Social media has changed the way we think. We can’t live without internet. Social media websites now the part of our life as we use it for business and personal purposes. But it is effecting our mental health. Let’s learn how social media is effecting our life and how we can use it perfectly.
If you ask someone today if their constant use of Facebook or other social media platforms is affecting their lives adversely, you will most likely get dissenting responses. Almost everyone will sing eons of praise without admitting that it is actually causing any mental disruption in their lives.
While it is true that it helps us remain connected with friends and family and it provides us useful platforms and tools to promote and grow our business, it is also true that social media is addictive and changes our perception of life in the virtual world as compared to the real world. This can have myriad types of mental health issues that lurk in the subconsciousness until we admit that its time to reanalyse our opinion of social media and its ills.
The largest demographic that use social media today are the younger generation. More often than not, they are obsessed about their profiles and what people think about them. They eagerly wait for likes and comments on every single post or status update, just like anyone of us would do normally but they become totally addicted to it, thinking about nothing else but their image on social media.
Where they falter is when they have a lot of expectations about other’s favourable responses and are always comparing their lives with others despite having totally different backgrounds and circumstances in their lives. When these expectations are not met and people comment critically about their looks or their status they feel very dejected and often fall prey to negative self identity issues and low self confidence.
If this happens over a period of time, people become depressed and anxious leaving themselves prone to other mental health issues. I know several teenagers, both girls and boys who become extremely sad and angry when they don’t get many likes on their selfies. They check their facebook notifications every 10 mins expecting likes and comments, which keeps their minds totally occupied leaving no time for other important issues at home, school and work.
Everything else takes a backseat in their life and when someone puts so much emphasis on their social media while ignoring other basic but crucial things in life, they are bound to feel dejected and down if things do not go their way. They have a new term for this addiction of social media nowadays- FOMO, or the Fear of missing out, which keeps them glued to their phones checking out their social media at the cost of their mental health at all times of the day and sometimes even nights.
One 14 year old girl in my neighborhood admitted to me that she feels trapped inside the vicious circle of social media. She cannot leave it and she cannot bear the intense stress of keeping up with the others who are richer and better looking.
There is constant pressure at her age to post new selfies each day in new clothes to maintain a fashion savvy image, to post check-ins at new places to show how much she travels and then there is the need to feel liked and loved by posting intelligent or funny status updates that make her look cool. In her own words, all this has left her a wreck. She says she cannot focus on her studies, is always arguing with her parents who want her to get un-stuck from her phone and talk like a normal member of the family. But she can’t help it.
Caught in a web of social media and the desire to be liked by as many people as possible, she and many others like her are slowly losing their own identity. They start to develop a fake identity for themselves and hide behind a mask of illusion and lies to appear cool or trendy in the eyes of her friends on social media. This fake identity slowly seeps into their real psychology as well as behaviour and they become a different version of themselves, just to please people on social media. In my opinion there couldn’t be a worse mental health problem if a person loses his or her own identity for the sake of others on social media.
Social media can be bad not just for you mental health but your reputation also. If your profile password falls into the wrong hands or gets hacked you can only hope that wrong things are not posted via your profile. I remember a friend’s Facebook account got hacked last year and the hacker used it to post offensive images with sexual and abusive content. For everyone else on his profile like his family and friends it looked like he was posting all that garbage and many angry people called him up to demand an explanation. The damage to his reputation and the insane amount of stress and humiliation left him a torn man. He was under depression for several weeks before positive words of encouragement lifted his spirits again.
Social media is also bad for mental health because it glamorises the use of drugs and alcohol. Teenagers feels pressurised to adopt habits that other popular kids are used to and flaunt like its a medal or something designating them as chilled-out.
They start to compare their life with others and imitate everything even it’s a bad habit like smoking or drinking, and all this just because they want to appear cool and fit in with the rest of the hip crowd. They also pick up offensive language and derogatory slang on their way with these so called cool people and start using them in their real life too. While they are trying their best to outdo each other in abuses of all kinds, many people face cyber-bullying on social media, leading to pent up anger which is released in the real world, in their homes, schools and offices, causing severe mental harassment to others too.
Agreed, that even though social media is beneficial for us in certain ways, there is a flip side to it which shows us that continuous overuse of social media can be bad for mental health. Undoubtedly, it is one of the best ways to reach out to people in a non obtrusive ways. If used the way it is meant to be- in moderation and with the right intentions, social media can really be a wonderfully productive and entertaining thing for everyone. But if someone becomes too emotionally invested and addicted to social media, it can have tremendous impact on our mental health.