In 2018, it’s virtually impossible to avoid social media, especially when it comes to staying connected with current affairs, friends and family.
Yet, for Fremantle midfielder Connor Blakely, social media was causing the 22-year-old to become disconnected and inadequate.
Blakely opened up to AFLPLayers.com.au about the impact of social media on his mindset in ‘Courageous Conversations’, a series featuring AFL players talking about mental health, in partnership with the Movember Foundation, aimed at reducing the stigma around mental illness and increasing mental health literacy across the AFL industry and wider community.
Talking about how social media made him feel, Blakely felt the constant pressure of trying to impress people on his internet profiles took its toll mentally.
“I constantly compared myself to other people that I saw on social media whether or not they were my friends or famous people, it just created a slight feeling of inadequacy in the way that I was living my life,” Blakely said.
“I felt this constant pressure to stay updated and to keep everyone in the loop of what I was doing. Halfway through 2017 I decided to remove myself from social media. I deleted Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat.”
After identifying that social media was the cause of some unhappiness, Blakely sought the help of Fremantle’s club psychologist to find ways of overcoming the effects it was having on him.
“The psychologist at the club, she was a big influencer with me and what I was doing,” Blakely said.
“I spoke to her about how it did make me feel and there are a lot things I was passionate about giving my full attention to.
“So if I’m feeling the way I’m feeling, maybe it’s worth getting rid of it to see positive changes from that.”
After cutting ties to his social media accounts, Blakely began to see a positive effect in the way he felt on a day-to-day basis.
Blakely says losing the urge to check his phone for notifications has made him a better person to connect with.
“With my friends and family, I was more approachable, I was more engaged in my conversations and I was able to forge some deeper relationships with those around me,” Blakely said.
“In this day and age, everyone thinks there’s the potential for an emergency to happen or you’ve got to reply to this email or text straight away when it doesn’t have to be like that.”
Blakely also believes less time on social media has helped him to focus on other things which are more important.
“The result that I felt from it all was really positive,” Blakely said.
“It’s not as if you have more time, you have more clarity in what you want to prioritise and what I wanted to achieve and what I wanted to do with my spare time and how dedicated I could be to my footy if I gave it my full attention”
Blakely hopes his experience with recognising the negative impacts social media has had on him can encourage others who also feel the same way to speak up.
“No one’s the same and everyone gets affected by things differently,” Blakely said.
“The best thing you can do is talk about how you’re feeling.”
To highlight how the definition of courage has evolved in the players’ eyes, the AFL playing group has made the decision to expand the selection criteria for the AFL Players’ Most Courageous Award, presented by the Movember Foundation, to ensure that courageous off-field acts are recognised alongside on field actions.
The players have also donated $60,000 to the Movember Foundation through the AFL Players Care program. The money will support men’s mental health initiatives and assist the foundation to reach its 2030 goal to reduce the rate of male suicides by 25 per cent.
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