The role of social media

Statistics around the world indicate that mental health has deteriorated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Is social media partially responsible?

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What are the links between mental health status and social media use during the pandemic? We are investigating. Image credit: Koukichi Takahashi / EyeEm / Getty Images

Globally, social media can be a way for people to gather information, share ideas, and connect with others facing similar challenges. It can also be an effective platform for quickly relaying information during a national or global crisis.

This global reach is what has made social media an important communication platform during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As government health organizations have used it to relay recent findings on prevention and treatment, social media has become more than a place to post the latest holiday photos – it’s become a hub for information about the pandemic.

Stay up to date with live updates on the current COVID-19 outbreak and visit our Coronavirus Center for more advice on prevention and treatment.

But has social media use during the pandemic negatively affected mental health and well-being? Or did it have the opposite effect?

In this special feature, Medical news today It looks at what research says about social media use and the COVID-19 pandemic to reveal how it affects mental health. We also spoke with two experts on this complex topic.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health cases are on the rise. The data show that about 20% of children and adolescents around the world suffer from a mental health condition.

Furthermore, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a report was published by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) It was found that of the adults surveyed in the United States:

in addition to Research It points out that mental health challenges associated with the pandemic affected people differently, with some racial and ethnic groups being disproportionately affected by the pandemic stress.

In particular, Hispanic adults reported the highest level of psychosocial stress related to food shortages and unsafe housing at the onset of the epidemic.

A research report published in frontiers in psychology It indicates an association between epidemic threats and anxiety and high anxiety among the public.

Scientists explain that some concern about personal safety and health during a large-scale outbreak can help promote healthy behaviour, including hand washing and social distancing.

However, in some people, anxiety can become overwhelming and cause harm.

The use of social media has been increasing since its first appearance in 1995. As it grew, more people started using it as a news source. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center between August 31 and September 7, 2020, about 53% of adults in the United States get their news from social media.

research It suggests that social media can help effectively communicate health information to a global audience during a public health crisis. However, information shared on these platforms can sometimes be inaccurate or misleading.

For example, one research review was published in Journal of Medical Internet Research I looked at social media posts prior to March 2019 and found that Twitter contains the most misinformation about health – mostly about smoking products and medicines.

This misinformation about health can lead to increased fear, anxiety, and poor health choices.

According to one study, attempts to reduce the spread of misinformation by fact-checking and reporting inaccurate posts may help reduce the impact of misinformation on some people.

However, there is still an ongoing debate about whether regulating social media content may increase distrust and promote more social media posts that reflect inaccurate information.

With the recent emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists are only beginning to understand the role of social media in users’ mental health.

For example, using questionnaires, researchers in China conducted interviews 512 College students from March 24 to April 1, 2020, to determine whether social media has harmed mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The findings suggest a link between increased social media use and an increased risk of depression. Furthermore, the authors suggest that exposure to negative reports and posts may contribute to the risk of depression in some people.

Plus, according to a study that appeared in the journal globalization and healthThere is growing evidence that the endless news feed reporting SARS-CoV-2 infection rates and COVID-19 death rates can affect the mental health of some individuals.

MNT I spoke with Lee Chambers, MA, MBPs.S, founder of Essentialise, about the impact of social media on mental health during the pandemic.

Chambers said:

“While we are all affected in different ways by the consumption of social media, the constant flow of negative and misleading information over the past 18 months has spread fear; highlighting social and political issues has reduced optimism; and altered images and toxic positive content leave no space to feel safe or to express Healthily negative emotions. Combined with the increased desire for metrics like likes and comments in these challenging times, social media is likely to have exacerbated mental health challenges.”

He also explained that social media keeps people in touch with friends and family, especially during social distancing with limited physical interactions. However, this increased use may have amplified social anxiety and challenges to perfectionism and comparison in some people.

He told Professor Stephen C. Hayes, professor of foundational psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno, who developed the relational framework theory and acceptance and commitment therapy, MNT: “We know that there are toxic processes that produce special challenges for people: exposure to physical and psychological pain; comparison with others and judgment; entanglement with self-judgment.”

He further stated that “[t]Hose predicts pathological outcomes if you are not able to step back and observe the process of feeling and thinking, orienting to what is and what is really important to you and lining up your behavior behind it.”

He added, “And social media, because of its exposure to pain comparison and judgment, challenges all of us tremendously in ways of magnitude more dangerous than ever before in human history. These processes have been toxic from the start, but exposure to those processes as a new daily food.” [However]There are features within social media that have expanded human consciousness. It gives us great opportunities.”

As stated by Professor Hayes, these opportunities may include raising awareness of mental health and reducing the stigma surrounding mental health conditions.

Posted in Journal of Medical Internet Research It indicates that psychosocial expressions have increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This means that more people express their feelings, both positive and negative, and get support from others. As a result, the stigma surrounding mental health conditions may decline.

Professor Hayes noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has exploded the idea that mental health conditions only affect certain individuals.

“Everyone recognizes that mental strength and mental resilience – that is, mental and behavioral health and social wellness – applies to all of us. It’s not a one-in-five issue. It’s five out of five, and that’s the lasting score for this year and a half. [COVID-19]. “

Professor Stephen C. Hayes

With emerging research suggesting that social media may affect the mental health of some users, some platforms are beginning to initiate positive changes.

For example, on September 14, 2021, the social media platform TikTok announced new features for its users to help provide resources for suicide prevention.

But can they do more?

According to Chambers: “Social media platforms play a major role in how their products impact the mental health and well-being of their users. There are many aspects where this can be achieved. However, the challenge is that [using] Most will reduce addiction, engagement, and time spent. This often goes against the goals of the platform itself.”

It suggests that social media platforms could consider improvements to mental health protection, including:

  • Determine the length of the news feed
  • Change how notifications work
  • Edited photo label
  • Introducing stronger regulation and control of content designed to do harm
  • Implementation of suggestions that users can take a break
  • Tagging evidence-based resources and supporting posts that may be stimulating
  • Ensuring clearer guidelines and greater ability for users to easily control sensitive content

According to Chambers, “When it comes to [using] On social media, moderation in time, consuming content, and intent all play an important role in reaping the benefits and minimizing the downsides.”

He suggests that getting a “digital sunset” before retiring at night can help ensure that anxiety does not affect sleep. In addition, spending a day devoid of social media can positively affect mental health.

“The ultimate goal is for us to become the masters of social media, rather than social media to become our masters.”

– Lee Chambers

Professor Hayes noted that although mental health affects everyone to some degree, this does not mean that all people should undergo treatment.

Instead, he suggested that[w]Everyone should learn how to be responsible for our own mental and behavioral strength and resilience. and seeking resources, just as we do while promoting our physical health and resilience.”

“This will enable us to face a changing world that, yes, will involve regular exposure to pain, comparison and judgment,” he added.

He noted that this disclosure will also include the overwhelming reality of world events as they unfold.

“We need to step it up. And I see very hopeful signs that by using social media and technology and accessing the best that mental behavioral science can bring us, we can speed up the natural process that happens to gain wisdom. This will allow you to be more open to your thoughts and feelings. Being more consciously focused in the present moment and connected to others, and more focused on your deepest human values. [It will also allow you] to create habits around those rather than creating habits around fear, judgment, and comparison.”

Professor Stephen C. Hayes

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