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SOCIAL MEDIA AND MENTAL HEALTH
We have seen many examples of how social media has been used as an influential tool, motivating people to raise their voice for what they believe in. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are only a few of the platforms that enable users to voice opinions to thousands, even millions of people.
Social media has been used to influence social and political change, to teach and learn and to bring little moments of joy with a cute photo or fun video.
It is positive that we have a space where we can connect with others, express and discuss our views and push the causes we believe in. Yet, it can also affect us negatively. We look at how social platforms can impact us:
It can be addictive
When it comes to Facebook there is nothing more flattering than a ‘like’, ‘love’ or a comment of agreement. Yet, this can make it difficult for us to put our phones down due to the positive reinforcement. Netflix’s Black Mirror explored this issue in ‘Nosedive’ (season 3, episode 1), depicting a tale of how the obsession with social media affirmation has infiltrated every aspect of society, including job success. It is perhaps a stretch to believe we all need five stars to be validated in society, but perhaps we need to consider how often we look at Facebook every day. You can find out if you are addicted using this scale.
It is a filtered life
Platforms like Instagram allow us to tailor our life to look exactly how we would like it to look and how we want to be perceived. Although we know we are filtering our own life we forget that others do too, comparing ourselves and wondering why their holiday, dinner or dog looks better than ours. The impact of this can be low self-esteem and there has been significant commentary on how Instagram affects body image, particularly among young men and women.
Bullying UK found that 20% of children and young people don’t want to go to school due to fear of cyber bullies. They also found that young people are twice as likely to be bullied on Facebook than any other social network and 28% have reported incidents of cyber bullying on Twitter. Bullying can lead to social problems, emotional problems and even suicide. Bullying UK offer good advice on how to handle cyber bullying.
The ‘fear of missing out’ is fuelled by the ability to watch every event, experience and life achievement through a magnifying glass. This has created a culture where we watch our friends enjoy fantastic outings without us, questioning why we weren’t invited, which can lead to anxiety and loneliness.
Many influencers have spoken out about how social media affects them and there have been recent examples of high profile users revealing the truth behind their perfect images, such as posing a specific way to make their body look different or using editing tools to blur imperfections.
Platforms themselves are recognising the potentially negative impact of social sharing, like Instagram which has launched a support tool.
There is more awareness than ever before on the dangers of the online world and no doubt there will be further research on the psychological effects.