Strathclyde Telegraph

Is social media dangerous?

HILVERSUM, NETHERLANDS – FEBRUARY 06, 2014: Social media are trending and both business as consumer are using it for information sharing and networking.

 

By Suvi Loponen

 

Whether we want to admit it or not, social media is a daily part of our lives. We are constantly updating snippets of our lives and emotions there. Phones – these electronic bricks – are glued to our hands even when we are walking on the streets and when visiting the bathroom. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, now even Periscope. There seems to be no limit to the channels for our social lives. Literally, there’s something for everyone.

This doesn’t sound like something that is at all helpful. In fact, it sounds like the worst kind of addiction. Which it is maybe not the worst, but the more important question is ‘why’? What is so cool about reading about other people’s lives and sharing our own, mostly to the limits of losing our privacy?

Last week I read from a women’s magazine about Facebook launching a new feature to prevent us stalking our exes. It enables you to choose what updates you see from your ex after changing your relationship status to ‘single’. Amazing, I thought, because if something is deteriorating to your mental health – i.e. constantly checking if the ex is doing better or worse than you – surely this can only be a good thing, right?

Maybe not everyone stalks their exes, but most of us have probably found ourselves looking at a profile that we did not intentionally seek to end up stalking – yet still did – just because it’s so easy. It’s not healthy and it’s not massively helpful either.

So, do other people’s stories help us? Is it like writing a diary when you pour your heart out on a Facebook update? Or is it just too much information, the type that causes more problems to our mental health when we feel like we are not equal to our peers?

Of course, relating to other people is something that helps. I see that my favourite yogi from Instagram is pouring her heart out of a psychopath ex-boyfriend and she can still bend into these impossible asanas – maybe I can do that as well. Then again, do I know this person? No, I don’t. Then again, will I ever be in the exact same situation: no. There are neither two identical people nor two identical lives. The only thing we can do is relate to a situation and that is sometimes not enough.

Writing about our emotions like social media is a public diary is easy, but is it possibly done to attain some pity, admiration and compassion rather than arouse rational conversation?

At least in my experience, the real conversation aspect of Facebook is long gone. It can easily be seen that social media acts as a show off – rather than being a place for honest, two-sided conversations and swapping opinions. Many people compare themselves to the excess of becoming miserable which then results to negative comments on their own posts or on others. Many fail to really live the life that they build for themselves through their social media updates, which leads to discontent and twisted self-image.

For those who do feel like this, there’s plenty of apps launched to work as online therapists. For example Talkspace helps people to get rid of social media addiction after admitting they even have one. It enables you to exchange short entries of writing about your feelings regarding social media; it does not take you to rehab or in any way restrict your social media use. It just makes you to write about your habits and then receive feedback from a professional therapist. Just like we can do to each other on Facebook: we write a story of a recent incident that happened in our lives, whether it was positive or negative, and then our friends can comment on it. It’s like free 24/7 therapy to use Facebook, or any other social media channel. Or, at least it could be.

What is sure, though, is that the therapeutic aspect of social media works even without your friend’s comments. When you scroll down your feed, dwelling into a few years back, and read your status updates, it might surprise how far you have come from those days. Or, how same your life still feels and looks. In any case, it will make you question your actions – whether you’re heading to the wrong or right direction.

Better even, it has been proved to work. Research have been made to show that social networks can be relatively powerful in treating depression which ironically is a key tool for causing such stress to a huge number of people. An American study involving 166 participants published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research tested a social a platform app for easing depression. The participants did hugely well in the study: they first learned to cope with their own problems by surveying their patterns of thoughts and then moved to communally help others.

And that’s what it is all about, isn’t it? Learning from your own and other’s problems, improving yourself. Then you can help also others.

 

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