Health: Anti-social social media?
The internet has created a whole new world of interaction between people in the form of social media. Woman asks how sociable is it really?
Sit on a bus, train or even in a coffee shop and the one thing you’ll notice these days is a lack of conversation. Another thing you’ll notice are people with shoulders hunched, heads dropped and eyes glued to a mobile phone or tablet quietly swiping the screen.
Gone are the days of giving someone a quick call to catch up with each other’s lives, now it’s all too easy to scroll through Facebook posts to see whose been where and done what.
These days it’s rare to see youngsters playing out in the street, riding bikes and building dens. Now it’s numerous games of Fifa or Snapchatting their way through their day.
But it’s not just youngsters, it’s all ages who are afflicted by the curse of social media – it’s a sign of the digital times.
Around three billion people, which works out at around 40 per cent of the world’s population, use online social media – and we’re spending an average of two hours every day sharing, liking, tweeting and updating on these platforms, according to some reports (that’s the equivalent of 30 days a year an entire month).
The effect all this time spent on these sites varies from person to person and of course, not all of it is negative but a lot of it is. Issues that have been highlighted by prolonged use include stress, depression, low moods, sleep issues, anxiety, an impact on self-esteem, possible addiction, relationship problems, envy, isolation and an effect on general well-being.
It appears that many of us are not enjoying the negative effects that come with social media nor the pressure that can be associated with it and although there can be positives to using these sites, it’s important to be aware of the negatives. More than four in 10 social users (43 per cent) report to having a negative experience according to research from Bupa.
Some people even have ‘breaks’ from sites such as Facebook or Twitter in order to regroup and build up. The research revealed that more than a third (35 per cent) of Brits have either deleted a social media profile or taken a break with the majority of such ‘social breaks’ initiated in the last 12 months (63 per cent).
Pablo Vandenabeele, Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK, says: “Social media is great for keeping in contact and up-to-date with family and friends but it can also evoke a range of emotions within us. For many their use of social media is largely positive and negative feelings do not last long, but a sustained feeling of inadequacy can lead to poor mental health so it is encouraging to see that people are taking breaks if they need to.”
The research also suggests that the older generation are more resilient social media users as most people aged 55 plus don’t experience any ill effects (82 per cent).
“We are now far more open about mental health issues, so it is worrying that some social media users feel pressurised to appear happy all the time,” Pablo continues. “We launched our Direct Access service as early intervention can aid a quicker recovery, but this mask of happiness could mean that an underlying mental health condition goes unresolved.”
Social media will affect people differently and personality traits, underlying issues or pre-exisiting conditions will contribute to how someone reacts to what they see on these sites.
Emotional overload? How to handle a digital dilemma
- Limit social media access to a couple of times a day for a few minutes at a time – there are apps that can help to monitor usage.
- Look at the positive sides of social media – it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends and family and keep up to date with their lives.
- If certain people’s posts upset you, consider deleting them or unfollowing them. Update your settings to see the posts that don’t trigger negative feelings.
- Remind yourself that people can choose what they show – don’t take everything at face value.
- Be mindful of how your own posts can negatively affect others.
- If you constantly feel negative emotions when using social media, it’s time to consider deleting your accounts, or at least taking a mental health break.
- If your negative feelings don’t go away, seek medical help.
Tips from Bupa