to it and many of the students said they could relate to the issues we talked about.
“People are not alone and can get support, and Fixers is a great way for them to be able to raise issues of importance.”
Lauryn and Bev began working with Fixers in early 2017, when Clare Jeffrey, one of its broadcast researchers, visited to speak of her work to IT learners.
It led to them being invited to put their thoughts down on film, which was done with the help of Emily Cutter, Fixers’ young person coordinator, and its production team.
Their one-minute-long film was launched at Newcastle Arts Centre in July.
Clare said Bev and Lauryn’s film, and her experience of working with other young people, had identified issues around the internet and social media.
She said: “Lauryn and Bev have been brave to make this film, they have put themselves out there to make some important points and to get their story told.
“Doing what they have done will get their message across and may make a difference to others.
“It was interesting to hear what the current students at TyneMet thought about the film, and many agreed there are good and bad points to social media.
“The male perspective especially was that it impacted more on women, who felt greater pressure to conform on social media or to look a certain way.
“What came across is that there are problems with social media and the internet which can relate in different ways.”
She added: “Fixers will work with anyone aged 16 to 25 who has an issue they feel is important and should be highlighted, the only criteria being that it must help at least one other person.
“Working with us can help someone to gain in confidence and self-esteem, and they get their voices heard and are taken seriously.”
Andrew Alderson, a learning mentor in engineering and IT at TyneMet, said: “It was good that Bev and Lauryn came back to share their film with our students.
“What came out of it was that social media and the use of mobile phones can put various pressure on young people if used too much or in a negative way.
“The film makes important and valid points, many of which our current students were able to identify with.”
The film can be seen at www.fixers.org.uk/news/16191-11208/social-media-anxiety.php
More information on Fixers can be found at www.fixers.org.uk