How does social media impact people's mental health?

by - 6:00 PM

On Wednesday 31-10-2018, I went to a talk as part of the THINK series at my University. The panel discussed a topic that I am very passionate about: mental health and the aspects of our society that might influence people's issues and illnesses.

One of the many things mentioned was the impact of social media on people's mental health. And while on that topic, the audience was asked if they have ever done a what is called 'social media detox'. I raised my hand and gave a quite spontaneous (and slightly confusing, ugh nerves) response. I will come into more detail about this method later.

Nevertheless, this question actually made me reflect on the effect of social media in my own life. Of course, because I have a blog and an instagram account, I am somewhat 'required' or expected to be constantly present online. Now, don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore photography, editing and writing. I am doing what I am doing on these platforms because it both allows me to be able to creatively express myself, but also gives me the opportunity to advise and assist people in similar situations.

However, I believe that the problem nowadays is that people tend to forget the real reason for being present online. What used to be a creative or learning outlet became a race for who gets the most likes or followers or brand sponsorships. We follow influencers and passively believe everything they post. We forget that what is on social media is usually not the reality. People choose what to post and hide their insecurities behind a filter. They only tell you what they want you to know about them. But in reality, nothing is all sunsets and pretty donuts.

And if social media becomes that toxic that you no longer have fun with it or it starts feeling like a compulsory task or a requirement, step back. While you might want to grow and be able to reach out to more people to share your message, this should only be accomplished in a healthy way. 

Obviously, social media has a tremendous impact on peoples' beliefs and actions. How many people have gone vegan because of a youtuber claiming the health and ethical aspects of it? How many people have developed self-esteem issues due to the 'idealized' standards of beauty portrayed online? How many people have bought a product they did not need just because they saw it becoming a trend? How many people have compared themselves and their lives to the apparent 'perfect' ones of others? How many people forget to make the most of every moment just to be able to record it in order to then share it online? How many people are hiding behind a screen?

Someone in the audience even mentioned that they have contacted the author of some photos portraying a perfect moment. What they learned was that the person behind those posts was actually feeling lonely and suffering from severe mental health issues. This makes us think, doesn't it?

What is the solution, you ask?
Be conscious of both what you post and what you see others posting. 
Be transparent. 
Do not hide behind social media. 
Do not compare yourself to others. 
Do realise that people have the power to share only what they want.

If you realise that you're not taking the healthiest position towards yourself, you might want to consider a social media detox
For those that are not acquainted with the term, it basically stands for a period of time disconnected from social media. 
I am actually constantly engaging in these, simply because of how overwhelming social media can become, both from a creator and a follower perspective. 

How can you do a social media detox?
Consider the reasons for why you want to do it. 
Write down how you are feeling at the point before starting.
Delete the unhealthy apps from your phone, if you need to.

You do not have to establish a deadline beforehand, just go with the flow. Disconnecting online will help you connect with yourself in real life. You will feel calmer and with less pressure on you. On top of this, time away from your phone means you will be have SO MUCH availability to do other things you've always wanted to do but never had the time to.

Once you feel like returning online is no longer a threat, then you can do it, with moderation. I recommend that you also write down how you are feeling after the 'rehab' period in order to compare the progress you've made.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my thoughts on social media and their impact on people's wellbeing and mental health. Let me know in the comments what your views on this topic are! 

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