SOCIAL media and mobile phones might have revolutionised communications, but they have done little to reduce depression and improve quality of life, beyondblue ambassador Peter McCall told a Warrnambool audience this week.
The former mayor, policeman, meat inspector and businessman spoke to about 600 people at the second annual Farmers’ Night Off, organised by the national agency and Farmer Power to improve mental health.
Television stars Sam Newman and Garry Lyon also shared the stage to urge men and their families to open up when facing high anxiety and depression rather than bottle it up.
Mr McCall said he had observed a distinct decline in face-to-face communication and more people burying their lives in mobile electronic devices.
“I grew up in Dandenong where everyone knew everybody else in the street,” he said.
“Today, what do we do? Do we know our neighbour? Wrong. We become isolated.”
He related an example of his grandson who boasted having 350 “friends”.
“Wow, I thought, how good’s this for a young fella,” Mr McCall said.
“I asked him, ‘how many do you know? How many of these 350 friends have you met?’
“‘Oh’, he replied, ‘only three’.
“So where do you know them from?
“Oh’, he said, ‘they’re on Facebook, they’re on Twitter.
“I said, ‘no you don’t have 350 friends. You have the kids you go to school with. They are your friends. The rest are only make-believe.’
“When we think we have lots of ‘friends’, no, we haven’t.
“Let’s get back to the days where we do have friends — where we go to the market, where we speak to our colleagues about our cows, about our stock.
"When we go out to meetings in the community where there is Rotary, Lions, Apex or any other organisation, even to church, which is terribly important to support what we are trying to achieve, and that’s to have a strong mind.
“Communication is the strength of what we are trying to achieve, but we’ve lost that.
“The other day I was travelling on a tram down Collins Street, three blocks, and I was the only one of eight in the compartment looking out the window. The other seven were on this stupid thing (mobile phone) — the greatest hoax of all time. We’ve gone backwards. What’s the solution? Quite frankly, it’s fairly simple.”
He referred to Newman and Lyon who had been communicating with millions on their Thursday night’s The Footy Show for 21 years.
Before the forum Newman shared with The Standard a gem of wisdom he remembered when standing outside the home of colleague Eddie Maguire after it burnt down in 2001.
"I don't think it was my saying, but I always remember it, never cry over things that can't cry over you," he said..
"If it's beyond your control, it's beyond your control.
"We waste a lot energy worrying about things we don't have control over.
"Look after yourself and your state of mind."
Some commentators have cautioned that excessive use of the internet and social media could be a trigger for depression.
However, there is debate on whether using social media sites causes depression or if people with depressive tendencies are more drawn to digital forums.