Today we’re exploring how the internet affects mental health and sharing some of our solutions to reduce the negative impact of social media…
Across the world, technology plays an integral part in many people’s lives and children seem to be using it from younger and younger. This, of course, is not such a bad thing if it is used for learning and socialising mindfully. Most of us have a selection of tech now – a phone, tablet, laptop and consoles. And we all spend a lot of time on the internet, social media channels, messaging and playing games.
With this access at our fingertips, we need to consider what we are exposing ourselves to – good and bad. Not only this, but how it can affect us at any age too. You can find out practically anything online now, which has many benefits but also can be very dangerous to any of us. It is great that Facebook/Instagram have announced new rules for posts about weight loss products, self-harm and cosmetic surgery. This is a step in the right direction whereby unrealistic promotions will be taken down and young people will be restricted from viewing some posts.
It’s important to remember that not everything you see online (social media especially) is an accurate reflection.
It’s a highlight reel, could be fabricated or could be completely ‘fake news’. It is so easy to see and believe what you want to believe and be influenced, especially when you are vulnerable and/or insecure. This can put so much pressure and stress on us, affecting our mental health and wellbeing. We feel we need to strive for perfection, we experience unnecessary FOMO/jealousy and conform with society to look, feel, think and behave a certain way.
It’s bad enough when somebody is being bullied face to face but unfortunately today, cyber bullying is very prevalent. It doesn’t just come from people but from brands too.
Years ago, when there was little to no technology around, we could go home after school or work and get away from any bullying that took place during the day. Of course, the feelings of distress, hurt, stress and anxiety still existed but there was a bit of a break away from the situation. Nowadays, bullies can use false, harmful and hurtful words, share private information and post images on social media/via messaging apps with the pure intent of embarrassing or humiliating us. This is an absolutely devastating and traumatic situation for anybody to have to experience and we begin to feel frightened, isolated, embarrassed and do not know who to turn to, to seek help. There is the stress and anxiety of not feeling safe even in our own homes and having to go into school/work the following day.
The thoughts and feelings experienced with life changes are often exacerbated by the consumption of online content.
Growing up and going through changes in your life can be difficult enough to cope with (puberty, changing schools, exams, starting a new job, leaving home, going to university, starting a new relationship, separating, starting a family, experiencing grief, abuse or other traumatic events) without the added negative pressures from our digital age. Some struggle to cope with these changes and find that their physical and mental health starts to suffer, sometimes developing into depression, self-harming, a mental illness and in some cases, suicide. Many people find themselves in a position whereby they are afraid to speak out (perhaps because they’ve seen comments from others or they fear that it’s not serious enough as others in the world are far worse off) and their poor mental health can go undetected and untreated.
On the other hand, there is a positive aspect in that there are positive movements on social media which come together to promote issues such as body positivity, sharing their mental health stories online and communities of people experiencing the same things – whether it’s having a baby or going through a divorce, showing others you can get through it rather than keep things bottled up.
Here are 10 habits to improve your mental health and reduce the negative impact of social media:
- Unfollow/remove anybody who doesn’t make you feel good about yourself.
- Use the mute or block function on social media/messaging/gaming apps.
- Report abuse to social networks on your own messages/posts and others.
- Turn off notifications or remove the apps from your devices.
- Delete anything from your bookmarks/’to read’ or ‘to watch’ list which no longer appeals to you, to reduce overwhelm.
- Amend your privacy settings including the advertising settings so you have more control over who can find out information about you and target you with it.
- Join groups and threads that do make you feel good and/or understood.
- Schedule time in where you don’t use any technology and instead do something mindful and fulfilling like walking, painting, journaling, cooking or playing.
- Check in with yourself and your use of technology – how does it make you feel? How much is it taking over your life? Do you need to make any changes?
- Seek help and advice – visit your GP and/or contact us.
There needs to be more of an awareness and understanding of the early signs and symptoms of a mental illness and what is being consumed online should be taken into consideration too.
Find out more about this topic in our new mini book, ‘Trauma Redefined’.
*All proceeds go towards charities supported by The Brunner Project