Social Media and Mental Health: The Big Debate
With the advent of digitization, thanks to tech giants, we now have everything at our fingertips; be it our friends, education, healthcare and even groceries. If this is a boon or a bane for humankind is a larger discussion.
When we look at the theme of social media and mental health, there are various viewpoints to be explored: negative and positive contributions in mental health which are direct and about mental health and indirect ways in which social media is affecting our mental health.
Before we delve deeper into we must look at this statistical data which speaks for itself: 3.81 billion people actively engaged in the use of social media in the year 2020, which is an almost 10% tops compared to 2019.
One thing that social media thrives on is trends. The themes and trends for be it anything: conversation, fashion, market, policies keep changing rapidly. It can be Jennifer Aniston joining Instagram, a protest, political instability, using new filters for our selfies or ‘bussing it’s out onto new songs in our reels. With this speed of change and lack of long term stability or even time for one trend to well settle in before the new one pops out is minimal.
With the advent of digitization, crime and bullying have also increased in folds. There are multiple instances of young girls being catfished and flashed at, or harassment, leaking and editing of pictures. All sorts of people from different age groups network via different social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, line, discord, Twitter and many more.
Young girls are coerced and manipulated into sharing their pictures or engaging in obscene activities by different men, even called for dates and later kidnapped or engaged into comes which traumatizes them. It can cause lifelong trauma and disturbances, especially Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It targets teenagers, who already going through overwhelming times when restricted by their parents after looking at the things happening on social media, creates disharmony and discord among parents and children.
We are also, unfortunately, ware of the Bois Locker Room incident which involved intense bullying, sexual harassment and a memory unforgettable for those involved with years of therapy. Cyberbullying has increased a lot via the availability of literally most of the aspects of an individual’s life.
This also involves stalking and shaming people from different accounts. The policies these social media handles have utterly slow response mechanism for reporting bullies or fake profiles and involve sharing your official documentation which might scare away many teenagers, leading them to continue enduring bullying.
This bullying is also extended to areas such as hate speech, sexual and violent content posted online and fat-shaming.
There has also been an increase in the online streaming of suicide and people posting videos. As sensitive this is, it horrifies and traumatizes any viewer and the family of the victim in whose memories the visuals of their loved one taking their own life is etched forever.
With everything just a click or tap away, the restrain of not sharing everything in life online is slowly vanishing away. Snapchat stories and streaks maintaining audience engagement is creating a feeling of fake self and imposter syndrome in people, where they are highlight socially desirable and normative parts of their life, which makes them feel hollow and discrepant within ourselves. Visiting a place, attending a marriage or even having food at a restaurant has become about getting that perfect shot.
A question arises that why do universities like Harvard and Oxford have resources and access to applicants social media and they reject applicants based on offensive content but the forces which should keep a tab on these activities, and those media sites themselves do not monitor the content being posted and sometimes don’t take action even after being reported!
Having focused on the negatives, there are positive aspects too, such as increased mental health movements.
People have found a community online which is supportive and sensitive and is trying to bring out and normalize experiences we all have but do not talk about.
Many people are getting to know about therapy, mental health issues, about what classifies as abuse, how to tackle these things which are enabling the youth to take action and charge of themselves, stand up for what is right and rebuild the societally enforced moral system which may have outdated elements.
Social media engagement has also been a boon for business and emergencies. Small businesses are now being enabled and many startups are coming through which directly helps in breaking the empire of Bourgeois capitalists and also contributing positively to the economy.
It has given voice to the voices in creating awareness on social media and getting responses via a cry for help be it abuse, medical emergencies, or in dire times such as the pandemic, it has helped create positivity, shared experiences and of different people in the world, and helped create awareness.
Amidst the negatives and positives, we see there are both sides available to the same coin. Where we talk about having a safe community online also contrasts with the vulnerability it brings with uncertainty. As there are dark spots even on the moon, I believe if the user policies can be developed in a more safety-oriented manner with more supervision of the content being posted without violating the privacy of users.
“The first rule of social media is that everything changes all the time. What won’t change is the community’s desire to network.” — Kami Huyse, PR & social media strategist, entrepreneur, CEO Zoetica Media