Social Media And Mental Health : The Good & The Bad
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Nowadays, many (most) people use social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Linkedin etc. on a fairly regular basis. It seems that social media has truly taken over the world!
I personally use some of these sites daily (Facebook and Instagram) and can attest to how addictive they can be, especially when I receive notifications.
Naturally, this has made me curious about the effects that social media use can have on our mental health. As it turns out, there has been fairly extensive research on the influence that social media use can have on mental health and stigma surrounding mental illness.
Despite some of the negative headlines regarding social media, it seems to me that there MUST be some benefits.
Some examples that come to mind:
- They allow individuals and groups to engage in meaningful dialogue who otherwise wouldn’t be able to do so, due to geographical location or differing schedules.
- They provide a convenient means for sharing information and media to a larger audience.
- They allow individuals who suffer from social anxiety or other socially related difficulties to socialize and interact with others online.
One area that researchers have looked at is the role that social media can play in de-stigmatizing mental illnesses and providing a forum for individuals coping with these disorders to support one another.
Indeed, one study looked at the effectiveness of social media in providing a channel for peer-to-peer support and found that it can be a, largely, positive means for increasing well being amongst individuals with mental illnesses. (The Future of Mental Health Care: Peer-to-Peer Support and Social Media; 2016).
Unfortunately, and as you might have guessed, there are plenty of things about social media that can be considered negative. Some examples that come to mind include:
- They can be VERY addicting.
- They provide an unrealistic view of other people’s lives*
- They can be used to spread hateful ideas
* The concept that social media portrays other people’s lives as seeming “put together” or “practically perfect” has always struck a chord with me personally. I have also heard friends and family members point out this same problem.
Perhaps most concerning is a recent study that found, on average, people tend to be less happy the more they use Facebook. They found this to be true regardless of whether or not the user was primarily ‘liking’ posts, creating their own posts, sharing content, or simply strolling down their timelines. (https://hbr.org/2017/04/a-new-more-rigorous-study-confirms-the-more-you-use-facebook-the-worse-you-feel)
It seems that some of our fears regarding social media are true (facebook use tends to make people less happy), but it can also be used for good (de-stigmatizing mental illness and bringing people together). Perhaps there are ways of bringing out the best of social media, while reducing its negative consequences toward happiness and mental health? Only time will tell.
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Over To You
What are your thoughts on social media use and mental health? Have you tried cutting back on social media? If so, how did that go for you?