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Social Media and Wellbeing aka Facebook vs Reality

When you only have an hour and a half to run a workshop it can go either way – As a facilitator it can be the longest, loneliest 90 minutes you never want to experience  - or -  you ask your co-facilitator how we doing for time and synchronise an OMG!  Where did that go so fast? Actually it was a WTF? But you need to at least try to be professional.

Really though. You can only ever scratch the surface of a topic like Social Media and Wellbeing as myself and Victoria Betton  (@victoriabetton)discovered at the Round Foundry as part of Leeds Digital Festival on the 11th October 2012. The event, Facebook vs Reality tied in with Love Art Leeds, a month long foray into all that is Mental Health related, and coincided with photographer Anna Roberts exhibition

The audience were a diverse mix of those who live, eat and breathe social media to six formers and those who are trying to get to grips with it for work and everywhere in between. Surprisingly, and refreshingly, there were no professionals from the mental health services. Refreshing because I find it heartening that people are interested in wellbeing  – their own and others – in the digital age without it being their job. It helps me kid myself that stigma is easing and boundaries being eroded.

A large cohort were freelancers where the distinction between virtual  and real world entities are not so distinct. As one person said ‘We are our brand’  and that is reflected in the Twittersphere, on Facebook and shot through by Instagram. Perhaps too, for the freelancer, Social Media can stop or salve that feeling of isolation, that dissociation from the world of colleagues and teams.

We looked at different platforms and why we liked or loathed them, the advantages and pitfalls – the ‘Life Leakers’ and the ‘Sharers and Spillers’. But what was really great was that people felt safe enough in that short space of time to disclose about episodes of depression and cycles of disorders  and how that is perceived by the author and the viewer of ‘updates’.

Yes, the more connected we become the less connected we might actually be, but if we have authentic digital relationships we can feel part of a supportive community. We do not have to compare ourselves with the extroverts with a thousand ‘friends’ and think how empty and dull our own life is. A few present, me included, had met people in real life – particularly through Twitter – and that had and does enrich our lives. At one stage everyone grouped together according to favoured platform – there was a definite air of smugness emanating from the corner where the Instagrammers had embedded themselves.

Ultimately, we drew no conclusions. We did not design the perfect platform for wellbeing. What we did do though was make real connections in the real world. We talked, shared, some swapped addresses or business cards –and we all took a sharp intake of breath when someone inadvertently said the word ‘Nutcase’. Oh, and we laughed – now that’s got to be good for your wellbeing.

What is clear though is that we could have continued all afternoon, people are genuinely interested in exploring the relationships between Social Media and Wellbeing. It is the beginning of a dialogue I hope to continue.

For Victoria’s view of the day check out her blog at digital mental health.

Posted by Aidan Moesby, 16 October 2012

Last modified by Aidan Moesby, 16 October 2012

I don't want to be rude I'm just feeling vulnerable

I'm doing an Engage Residency at Dundee Contemporary Arts. This is a post in response to something that happened - a small everyday occurence. But sometimes it's the small everyday occurences that trip us up.

It’s a constant dilemma, but mostly i know where i stand. If someone asks me how i am then i tend to answer truthfully. Mostly i know people aren’t actually remotely interested in ‘how you are’ - it’s a social construct - they just want you to say fine, or good, so you can move on. People (mostly) don’t want to know where you are on your own anxiety scale, or how close to the edge you are, or how well you are coping - well enough to be out but not to fully integrate with the world - well enough to be out and only do the things in your safe zone - well enough to be out but don’t want to be ambushed by new things in an already unsteady and unstable world. I’m sure you get the picture.

Yesterday I was on the well enough to be out as long as i mediate my interactions in the world really, really tightly. I was introduced to someone whilst talking to someone else. I was the proverbial rabbit in the headlights. I know the social mores etc - say hello and shake hands - except i didn’t - couldn’t - face that personal contact - and such was my level of anxiety that i couldn’t really engage even on a superficial level.

