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Rankin: Why every Londoner deserves a bit of wellbeing

Photographer and director Rankin on loneliness, switching off from social media and the importance of being bored.

2564 Londoners deserve a bit of wellbeing
Illustration: Rami Niemi
By Time Out contributors |

London is an amazing city, but with so many people it can also be a very lonely city. Social media makes you feel more solitary and there’s this feeling of having to compare yourself. London has got a brilliant history of people being very individual, and now there’s this homogeneity of aesthetic – wanting to look selfie-ready or looking up to a TV show like ‘Love Island’. You could say, as a photographer and director, I’m part of the problem.

Wellbeing is something that has been on my mind a lot over the past few years. I’ve thought about my habits in terms of social media. I was getting drawn into this dark hole of scrolling. I’d just turned 49 when I started to notice. I thought: Why am I seriously addicted to this phone?

I’ve tried to become more healthy by doing things like putting time limits on my social media apps. Finding the space to be bored is a big thing for me – it’s important to my creativity. We’re all a bit of a GPS generation – we just follow Waze or whatever app you’ve got, and we don’t see things properly, we’re not looking around.

One big thing for me was getting therapy – being honest enough to look at myself in the mirror and be like: You know what, I think I need some help here.

I don’t want to be negative about everything, there are so many good things about living in London. I was on a plane recently and this girl was talking to a couple next to her and she said: ‘Everyone’s just rude in London’. I thought: Oh, that’s such a pity. I always think of London as being an optimistic city, not a negative city.

Rankin is speaking at Remix Summit London at Royal Opera House and Royal Academy of Arts. His talk Why Instagram Has Ruined Everything (Except Where It’s Made It Better) is on Jan 28.

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