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Preserving your sanity: the social media dilemma

Published: 
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
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Social media consumption is listed among factors than can affect a person’s mood, emotions, and overall mental wellbeing.

Think about it. The average person uses at least one social media platform daily. A global survey (2016) published by the Pew Research Center in the USA says that, on average, a person accesses Facebook about 15 days each month and that each person accesses Facebook approximately eight times per day (smartinsights.com). The survey also says three-quarters of Facebook users and half of Instagram users visit each site daily.

The problem is that hardships, violence, and unsavoury content dominate social media platforms, a trend which prompts scientists to caution users about employing mechanisms to “preserve their sanity”. Considered a personal intervention requiring self-discipline, users whose mental well-being may be affected are encouraged to limit use and exercise restraint in order to curb personal distress that they may experience.

There is something called social media fatigue and the manner in which our local population consumes news may well contribute to the phenomenon here. Social media fatigue may be linked to issues of depression, anxiety, fear, and insecurity.

Using my Facebook feed as an example (from observation and not scientific data/analysis), crime and politics seem to get the greater number of reposts and the larger percentage of engagements. From casual surveillance, the media texts that are promoted and those attracting high consumption are generally negative.

A University of Missouri study (2015) says that “Facebook can be a very positive resource for many people, but if it is used as a way to size up one’s own accomplishments against others, it can have a negative effect.”

Preserving one’s sanity demands personal responsibility in the use and or overuse/abuse of social media to the detriment of one’s health. Facebook springs constantly with traumatic events, acts of terrorism, suffering and abuse of women and children, and varied violent crimes including bullying and interpersonal violence.

Experts say that these images and videos to which we are exposed in an instant through social media have a concerning and lasting impact on our psyche.

In a LinkedIn post last February, Executive Coach and Consultant, Susan Spritz Myers’s wrote that taking a “Facebook fast” gave her two fresh perspectives. She said:

• “I noticed that my mood improved. I felt calmer and more engaged with the world from day one and was certainly fine not being part of the action.” (She cited US presidential politics as part of her consumption pattern).

• “I liked how I felt at the end of the week and decided I would continue the Facebook fast upon my return (from vacation)… I deleted the apps from my phone and iPad.” (www.linkedin.com/pulse/preserving-your-sanity-taking-social-media-break-...).

There are some simple steps one can use to take control of the adverse effect of use/overuse/abuse of social media, especially Facebook, on the mental well-being of individuals. Psychology Today says “if Facebook posts depress you, …here are four things you can do today to help you cope:

• Deactivate your Facebook account (you can always reactivate it later).

• Unfollow your most (seemingly) happy and successful friends.

• Remember that Facebook isn’t a representation of reality.

• Turn off the computer and go make your own annoyingly happy moments.

Caroline C Ravello is a strategic communications and media practitioner with over 30 years of proficiency. She holds an MA in Mass Communications and is a candidate for the MSc in Public Health (MPH) from The UWI. Write to: mindful.tt@gmail.com