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Disconnecting. Is it Truly Helpful?

How the internet is affecting mental health.

Image by Sergey Zolkin | @unsplash

Ever since the devastating impact of Covid-19, there has been an increasing reliance on the internet to connect and facilitate communication between people. From weather to video calls, is the internet actually creating a positive influence?

The COVID Question

An essential part of understanding the internet's impact, is through the pandemic. As people were confined at home, the internet was the only way they could connect to their family and friends. At the same time, panic was highlighted and emphasised as people worried over their health, and how COVID will hurt their futures.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) created statistics regarding how people felt during the pandemic.

In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%.

The overall result of COVID varies from person to person. The internet was a massive aspect of life during COVID, as it allowed people to connect and communicate to others still. During this time, the internet was a fundamental part of life. It enabled students to continue their education, without risking their health with the dangerous circumstances that developed during COVID. People could still see their families and check up on them, talking for hours if they wanted to.

COVID has had an unprecedented influence over the lives of everyone. It has taken people from their lives, separated families. However, through the internet, it has also given the people to find new hobbies or start a business. It has brought about a new age in the workforce, wherein people are able to work from home. It has been a force for good, connecting others.

The internet is not all perfect though, as its flaws start to show with analysis of social media usage.

Social Media's Message

It's no secret that social media has hurt body images. The extent of which can be seen in young women and teens, worrying about their body. It can even be a risk factor for eating disorders and depression.

A global study of teenage girls showed that nine out of 10 UK girls with low body esteem said they avoided meeting friends and family or trying out for a team or club.

It's no secret that social media has hurt body images. The extent of which can be seen in young women and teens, worrying about their body. It can even be a risk factor for eating disorders and depression.

Something as benign as simple edits to an Instagram photo have created a culture of expectation for women. People have developed ideals of bodies that are often fake. Unedited photos also contribute to this, as things such as lighting and angles can change how a photo looks massively. Social media has constrained bodily acceptance, with devastating consequences to how youths view their bodies. Insecurity has become rampant.

In addition, social media has harmed more than that. It has developed an unhealthy fixation within young people. Addictive apps like TikTok have sprung up, and it can be incredibly easy to be sucked in. The problem becomes worse once young adults start uploading. The high of getting attention and clicks can be enthralling, with the allure of being an influencer. It’s an achievable goal, but it can be so easy to become lost in it. The concept of privacy has been slowly eroded as more and more are shown publicly online.

These apps have algorithms specifically designed that work around an individual's likes and dislikes, to ensure you are glued to your phone for hours upon end. It can be fun, but is it truly healthy?

The Answer

Image by Andrea Piacquadio | @pexels

It can be easy to argue that people should stop using the internet, especially social media. But the answer is more complicated than that.

The importance lies in regulation. It is okay to disconnect, it can be good to disconnect. But that also means that you lose access to the important things, such as messaging your family or keeping up with your friends. If you find yourself scrolling social media for hours on end, or panicking far too much about the latest headline, it's best to take a break. Instead, focus on building healthy communities, a circle of people who can support and uplift each other. Use the internet for its most powerful tool, communication. The internet can be a catalyst for wonderful things, but it can also cripple and stunt. How the internet affects you depends on how you decide to use it.

There are so many online resources out there that can help you, whether it is through learning a new skill, or mindset coaching. It can also provide health help or put you into contact with someone important. At the same time, there are also so many tools to help regulate your usage of the internet. You can download an app that rewards you for leaving your phone behind for a while, or something that limits you to a certain time on social media.

Ultimately the impact of the internet, and disconnecting is dependent on the individual. Whether it’s an online friend, or mental health service, use the internet to create bonds that will empower you.

And if you ever suspect a friend is going through a hard time, use that power of communication and send them a quick text. It can mean more than you know.


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