Social Media Comment

Meet the Oppidan Team: Henry and Walter

Aligning ourselves with the US’ Mentoring Month, alongside our own campaign ‘We All Need A Mentor’ we wanted to introduce you to the Oppidan Team, asking them about their own mentoring experiences. This week, meet the Directors:

Henry Faber
Director and Founder

Who was your mentor growing up? 

I had no idea I had one, but my dad was probably the closest thing. He spent time painstakingly adjusting my golf swing, my forward drive and my knowledge of all things Chelsea Football Club. There's no doubt I would have benefitted from someone to have a direct line to and to vent some of the things I was thinking about. 

What does mentoring mean to you? 

Mentoring for me is the chance to look up to someone, rely on them, question them and be questioned by them. It is the safe space for a young person to be shown a route or a skill that they might not otherwise know how to embrace. 

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self? 

Not to fear not being the best at something. When there's something there to try or experience, go for it, even if you might not be the best or look good along the way! 

Walter Kerr
Director and Founder

Who was your mentor growing up? 

I didn't have a formal mentor growing up which is I suppose is part of the reason why Henry and I started Oppidan. As a child you respond well to, and take advice from, certain people around you whether that be family friends or schoolmasters as a relationship develops and a degree of trust is formed. This was certainly true of my childhood. Much of the direction and many of the decisions I took growing up were trial and error, though I was and still am fortunate to have an extremely close-knit family that provides advice and support when needed. 

What does mentoring mean to you? 

Mentoring is a fairly new concept in education and one that needs constant exploration and discussion as how best to formalise what is sometimes wrongly seen as a nebulous concept. To me, it's a crook on which to lean, a platform to ask questions and direction, and an impartial source of support free from the subjective views of prior engagement.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self? 

Take ownership of your education. You only get one go at it. 

Oppidan Education was founded in early 2016 to support schools, parents and children through one-on-one mentoring programmes and camps. Frustrated by shortcomings in the tuition sector, Oppidan was set up to tackle the pressurised, anxiety-driven education market in the U.K. The result has been the creation of mentoring in education as the new and improved form of one-on-one support for children.

Digital Dystopia: "Living for Likes"

In an age when likes on an Instagram photo count for popularity, prestige and likeability, it seems apt to question the role of social media in the younger generations lives. A ‘like’ has superseded its function as a mere recognition of an attractive photograph to now signify a plethora of subliminal meanings.

It is widely known that humans seek approval and this is now disturbingly sought through intangible and simplistic ‘likes’ from other people. Further shocking is the scientific finding that our brains have learnt to actually release a hit of dopamine when we see those love hearts appear on our Instagram page. People have caught wind; the likes of politicians, scientists and health organisations have expressed their concerns about the ubiquitous nature of social media. So how and why are these effects so toxic?

Well what does a ‘like’ really mean? In is simplest form, a ‘like’ is a momentary click of a button to acknowledge a post of another person, whether this be on a beach somewhere exotic, or at a fancy restaurant. It is pleasing to the eye and therefore we ‘like’ it. The true toxic nature of this form of communication is how it is received. As the ‘like’ numbers increase, as do our endorphins and subsequently so does our self-worth. However, how often do people ‘like’ things on Instagram and not actually ‘like’ it? Semantics are distorted in the virtual world; a ‘like’ on Instagram, a lot of the time, is a fleeting double tap of the finger and then instantaneously forgotten about. Ultimately, our own sense of self-worth is dependent on other people’s momentary finger-tap.   

Considering that social media forums like Instagram are now an intrinsic part of children’s lives, the cause for concern has heightened. If children are learning to validate people through a screen, then perhaps it’s time to do something to change this misconception. Likes do not equal neither popularity nor worthiness, and yet teens are obsessed with the number of ‘likes’ on their photos. Given that humans are instinctively competitive creatures who compare themselves to others, a feeling of comparative ineptitude is an escapable problem.

So, what do humans do? We seek help and advice. Of course, the irony is that what causes teens so much angst also acts as a vehicle to promote good mental health and wellbeing. Instagram is flooded with self-help gurus whose advice manifests itself in meditation, healthy eating and yoga. However, this is where social media comes full circle, as teens resort to comparing themselves with this small percentage of women who do manage to stick to the tripartite mantra of well-being gurus, and consequently feel inadequate. 

The effects on the human brain are toxic, but even more so for those brains that are developing and maturing. What, therefore, is the solution?

We must be mindful. By being aware of the growing attachment to social media, we should learn to manage our digital lives and avoid becoming slaves to ‘likes’. Of course we must not blame ourselves or our children for the compulsive need to check Instagram daily, as these networks have been skillfully designed to keep us coming back for more. We must practice “digital detoxing” and teach the younger generation the importance of finding pleasures away from their screens. The positives of social media have been widely discussed and the ease of ability in connecting with others is self-evident. Despite this, we mustn’t allow it to infiltrate into our conscious minds and warp our perceptions of what self-worth means forever.

By Tilly St Aubyn