Social Media and Mental Health
I’m not a big fan of social media but I thought I would do some research into the effects of social media and mental health combined, and I was quite surprised to see very little in the way of research. Yes, there is a lot of talk about it but little in the way of scholarly research regarding the effects on the psyche.
I did find some very useful information and I will place that in context within this article. I just want to point out that I am not against social media, I am just socially awkward on it as I am in real life. I have to avoid having a persona as I will forget how I am meant to be acting, so I stick with one social media platform only which is Twitter. And I am myself at all times, warts and all.
The reason I thought I would look into social media and mental health is becasue after scrolling through Twitter for a short while, I could feel my mood dropping and then I went through my followers list and found quite a few who had unfollowed me and I realise it is the norm to follow and then unfollow to make your numbers look better, but me being me, took this to heart.
Social Media and Mental Health in Younger People
I wondered how a younger person with mental illness might be affected by this, as I am a grown adult with over twenty years of experience dealing with bipolar and depression.
I happened upon a review of mental health and social media and here is what they had to say:
Studies consistently highlight that use of social media, especially heavy use and prolonged time spent on social media platforms, appears to contribute to increased risk for a variety of mental health symptoms and poor wellbeing, especially among young people…Springer Link
I had thought this to be the case before I had even read the review. Based upon my own expereinces and believe me when I say I have expereinced nothing online compared to that which teenagers go through. I am quite guarded but if I was in my youth, then I would more than likely be more open, paving a way for others to infiltrate my safety net.
But there is Good News
Social media can play an important role in a mentally unwell persons life as it brings the community to them rather than them having to face the community in the real world. Once again I will refer to the article I quoted previously:
Social media platforms offer near continuous opportunities to connect and interact with others, regardless of time of day or geographic location. This on demand ease of communication may be especially important for facilitating social interaction among individuals with mental disorders experiencing difficulties interacting in face-to-face settings.Springer Link
I for one know the importance of being part of a community as I find it difficult dealing with people in the real world. So my choice of Twitter was based on the least harmful social media platform I could find. That is not to say everything is hunky-dory on there it is not, but I have not personally come across any abuse as of yet.
When Should You Remove Yourself From Social Media
I personally think when you start being affected emotionally to the extent it is all you can think about and you keep checking to see if there is any more harmful content for you to look at. I’m not talking images but in what people have to say to you or about you, this will end up harming the mind.
There is much that needs to done with regards the protection of people and their mental health when on social media platforms and the platforms need to take all users into consideration. You cannot control how people react to online abuse but you can control content and the social media giants need to make it even easier to report abuse online.
I personally have no idea how to report it if someone was being abusive to me online, but in my case I would block them and carry on. Even though their words will play on my mind a little, but thankfully becasue of my memory problems I would soon forget about it.
Social media and mental health should go hand in hand, as it could be the greatest thing for advancing therapies and non-medicinal treatments but there is a long way to go.
How Can You Protect Yourself on Social Media
Use the controls that are available to you and be careful of what you say. Even the most innocuous of comments could affect someone. I once posted about food, and a follower came back at me and said, “you shouldn’t talk about food like that as I have not eaten for two days as I can’t afford it.” I was shocked, and it is only by writing this article that I remember fully how thoughtless I was. Sometimes you can open yourself up for criticism.
But what do the experts on social media say:
If a friend posts something about you that makes you uncomfortable or seems inappropriate, let them know. Likewise, stay open minded if a friend approaches you because something you’ve posted makes him or her uncomfortable. People have different tolerances for how much the world knows about them respect those differences.Stay Safe Online
But there is more to staying safe online, see below:
On some social networking sites, such as LinkedIn, people are able to post resumes and other information that pertains to their work history. Work related information can reveal too much about a person’s personal life and can give criminals such as hackers personal information which may help them to hack into one’s account. The information that is found on resumes can also be used in identity theft.Norton Lifelock Partner
When I searched for staying safe online most things were for practical reasons. However, mental health reasons must safely be addressed, which will more than likely fall into the hands of the social media giants. Social media and mental health is an ongoing part of life these days, and we need to be aware of our own actions, too, not just rely on others to be kind and generous.
We too must also be kind, sincere and careful with our words, photos and videos. Yes, some use social media as a reason to be obnoxious, but they are pretty easy to spot. It is the ones who begin to treat you with kindness and lure you in, I had one guy try, and it was all intending to sell me crypto-currency—the fiend. I got over it and thankfully didn’t fall for it, but some might.
You wouldn’t naturally tell a stranger all about your life, so don’t do it online. But Lou, you have a blog all about you! Yes, but it is about illness and wellness; it doesn’t contain detailed information about me; it is the outer shell of me, the parts I want to be visible. The same goes for social media; only show what you are comfortable with and remember things do not disappear; they will be there for years, somewhere.
Be safe and be kind, a mental health warrior always wears some form of armour.
Peace & Blessings