Now my dilemma comes because when asked how i was by the ‘introducer’ i said ok - but that was because i didn’t want to expose myself in front of a complete stranger in a situation where it would be inappropriate to divulge your inner psychological fragilities. But then that lead to the further awkward exchange and me not shaking hands - which makes me appear just a bit rude - not vulnerable. So today i feel i have to go and do some apologising.

So should I have been emotionally honest and exposed myself emotionally in front of a stranger? Should i have explained myself? Should i have stayed at home? I don’t know. It’s fraught. And i guess it has a salience to the residency which is why i am blogging about it here. Maybe i should think of doing some contextualising rather than apologising and maybe engender a debate around this and similar issues.

 

Posted by Aidan Moesby, 10 October 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 10 October 2011

I'm on the Road

After having had a bleak first part of the year - as is well documented here - i now find myself flitting from one thing to another. I am pleased, really pleased. about this - but i know how fragile it all is in this current climate.

I am doing an Engage Everyone residency at DCA in Dundee. It's got a fab print room. I am looking at issues of engagement - why don't people access or engage with contemporary art. - people with disabilities that is. Another artist is looking at physical disabilities. Needless to say I am looking at the mental stuff.

In an attempt to normalise mental health I thought I would do a series of newspaper headlines from my fictional paper 'The Daily Compulsion'. Man puts left shoe on first. Very tame I know but it gives you an idea (if my right shoe goes on first I have to put them both on take them off then put them on properly with the left shoe first.) but I want more stories about significantly impairing, embedded etc.

I am looking for your input in the form of your stories about the things you do. Not just the C's from OCD but the rituals we have around the day to day or special.  I will make you anonymous and immortalise you outside the DCA as a newspaper headline to a fictional paper. I am also thinking of making a book of them too. There are the - man checks front door is locked - normal stuff everyone does but which can be a behaviour of something else. If you would like to contribute please send to mailoto:textartist@yahoo.com">textartist@yahoo.com. It will be greatly appreciated.

It has been quite interesting getting people to look at things from a mental health point of view - i engage with spaces psychologically mostly - and then physically.  I have already written on the nature of engagement with a space at http://engageeveryone.tumblr.com/

I return to DCA for another 2 weeks at the beginning of October. Meanwhile I am currently installing my solo show at The Art House, Wakefield which opens tomorrow - 28/9 and is part of the Wakefield art walk.

Posted by , 27 September 2011

Aidan Moesby has just installed ‘Do you think we can talk about this?’ at the Centre for Life

We live in difficult times. The National Portfolio funding came out – a few of the organisations we are all familiar with suffered. Arcadea – my local disability arts organisation didn’t get any funding at all. Geof Armstrong is at the helm and steering through the storm admirably.

How can the Arts Council claim to be promoting disability and disabled artists in the region (let alone nationally). How can it just ignore a whole cohort of artists, audience, producers etc in the North East? This decision leaves Manchester or Liverpool or Wakefield as my ‘locally’ funded organisations. But enough of that.

I was fortunate enough to meet Elinor Urwin from the Art House in Wakefield to go through some of my rejected applications. This was a brilliant – if not a bit difficult – use of an afternoon. There was so much material – so many rejections – to choose from. To have some simple pointers and some incisive analysis on my approach was invaluable. It is difficult to get feedback from applications, though I always try. Yet it is so contradictory. 'Too conceptual'; 'not conceptual enough'; 'too prescriptive'; 'not prescriptive enough'; 'too flaky'; 'too detailed'. How do you make sense of it? Well, having the objective eyes of Elinor reflect on this brought some clarity. So thank you Elinor – and congratulations to the Art House on their continued funding.

Why is it that artists (I have not always been an artist) have to say they are busy, or working on this or that. Why can’t they  just say "it’s really REALLY hard out there and I’m struggling." I know why. You have to boost your own stock. No one wants an artist who isn’t busy etc etc. So I am blessed with all this time and cursed by the low moods of under employment. The irony is that I have a few exhibitions on and coming up – which is fab – but jam for tomorrow doesn’t put food on the table today.

