Understanding the connection between social media and mental health is essential if we are to use this tool in a positive, healthy way.
In many ways, social media has worsened our mental illnesses. Like any other technology, this resource has its pros and cons. By fixating on the pros, people often tend to ignore the dark side of online content. Even worse is the effect of social media on people suffering from mental disorders, as they are particularly vulnerable to these stimuli.
Social Media And Mental Health: The Different Types
What are the various mental health states that can be harmed by social media?
The news feeds in all the social media sites are full of user-generated content. Users share their happy moments or achievements as soon as they occur. Looking at these all day long, one cannot help but compare oneself with others. This may lead to lowered self-esteem. The person may lose interest in his/her daily activities since they may not be as exciting or adventurous as the ones in their news feed. These conditions may slowly lead to depression. To avoid this, the user would do well to keep in mind that people share only their best moments on social media. Another major cause for depression through social media is cyberbullying. All sorts of rumours about a person that spread in social media may cause depression in them and may even push them as far as committing suicide.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
This condition arises when a person feels that he/she might be separated from something or someone they share an emotional attachment with. This condition is more prevalent in teenagers who are the major consumers of social media. They tend to be more attached to their friend’s circle and fear that they might be excluded from their peer group if they are not available at all times. They may feel the need to be online 24/7, for the fear of missing out something exciting like a party or an outing with friends. So, this condition is also called Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). This plays out in favor of the social media as they can have a large number of online users at any given time.
This is characterized by mood swings. The news feed is a jumble of posts; they can be funny or sad or may invoke hatred or anger towards a particular group. People with bipolar disorder should very carefully choose what they are being exposed to. Recently, social media has become flooded with political, regional and religious hatred due to global incidents like elections and terror attacks. These can influence the vulnerable to a great extent. For example, a person who is talking to his friend may suddenly become hostile after seeing a post on Facebook.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
As the name suggests, it is marked by difficulty in maintaining concentration on a task. Social media is a form of information dumping, bombarding users with a lot of data. New information is generated every moment. This aspect can pose a big challenge to the people suffering from ADD on social media. It may cause the ADD sufferers to become restless and agitated. It may further reduce attention span and may make it even more difficult for them to focus on a task. Multiple tab web browsing is another example. This may be prevented to some extent by limiting the exposure of ADD sufferers to social media.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
This is generally observed in people who experienced a traumatic event. Simply put, it is stress caused due to memories or cues pertinent to the traumatic event. People experiencing PTSD should be extremely careful with social media. This is because they have no control over what they might see in the news feed. A traumatic event can be related to any random post by a friend. It may even trigger stress in the patient. In this case, censoring might be a bit difficult depending upon the nature of the traumatic event.
Plug-In To The Positive Linking Of Social Media And Mental Health
There is a stigma attached to mental disorders in society. So, people tend to hide the truth and act normal to blend in and not seek mental illness support. As a result, without their knowledge, they are being continuously influenced by online media. To overcome this scenario, their exposure to social media should be regulated by family members. This tool, in the right proportions, can be a nice distraction from your routine and help you cope with your condition. Therefore, linking social media and mental health positively can improve your life.
For greater insight into interacting with those suffering from mental illness or if you would like to chat with others affected by mental illness, I recommend joining the app, Reachout.
Sunil is a social entrepreneur working on projects that enhance the quality of life for people. He is passionate about using tech to help the human cause.