Is social media a help or a hindrance? Here's your thoughts.
Last week, we asked you if you found social media a help or a hindrance to your mental health and whether you had any tips about how best to use it. You had plenty. Here’s what you said…
So is it a help or a hindrance?
I see two sides to a coin. It's convenient to have for keeping in contact with close friends and family. But as someone who suffers from depression and OCD, it does make you feel very isolated and highlights others progressing whilst I feel very idle and non-progressive in comparison. But that’s just my personal point of view, other experiences may be a lot different.
Granted the internet allows people like myself to find support groups/forums/general help and information. But social media like Facebook and Instagram can often make people feel more anxiety. I constantly see people happy and doing things on their news feeds and it makes me feel worse about everything I’m going through because it makes me feel more isolated! People don’t often remember that Facebook and what they decide to put on isn’t, in general, a true representation of their lives and feelings.
The weird thing about social media is that isn't designed to make you unhappy. Facebook works by taking the things you click on, comment on, like, follow [etc] and then making you see more of that thing so that you [at least in theory] see the things you show an interest in. It creates a bubble for you to stay in so that you are surrounded by everything you enjoy and nothing you don't.
If we took all social media out, would mental health in the general population improve? I think it wouldn't. Mental illness sometimes happens with no triggers and in other cases it is caused/worsened by bullying, abuse, poverty and social status (connected to race, education, gender, sexuality, etc.), wrong diet, lack of physical activity. I think that a lot more work needs to be properly done to prove, if not causation then at least a correlation, between mental illness and social media.
The internet can be a wonderful tool to connect communities across nations and oceans, but it can also rear its ugly head in the form of social approval. This can be damaging when those likes and comments don't come in, when cyberbullying goes on, when horrible videos/pictures are posted without consent no matter the content of them. I feel that the pros far outweigh the cons though, and I have personally felt less alone by seeing others with similar issues online, and being able to express myself fully helped me realise who I really am as a person. The internet can be a rough place, but it can also be a blessing for many.
I would be dead if it weren't for social media. It's that simple. It has its negatives, some websites are particularly toxic, but let's not underestimate the great power in a lonely person being able to reach out to someone else.
So what were your tips?
Thanks to Lena for her thoughts here.
- Unfollow most people except your nearest and dearest - those who make you feel you can be yourself when you meet in person.
- Follow and interact with inspiring and aspirational friends, groups, pages, charities, initiatives, bloggers, organisations and social enterprises.
- Find like minded people but be selective, decide the level of challenge/noise you want to be faced with when you use social media. This is a bubble, yes, but one you can leverage to support you if you are willing to take a proactive role and it doesn’t need to be another source of stress in life.
- Turn off all notifications so they don’t come up and you limit interruptions whilst using your device for other things. Same for email and texts - you can always see from a glance of the icon if you have new messages.
- Important tip!! Move your app icons/tiles. Put all your social media apps on page 2, 3 or even 4 of your home screen on your device. Or better still delete the apps and only use web based mobile versions available via your browser (not in your favourites, but type then in). This reduced my usage to checking twice per day down from circa 50 times per day.
- Assume anything you say online can be repeated to someone else - be kind and fair always.
If you want to get in touch with us to talk about how your use of social media has made your experience of mental illness easier or harder to live with, then get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org