I have just installed ‘Do you think we can talk about this?’ - a solo exhibition at the Centre For Life in Newcastle, which opens next weekend – the 16 April. It is a collection of pieces which reflect on my personal experience of diagnosis 'Bipolar Disorder.' and weaving in elements of the personal and cultural agenda surrounding mental health. 

It runs for a couple of months. Can we talk about mental health? At once we are fascinated by those perceived as kooky, off beat, crazy and then we tire of them and vilify them and perpetuate the stereotypical images and viewpoints of those living with an enduring mental health condition. I hope we can talk about it. I hope we can get a right good open honest discussion going.

Posted by , 11 April 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 12 April 2011

Aidan Moesby asks how do they get away with this 'quality journalism'?

Apples and Snakes posted a Facebook link to an article by Alex Hudson on BBC News entitled 'The Creative Process and Mental Illness'. The basic tenet is that mad equals creative.

I really don't like these catch all assumptions and wrote the following brief retort. Is this really balanced and considered?

Spare me from 'cheap journalism' that uses the link of madness and creativity/poetry These kind of articles peddle the usual stereotypical visions of the mad creative. Over diagnosing, reframing things like shyness into social anxiety disor...der - so it can be pathologised, medicalised and medicated increases the number with 'diagnosis' and the 'Big Pharma' profits.

In other words, poets are 20 times more likely to end up in an asylum than the general population.' what tosh. The so called asylums are not full of poets - stats can show anyone anything. If you look at a copy of Diagnostic & Statistical Manual DSM (iv) everyone could be diagnosed with a disorder.

These kind of articles do nothing at all for those with enduring mental health issues but perpetuate ridiculous myths and oh - what about those with mental health issues who aren't creative - Doubly Damned and unfortunate?What do you think?

Posted by Aidan Moesby, 14 February 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 15 February 2011

Re-awakenings

As ever, I have left it to the last minute, I want to first post before the year is out. Whilst I like to think of time more in terms of a continuum I can’t help but be lulled into some re-appraising of the year and thinking of the coming months. Sometimes it’s good to draw a line under something and lay it to rest, though I am not sure about this stop-start of a New Year thing.

As Brecht said ‘However, they won’t say the times were dark. Rather, why were their poets silent?’ These are dark times and getting darker – particularly in the worlds of disability and arts. There is little meat, let alone fat, on the bones to trim and – let’s cut the metaphors - seemingly more applicants for fewer opportunities.

As I ‘emerge’ and move towards ‘mid-career’ (these amorphous distinctions bemuse me) I think about career development. This leads to me a host of things which I will no doubt discuss in future posts. For instance where does the disability arts movement of today fit into the same movement that started out as a much more socially engaged movement?

From where I am sat they appear to be totally separate agendas now. What is disability arts now? Where do I fit into it all?  How do I develop a career as a professional artist? Is there room for any more disabled artists? Does disability arts have ‘ranks’ to come through? If so how do you come through them?

As a socially engaged artist I am committed to inclusion in my work and strive to work within an milieu of equality. Sometimes I don’t always feel an equal within social or professional hierarchies be that the mainstream or the disability arts world. I find this contradiction interesting, disappointing and annoying. Sadly, I know I am not alone in this.

Living in the North East of England disability arts has been poorly served recently, thankfully Arcadea has a new Director and some fire being breathed into its’ slumbering belly. I look around the country for opportunities and see the work that Shape, DaDa, Dash et al. are doing.

I lament at times geographical restrictions/limitations of applications. Should I be more creative with my living arrangements? Unfortunately it has gotten so that I barely work or exhibit in my home region and I am grateful to opportunities such as Outside In at Pallant House for showing me in the Biennial of Outsider Art or the curators of the 40th Anniversary of the Disability Act exhibition for inviting me to show at the Houses of Parliament.    

2011 is looming. It is likely to bring many challenges – cutting DLA, New Horizons, Arts Council cuts, the southern drain of lottery money in the run up to 2012, keeping food on the table. Thankfully I have woken from my own slumber, I am awake, inquisitive, re-politicised and ready to explore, engage and create an uncertain future in these uncertain times.

Posted by Aidan Moesby, 31 December 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 2 January 2011