Health

Social Media and the Complexities of Mental Health

Social Media and the Complexities of Mental Health

By Joy Emiabata

 

Happy Diamond Age

Social media has revolutionized the way netizens connect, communicate, and share experiences and lifestyles with one another

With billions of users worldwide, platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube X (formerly Twitter), among other social media platforms, have become an integral part of daily lives of the people.

However, beneath the surface of likes, comments, and shares lies a complex and paradoxical relationship between social media and mental health.

While social media presents opportunities for connection, it also casts a shadow on the mental well-being of people. The constant exposure to curated, idealized versions of others’ lives can lead to a pervasive sense of inadequacy and social comparison.

There is a dark side to social networking that many of us may not be aware of. While we may have hundreds or thousands of online friends and followers, we may also feel lonely, isolated, and disconnected from our real-life relationships. This is what some researchers call the paradox of social networking.

Social Media is like a double-edged sword. On one hand, social media offers a sense of community, connection, and validation. It provides a platform for people to share their experiences, receive support, and build relationships.

On the other hand, excessive social media use has been linked to increased symptoms of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. People have thousands of likes but deep down, they are like a boat sailing alone on the blue sea. People use social media as a mask to get off the reality of life. This dichotomy raises important questions about the true impact of social media on mental health.

Furthermore, the Comparison Trap social media platforms showcase the highlight reels of others’ lives, making it easy to compare and feel inferior. We see our friends’ exotic vacations, perfect relationships, and successful careers, and can’t help but wonder why our own lives don’t measure up.

This constant comparison can lead to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and a distorted view of reality. The fear of missing out is a big hurdle people find themselves stuck with.

Social media’s real-time updates create a sense of urgency, making us feel like we need to stay connected 24/7.

Students lack concentration in class just because of the messages or gist they have yet to discuss online.

Narrowing it down to the church setting, do brethren still listen to sermons? This fear of missing out can lead to anxiety, stress, and a never-ending cycle of notification checking. We’re constantly wondering what we might be missing, rather than focusing on the present moment.

Also, social media creates an illusion of connection which often lacks depth and intimacy. We may have thousands of followers but feel isolated and alone. This disparity between online connections and real-life relationships can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and disconnection.

People have tons of mutual friends on social media platforms but have no friends in their real world. Social networking platforms reduce the quality and depth of our interactions with others. We may spend more time scrolling through our feeds, liking and commenting on posts, than having meaningful conversations with our online friends. We may also neglect or take for granted our offline friends and family members who need our attention and care. We may lose the ability to empathize, listen, and understand others on a deeper level.

Social media’s anonymous nature can also lead to cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person with harassment, and hate speech. This toxic environment can have severe consequences for mental health, particularly for vulnerable individuals like teenagers and young adults.

Parents with children who have any form of disability Social media’s emphasis on physical appearance likes, and followers can lead to a skewed sense of self-worth.

We may feel pressure to present a perfect online persona, hiding our true selves and insecurities. This constant scrutiny can damage self-esteem and body image.

Social media algorithms prioritize engagement and attention-grabbing content, often promoting sensational and divisive material. This can create an echo chamber effect, where we’re only exposed to information that confirms our existing beliefs, rather than being challenged and informed.

So, how can we navigate this paradox and promote healthier social media habits?

By recognizing the potential pitfalls and taking steps to mitigate them. This includes setting boundaries, engaging in offline activities, and cultivating meaningful relationships.

Our world shouldn’t revolve around social media alone, there are more to do out there.

In conclusion, the mental health paradox of social media is complex and multifaceted. While it offers connection and community, it also perpetuates comparison, anxiety, and loneliness. By acknowledging these contradictions and taking steps to create a healthier online environment, we can harness the benefits of social media while protecting our mental well-being.

It’s time to rethink our relationship with social media and prioritize our mental health in the digital age.

Joy Emiabata is an undergraduate of the Department of English Education, Lagos State University, Ojo.

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