April 15, 2016
Like any other digital tool, social media is only as good as its users and developers allow it to be. From sharing statuses to posting photos and video clips, the core of social media is on creating community. But what does it say when a vast majority of us don’t see it that way – when instead of using our social media platforms to create the community we want to see, we fear its power to expand our feelings of anxiety, guilt, and loneliness?
How do we engage on social media while still placing our self-care and personal wellness as a priority?
Going Beyond “Just FOMO”
To be fair, social media isn’t the only culprit to this. If anything, we just now have easier access to these feelings because social media amplifies the best and worst of these feelings. There is a disconnect between who we are offline and the version of ourselves that we want to share online. With filters and selective uploading, we’re free to customize the versions of ourselves we want to share in the digital spaces we most frequent – which can either lead to positive or negative experiences.
As Facebook user Amber Smith shared with her friends earlier this week, this disconnect between offline and online personas can have devastating effects on our mental health and well-being. The National Alliance on Mental Health reports that approximately one in five adults in the U.S “experience mental health illness in a given year”. They also report that one in five youth aged 13 to 18 years experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life”. Though there is a growing concern on the role that social media plays with amplifying these experiences, there’s still an overwhelmingly low amount of research to fully explore this.
It’s not just simple jealousy and “fear or missing out” that’s affecting us; as social media becomes more centralized in our daily interactions and lives, we risk losing the ability to effectively communicate and connect with others, as well as seeking adequate coping measures for those living with mental illness.
The Key? Balance
It’s paramount that we begin to recenter personal wellness into our lives. Incorporating more face-to-face interaction with as many people as possible is a crucial step, but also limiting screen time can also be helpful. Young adults are especially susceptible to the negative effects of social media – many social interactions for them happen through social media.
As those interested in the tech and startup space, it’s important that we don’t neglect our mental health and seek out ways to incorporate a life beyond the WiFi connection.
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