What impact does social media have on chefs' mental health?

The Staff Canteen

Multiple chefs abandoned social media for Mental Health Awareness week to see what impact it had on their mental health.

During the week of World Mental Health Day, two Michelin-starred chef Sat Bains announced that he would be coming off social media for a week to help raise awareness of mental health issues. Working with Hospitality Action, many chefs joined the campaign and decided to do the same. The Staff Canteen spoke to Adam Reid, Paul Ainsworth, Ashley Palmer-Watts and Steve Groves to see how they found the experience.

adam reid
Adam Reid

Initial thoughts

Adam, Paul, Ashley and Steve were all in agreement that the social media switch off was a great idea in raising awareness of mental health, and the impact it can have in industries such as theirs. 

Adam, chef patron of The French, said that he had been thinking of logging out of his accounts for a while and that it had been 'doing his head in'.

Steve, head chef at Roux at Parliament Square, added that people are all somewhat addicted to social media, which is why it’s a good idea to have some time away from it.

He then admitted: “It was harder than I imagined.”

Ashley, executive chef of two Michelin-starred Dinner by Heston, said without announcing on social media that he was logging off he 'probably wouldn’t have done it'. He said: "The only way I knew I could do it is if I deleted all of the apps off my iPad, phone, everything." 

Until logging out it can be difficult to realise how much of your day is spent scrolling through different social media platforms.

On the subject of usage, Adam said: “Sometimes I know I’m doing it, but I don’t realise I’m doing it until halfway through scrolling down my feeds for the day and I catch myself.”

View this post on Instagram

I am backing my great freind and industry leader @satbains1 in supporting his campaign of coming off social media for one week. To raise awareness for #worldmentalhealthday We tend to live our lives comparing ourselves to everyone else, who we think is living their best life. My Dad always told me to never spend time on worrying about the things you can’t change. Social media can be guilty of causing us all to worry that we aren’t doing as well or as happy as the people we spend time scrolling through. The reality is we can’t change that anxiety we just have to learn to love the life we are in and realise that those people’s lives who we think are so great are actually filled with problems just the same as us. A nano second screen shot will never show the actual reality. ???????????????????????????????? Please call 01841532093 or write a letter to.... Paul Ainsworth 6 Middle Street Padstow Cornwall PL28 8AP if you need me over the next week. ????????#overandout #socialblackout @mentalhealthfoundation @mentalhealthfacts

A post shared by Paul Ainsworth (@paulainsw6rth) on

Negatives for chefs

While there are positives of social media it is not without its drawbacks. Adam acknowledged that everyone feels stressed and can feel down at times but there seems to be a connection between this and being unaware of what you are doing online. Paul, who owns Michelin-starred Padstow at No6, and Steve both spoke about social media being a platform for critics and how it increases the pressure put on chefs. Paul went on to say that it presents 'lots of angles for you to be open to criticism'.

paul ainsworth image
Paul Ainsworth

He said: “With chefs, our very nature is we’re very competitive. We are constantly trying to thrive.”

A social media profile can make a person appear faultless. Steve spoke about social media only presenting the 'highlights' of peoples’ work, confessing that chefs 'don’t tend to put up photos of anything we do that’s a bit shit'. He admits that the negative comments, no matter how few there are, are the ones which stick in your mind. He confesses that this can lead to people setting themselves 'impossible standards'.

Going without social media

Adam highlights the problem being that 'life is so oriented around the digital online world'. He says it is almost impossible to not have a smart phone anymore, calling it 'your portal into modern day life'.

While Adam acknowledges that the social media accounts for The French are important for publicity, he says: “Personally, I’d prefer not to do my own.”

On going without social media for a week, Adam said he felt 'free'. He said: “You don’t miss it because really what you’re doing is not something you enjoy. You’re just doing something that’s become a habit.”

Paul added: “I really did notice a difference in just not being on it…It was nice not really having to think about anything like that.”

On the reverse of this, Ashley found that not being on social media left him feeling 'pretty uninformed and disconnected'. He said: "Social media is my little personal feed of information of what interests me and that was really difficult to live without."  

Going forward

When asked if this activity has changed how they will use social media in the future, they all agreed that their usage will differ in some form going forward. Paul recognised how social media in today’s world can 'definitely have an effect on people’s mental health'.

Steve says that relationships are improved by not being constantly occupied by your phone.

Ashley said: "I’m really glad I did it. It genuinely has made me think about how I interact with social media, but I really see the positives."

In his week away from social media, Adam was reminded that life is full of things that require your focus more than social media. He said: “Important things which need to happen don’t just happen without you actually doing the things that make them happen.”

He believes that there should be some effort made in controlling or warning people about the negative affects social media can have on mental health. Ultimately, Adam said: “Social media is something that I can and could lose.”

We'd love to know your thoughts on social media having an impact on chefs’ mental health? Let us know in the comments.

By Gemma Haimes

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 21st November 2018

What impact does social media have on chefs' mental health?