Self, Health And Wellness

How Social Media Influences The Way We Talk About Mental Health

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social media and mental health

There are plenty of discussions about whether social media has done more help or harm to our society. On one hand, social media has allowed us to receive news at a faster rate than ever before. Another perk would be that no matter where you are in the world, you can connect with people you never would have otherwise had an interaction with.

On the other hand, social media has made us disconnected from the people immediately around us. So much time is spent on social media that we forget to enjoy living in the moment. It has also negatively impacted us by making it easier to compare ourselves to others. We see pictures of social media “models” and can’t help but to compare the number of likes they receive to our own. One’s self esteem can be extremely lowered.

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So, after hearing both sides, I noticed that I agreed with those who thought social media had done more harm than good. This is specifically because of how social media has influenced mental health.

Mental health is defined as “a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.” It is important as it determines how we act, think, and feel.

I’ll be the first to admit that as a young woman who is still learning to accept who she is, social media has put me in a bad mental state at times. I recall being on social media and instantly feeling inferior to my peers. Feeling this way was never intentional, but I couldn’t help but to look at how some people posted and received interaction from others within minutes, while I could post and get no response at all.

I felt more isolated than anything.

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This made me think about all the other people around the world who experience anxiety, isolation and other negative feelings as a result of social media.

We must acknowledge that understanding our mental health and the state of our well-being is important at all times, especially in a world where social media is influencing how we feel on the inside. Here's how social media can affect your mental health:

1. Social media gives us a lowered sense of self-worth.

One of the most common ways that social media has negatively impacted society is by lowering a person’s self-esteem, which contributes to their overall mental health. For some, their feeling of self-worth comes from the number of likes they receive on a post. If they aren’t receiving the same attention as others, they can’t help but to wonder if they aren’t as good looking or successful.

For others, social media reminds them that they aren’t as social or as liked as they would hope to be. When seeing a group of friends hanging out, posting videos of how much fun they are having, it is easy to feel left out and wonder why we weren’t invited.

There becomes this genuine fear of missing out, which can cause a person to feel even more anxious and isolated than they previously did.

2. We tend to over-share and, in turn, are disappointed by people's reactions to what we post.

It is often scary to admit how something is making you feel, especially when you might be ashamed of how you feel in the first place. As a result, people take a chance by turning to social media to vent. It is supposed to be an open outlet, right? They do this in hopes that the right someone will see a post and take the next step to reach out and find out if they are ok.

However, a lot of times this is not the case. That is partially because social media has made it hard to tell if a person is being serious or not… another negative impact.

Mental health, though talked about more openly on social media, is not always talked about seriously.

Think about all the times you have been scrolling down your timeline and seen pictures and or videos of people recording themselves with tears falling down their face. Did you actually think they were being genuine, or that they were just looking for attention? I personally am guilty of hesitating before I decide if it is real or not. But why is this?

It's partially because for some it is hard to understand why a person that is truly hurting wouldn’t just seek immediate help from people around them instead of posting on social media. This could be a family member, a friend, a lover or a professional. Social media allows us to assume that we know a person’s circumstance, and that they should be doing what we would do. It is not that easy.

This mindset has made it so that real cries for help can be easily mistaken as cries for attention — and therefore people’s declining mental states are just brushed to the side. It is not until something actually happens, like a person seriously harming themselves, that we realize they needed help. And by then it's often too late.

3. Social media causes us to represent only one side of ourselves.

That leads us to how social media allows us to overlook the warning signs we receive from a person with bad mental health.

Too many of us have been guilty of masking our true feelings on social media by saying something along the lines of “my posts are not an accurate representation of who I am.” When statements like this are made, we are taking away our own credibility. So, when you are actually really feeling down and post about it, people think nothing of it. For all they know you are posting just to post. But all the sad emojis and messages about being in a dark place were real, even if you disguised them with laughter.

Social media makes us forget that people laugh to truly hide the pain. It makes the conversation about mental health easier to handle.

4. We tend to care more about the "likes" than actually having a conversation. 

However, this can backfire when these conversations become superficial and aren’t followed with actions. Social media has turned having a conversation into simply liking or disliking a post as a response or creating a hashtag. Yes, comments can be made, but that is usually followed by more likes and dislikes. The real issues are being ignored.

Like anything else, social media has its pros and cons. When it comes to mental health, there are still ways in which social media can be used to better influence how seriously we take the mental state of others.

This starts with each individual being willing to get a better understanding of mental health so as a society we can address better address it on social media, a place where we spend a lot of our time.

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Alexis George is a writer who covers love, relationship advice, astrology and personality topics.