Social media, love it or hate it, it’s a part of our lives. Man or woman, young or old, shy or outgoing, nearly everyone engages in social media in some way. In fact, the average user spends a little over two hours a day on social media platforms. It seems to be the new way we communicate and engage with those around us; we use it to find friends and potential dates, to join groups to talk about our interests and concerns, to peruse pictures to see what others are up to, what’s trending, and even what’s going on in the world.
So what does all this mean for our mental health? While we can find a lot of joy in social media, we can also find a lot of hurt and false information that can have a negative impact on our mental well being.
How can social media be good for mental health?
We’re not here to completely bash social media sites and apps! In fact, social platforms can be excellent for raising awareness about and for normalizing mental health care.
We use Facebook to share mental health resources and tips, the positive impact of counseling and fun happenings in our office. Others use social media to share their mental health struggles and how they’re coping. Over the years, we’ve seen more and more people reach out to each other over social media, combating loneliness and destigmatizing a wide range of mental illnesses.
How can social media be bad for mental health?
As you probably already know, social media also has its dark side and can have a negative effect on your mental health. While social media can promote information that is fake, or simply untrue, much of it is in fact, factual. However, this information can be taken out of context or worse, not individualized to the whole person. At face value, this generalized information can be harmful to a person struggling with mental health issues.
Comparatively, here at Triani Counseling, we do extensive work on history gathering of each person’s current and past medical health issues, traumas, high-risk behaviors, if any, and many other factors before we ever begin treatment. When searching for mental health care, it’s imperative that a health care provider assesses you as an individual.
What are some recent trends in social media that can be harmful?
You may have encountered such things on TikTok or Instagram like “gentle parenting” or reels of young people showing their symptoms or tics of Tourette syndrome or borderline personality disorder (BPD.) In some cases, being inundated by this information can promote harmful thinking or actions. For example, as a parent watching gentle parenting reels, you may think that this is the ONLY way to parent and other parenting styles are harmful. People watching #TS or #BPD videos may have aggravated symptoms and be inclined to self-diagnose.
Overall, these “at-home” treatment options or schools of thought can be damaging. As providers, our big fear is that self-treatment is not as impactful as it truly needs to be for certain folks, leading to time wasted and symptoms exacerbated.
How can you combat the harmful effects of social media?
Fact check everything if you’re going to take it to heart! There can be some very good information out there (and there usually is!) However, take caution. Social media should be used as a tool to begin further research between oneself and their provider.
- Take the information you read and hear and present it to your practitioners and
- Use the information as a jumping off point to your own research. Pull from research that is publicly published in journals.
Fact checking is made free and very accessible these days through databases such as Google Scholar. As clinicians, we use Google Scholar to pull evidence based studies and up-to-date information.
Why do you need to connect with a mental health professional?
At the end of the day, clinicians are held to an oath of ethical and professional standards. Social media influencers are not. Even “clinicians” on social media may be operating under personal accounts or pages, and are not speaking to you as an individual, but rather in a very general and, possibly, inapplicable manner.
Remember, don’t over immerse yourself in information which can be overwhelming at such high volumes and therefore, damaging. Take a break from social media every once in a while.
If you’re struggling with mental health issues, please reach out! We, as licensed, educated and fact checking clinicians, are here to treat you as an individual with a unique history, needs and goals.