Protect your account, protect your mind

a post by Holly Clark, student of COM0011 – Introduction to social media.

While I may consider myself a self-professed social media fanatic who undoubtedly understands the professional benefits possible with such tools, I definitely recognize the reality that social media, if abused or used violently, can be detrimental to mental health and social stability.

With great power, comes great responsibility, and social media is a perfect example of that.

I read this Guardian article recently and it sparked my interest, not only because it hit a nerve, but because it provided results issued from a British public engagement group I used to volunteer for called Involve.

The article states that approximately 3,400 young people, aged 14-25, were surveyed in England and expressed extreme discontent with the state of social media, outlining some very worrisome repercussions. What struck me initially was how displeased and self-aware these youth are about social media; I think we see kids these days snapping and tweeting, glued to their screens and automatically assume that not only are they enjoying every minute of our social revolution, but they’ve truly just got it all “figured out”, whilst we less knowledgeable elderly users struggle to figure out which hash tag to use.

It’s actually kind of reaffirming to know that young people see the benefits, but also the pitfalls and threats associated with social media.

When I think about my own relationship with social media, I can recount a number of times I’ve felt anxiety about it all. I mean, I think we all have. You break up with your boyfriend, and then your Facebook news feed informs you he’s “liked” a picture of a pretty girl you’ve never seen before. Jealously ensues. You see your best friend has created an event, to which you haven’t been invited: loneliness and isolation seeps in. These types of scenarios are countless. Sometimes scrolling through social media feels like sitting alone in the corner at a party, listening to people’s conversations, hearing your name, and trying to act coy while you eavesdrop. How can you say that’s healthy for the mind?

beach beautiful blue child

Photo by Pixabay on

I was impressed with the intelligent suggestions put forth by some of these students in the article. One suggestion addressed the need for a “social media mental health service” through which people can access online support. Imagine that, online support for bullying?

Another point highlighted the possibility of hiding notifications about who liked what, from certain people. A great suggestion, for sure, but at what point are we censoring and shaping an unpredictable life force that was originally intended to be a free-for-all in the realm of free expression?

Social media is a platform for people to express themselves; whether you like what they have to say or not – so are we expected to just take the bad with the good? Is it possible to shelter people from things they don’t want to see online? And if that’s the case, I just worry that social media will take us further down this trail of inauthenticity. We’re always only posting the positive things; my aunt had a baby, I just got engaged, everything is great, everything is perfect. Apply filter, force a smile, and project your perfect image to the outside world. If we’re hiding from the negative things online, are we hiding from reality even more?

I’m sort of playing devil’s advocate here, because the truth is I actually do believe we need to address the mental health impacts of social media; and I think implementing some kind of online service would be very beneficial. I can’t even imagine would it would be like to be a child today. Being bullied in school was hard enough – adding abusive Facebook posts to the mix just sounds treacherous. So yes, I do like where this article is taking us. And I think studies like this need to be performed and written about more often. I understand we’re all here in class to celebrate the benefits of social media, which is great, but to ignore the darkness of it all would be naïve. So let’s address it.

It’s all fun and games until someone gets bullied! British public engagement firm Involve surveyed youth aged 15-25 about the severe mental health effects from social media, and here’s what they had to say. Is it time to take action? #mentalhealth #cyberbullying

protect your account, protect your mind – how much anxiety does social media cause you? #mentalhealth #cyberbullying

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