Many mental health issues plaguing current society can lay blame at the feet of social media
CONTENT WARNING: Suicide, Addiction, Self-Harm
Understanding the Dangers
Social media is a common theme at the heart of many mental health issues in the contexts of modern day. There is no denying when suffering with eating disorders, self-harm compulsions or even just your everyday anxiety there is a comfort to be sought through social media by having access to a community all over the world that can relate to you and what you’re experiencing. However there has emerged a very fine line between where social media can be a useful tool of support to where social media becomes a dangerous enabler and can normalise toxic mentalities. The main danger social media can present to your mental health is the issue of misinformation, how do we really know everything we are seeing, and reading is true? Do we consciously question what we are taking in when scrolling on the likes of TikTok? Can we trust that an influencers life is truly as perfect as they present? If you are in a position where you are suffering severely with depression and 80% of the things you are seeing on social media fool you in to thinking your life is less worth living than everybody else’s, that can have detrimentally bad effects on your already critical mental condition.
Change or Abolish?
It would be ignorant to suggest social media should just be scrapped altogether, there are many positive uses that come from it and communication to those we don’t have direct physical contact with can be more of a blessing than we may even think. The key to preventing social media from having that harrowing impact on your already existing mental health issues is knowing how to use it in a safe and conscious way rather than falling into a pattern of unknowingly abusing it. On the topic of mental health social media may even be used to raise some key awareness to conditions and resources available in contradiction with its undeniably negative impact but on the whole, there is an overwhelming unbalance of positives to the growing negatives. Whilst many social media companies have policies in place to protect their users there are many opportunities where we can so easily access material that can encourage harmful thoughts and feelings. Social media has been proven to ignite mental health issues in individuals who have never before in their lives had to experience such internal turmoil. Body dysmorphia and distorted self-image is a massive one here, there is no denying body issues were something a lot of people suffered with long before the development of social media however it had never been quite on the scale as it is now. It cannot be good for anyone’s mental state to be compared and weighed against those who they are different to, but social media only increases the standard of unhealthy and unachievable goals across the board.
An important aspect of mental health issues is addiction. Social media can of course fuel addiction through exposure, events and unrestricted networking but without realising it can actually become one itself. I know myself the last thing I do before going to sleep is check all of my socials and respond to messages; the first thing I do when I wake up is check for messages and skim over social media feeds. This can’t be a healthy habit, it’s a fact for me that something I see or read online first thing in the morning can impact my mood for the rest of the day- I know i'm not alone when I say this and this is a concern. The interactions on posts such as likes and praise cause an accomplished rush which acts as a reinforcement making it even more difficult to limit use and in the same breath a decline in likes or interactions can cause a deep disappointment that will make some negatively reflect on other aspects of their life where they may have felt like a ‘failure’. Young adults are reportedly the most active users of social media and so there is plenty evidence emerging that this age group is the most at risk of developing mental health issues due to their social media habits. If these habits are being engrained young, then we can only imagine all of the damage social media will have done to the mental state of younger generations in years to come as we are starting to get a clearer image of what it has already done to those who have come before us. Children as young as 12 are being influenced by the things they have access to on social media, no one suffering with mental health issues should have to deal with any added struggles due to social media but the reality of it is as a majority of society we have spiralled so far down the route of having social media engrained in our lives that it just doesn’t seem possible to save everyone from the dark sides of it.
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