With technology moving ever faster, platforms from YouTube and MySpace to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram drop in and out of fashion with bewildering speed. On the plus side, social media can improve user’s sense of community, self-expression and self-identity. How it’s used obviously plays a major role, but it’s perhaps worth noting that a recent survey rated YouTube as the most positive – with Instagram coming bottom. The BBC described the latter as ‘the worse social media platform when it comes to young people’s mental health’.

Information overload is easy when you’re presented with the random thoughts, favourite TV shows, and home-cooked dinners of a 100 people you half-know. In comparison, our own lives can seem rather dull – hence the popularity of the very modern acronym: FOMO – or Fear of Missing Out. As our connections multiply – many of us feel lonely gazing through a computer window at the airbrushed lives of others.

Insomnia is a common symptom of anxiety and depression and staring at your smartphone at 2am rarely soothes the mind. Many – young and old – discuss the stress induced by following social media… how ever-widening social circles are diluted rather than enriched… how Facebook friends are less reliable than real ones… how the apparent glamorous lives of others make us question the adequacy of our own existence.

Taking back control

To begin better self-management of the stresses of social media it can help to take a mindful approach to see how how much it helps or hinders our everyday life.

Notice how often you check your social media and how often it brings new meaning or happiness to your life and which parts of it have a positive or negative influence on how you feel.  Notice if there are triggers for when you habitually for social media rather than check it in a choiceful way.

In therapy, we encourage people to look into themselves to discover what they really want away from the distracting demands and influences of others. Detaching yourself from a multitude of confusing and contradictory worlds on social media may help provide similar insight to think about how you spend your time.

Further information

If you are worried about the effects of social media on yourself or someone you know, speak to your GP about how counselling may help.

The report discussed is by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), an independent charity working to improve the health and well-being of the public. It gives recommendations for those with influence in changing social media habits, such as schools, organisations and governments.

For the full report, go to https://www.nhs.uk/news/food-and-diet/instagram-ranked-worst-for-mental-health-in-teen-survey/


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