hey say everything that has an advantage also has its disadvantages, and this isn’t far from the truth, particularly when it comes to social media. Of course, it’s advantages are clearly visible–increasing reach for individuals as well as business, creating new income streams, and the likes–but it’s disadvantages may not be so visible. One area these disadvantages can be seen is mental health as the two undeniably go hand-in-hand.
More often than not, when we begin to feel the pangs of depression, social media has proven to be a faster mode of outlet. Some make depressing quotes, set out to “drag” others by becoming online trolls (cyber bullies), or feel the need to report their issues to an online community who might be itching for juicy updates and probably do not care. Simply put, humans have shown to use social media to air out their feelings, more often than they reach out to family and friends who are ‘closer.’
Is this good or bad?
Like most things in life which are neutral–that is neither good nor bad–our relationship with social media is more about us (the users) than it is the platforms. For one, social media has helped individuals lead less lonely lives and even when physically alone, they can still be surrounded by a pool of persons.
Here are a few links between social media and mental health you could find enlightening…
#1. Social connections sometimes reduce mental issues
Imagine Rebecca, a career woman in her early 30s, going through a breakup. Through the years, she had dipped her neck deep into her career and it was only after the breakup that it dawned on her that her friends have become strangers. At first it was boredom, next anxiety started creeping in, and then the famous: “I’ll be alone for the rest of my life” depressing thoughts. As these thoughts continued to spread and tighten its grip on Rebecca, she decided to start a vlog. This provided a virtual community that served as a source of comfort and support, built up her self esteem and provided virtual companionship that actually sufficed albeit, momentarily. The outcome gladdened her heart, kicked depression outside the door and rebuilt her will to keep moving. Clearly, social connections do matter.
#2. It gives a false sense of intimacy
For example, I was in a group full of women who seemed to bond as a group but surprisingly never had effective one on one relationships. Months could go by and not one physical visit, a person might be sick and no one would be aware unless they took a shot of themselves laying down on their hospital beds before the “get well soon” messages began to flood in. Sadly most often, that’s where it ends.
I’m pretty sure a lot of us are guilty of this. We stay up to date with our friends from their status updates but never truly make that offline / physical / personal connection with them. The hype and attention might feel good initially, but when a person becomes overwhelmed with the burdens of life, they realize they are still very much alone.
#3. Self expression
At this point, the link between social media and mental health should be obvious, and as previously stated, it’s a huge mix of positive and negative features. In this case, social media has helped exhibit talents that might have remained buried due to a lack of opportunity and/or resources. It provides an outlet for creativity and also gives a voice to individuals who choose to use their platforms to raise awareness on select issues.
#4. Unrealistic expectations
Frank jumps out of bed at the sound of an incoming notification: a mail. He’s been waiting on the company to revert and has taken a leap of faith to wash, iron and hang his work clothes. All this preparation fell to the ground as a huge “we’re sorry, you didn’t meet up to our requirements…” collapsed every skyscraping dream he once had. In defeat, he opens his Insta app only to see his classmate Peter in a private jet, jet setting around the world in clothes, jewelry, and eating meals Frank could only dream of masticating.
Honestly, it’s easy to feel inadequate and left out based off another person’s curated content. Remember, it’s curated and with that comes countless filters (pun intended). Nonetheless, this feeling has grown into anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts, especially among the youths.
#5. Self absorption
Social media helps to disseminate information faster and connects individuals around the globe with little restriction, but sometimes the pressure to “live it up” pushes people to become so self centered and absorbed that they ignore the people around them. There’s also an unrealistic thirst for perfection that when an individual constantly indulges in, they become insatiable in their expectations of themselves and would stop at nothing to remain “perfect” in order to be accepted.
#6. Fear of missing out (FOMO)
The addictive side of social media on mental health is its affiliation with anxiety. Some often find themselves refreshing their feeds just to “stay updated”. The fear of missing out on the latest news, trends, and always having to play catch-up might seem harmless but could indeed get toxic. It seems to suck you into the digital world while rendering you distant from your physical surroundings.
#7. Sleep deprivation
Research has proven a direct link between insomnia and excess screen time. This occurs by delaying the release of melatonin and in turn pushes back bedtime leading to a less enjoyable sleep.
#8. Social media and accountability
Social media is definitely on information overdrive and with this comes access to unlimited resources that could inform a positive lifestyle choice. Social Media can be used as a motivational tool to achieve healthy lifestyle goals as well as being integrated into a community of like interests.
#9. Social media has bridged the gap
Back in the days, the process of reaching out was a bit more tasking. Now, all an individual needs to do is pick up a phone and there are different therapy options available right at your fingertips. This accessibility to mental help are proven sources of intervention. From suicide prevention hotlines to social support groups, social media and mental health doesn’t always have to be a negative duo.
How can we strike the balance?
#1. Limit screen time
Ever noticed you told yourself “oh, let me just go into this app and see what’s happening for a few minutes…” and 2 hours later you’re still scrolling voraciously. There’s a high tendency for this to happen giving the stream of engaging content that is steadily churned out. Know that you can’t view them all and even if you can, you shouldn’t. Setting out a particular time for social media and firmly adhering to it might be the missing link between you and productivity/sanity.
#2. Focus on yourself
The only person you should be in a competition with is your previous self and achievements. Set goals and commit to achieving them. Rather than feeling intimidated by the success of others, focus on yourself and become a better version of you.
#3. Take a break from the internet
A social media fast might be more beneficial to your mental health than you might know. Sometimes, logging off from the internet and logging back into your immediate environment can be the purging needed for a better perspective of life. You could start off with 24 hour and in place try something new or make plans to spend the day with your loved ones or as you deem fit.
#4. Create a social media plan
When purpose is unknown, abuse is inevitable. If you delegate select time, and plan purposefully towards your social media use, you’re likely to be productive. Just like poet Robert Frost quotes “road leads unto road…”, such is true about the internet streets. One minute you’re on a page, the next thing you know, you’ve clicked on a post and then another. The next time you lift your head up, it’s been hours of being submerged in an internet maze.
#5. Never compare
The truth remains we’ll all not see the glass as “half full” but we can deliberately make an effort to do so. A healthy way to view social media and mental health is to see others’ posts as an inspiration, something to fuel your dream, rather than a reason to stroll the comparison path. It’s a dark road—the path of unhealthy comparison.
Featured image: mikoto.raw Photographer | Pexels
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