How social media can affect users’ mental health

08/06/21

Diane Hall

There’s no doubt that the internet houses its fair share of trolls and keyboard warriors—people who spout derogatory, insulting, and sometimes threatening comments to anyone they come across, safe in the knowledge that they won’t suffer any consequences.


The recent prosecution of a Singapore national will hopefully serve as a deterrent in some small part, showing that you can be found and held accountable for the words you type, if they in some way break our laws. In my opinion, this is long overdue, and more should be done to eke out these culprits, whether they’re abusing a Premiership footballer or Jackie from the next street.


Why is there so much nastiness online, when 97.5% of trolls (possibly more) wouldn’t have the nerve to say the same to a person’s face?


A light-hearted post can be shot down in flames instantly, just because someone got out of bed the wrong side. It’s like we’ve forgotten that people can have an opposing opinion and still be a good person. It’s healthy to debate different viewpoints…it doesn’t make the other person akin to an axe-murderer just because they may not agree with you. There’s little wonder that social media users, famous or not, consciously avoid their favourite platforms for a day or two every now and again, for the sake of their mental health.


Then there’s how much some people seek validation from social media. From getting up to going to bed, they post pictures of their outfit, their commute, their lunch, their face (several times over), the day’s destination…in fact, every detail of their 24-hours. Maybe I’m just showing my age, but I just don’t get it. Who cares what you’ve eaten for dinner? Do you think you’re the only one to have had a BLT sandwich that day?


Poster showing Mental health

Poster showing Mental health

It doesn’t come across as living a life everyone else can only aspire to enjoy, it comes across as someone desperate to show that he/she has got a life. But, if they truly had one, and they were fully engaged with it, they wouldn’t have the time or inclination to stop what they’re doing and take shots from hundreds of angles (that’s before the filter-adding, of course). I find this lifestyle disturbing. It says to me that social media has impacted that person’s mental health. How can it not have, when they’re more concerned with the people they know digitally than those in front of them at that very moment? To disengage from their food, their commute, the outing they’re enjoying, to take pictures for the envy of others is not healthy, it’s really not. It’s like a house of cards, the building of a life that is only simulated rather than one that’s lived.


Largely a female issue, social media can also highlight a person’s physical flaws. With so many filters and enhancements to apply at the push of a button, prolific posters can receive flak from their ‘followers’ when an unabridged photo pops up from someone else’s lens and they look just like the rest of us. We can’t hide our imperfections in real life, so why do some people feel the need to perfect themselves for social media? It’s not that I don’t get that people would want to change aspects of their appearance—without a doubt, if I won the lottery, I’d get all sorts of things ‘fixed’ about myself, but there’s no point me Photoshopping these issues online only for someone to meet me in real life and think, ‘Who the hell is that? No wonder she uses filters, look at the state of her!’ I’d just be setting myself up for a fall. Until I can (if ever) physically change those things about me I don’t like, there’s no point altering them in the virtual one. I’m not a SIMS character.


Becoming hung up on the number of likes garnered is yet another waste of time. Who cares if the friend of a friend liked your post, or someone you sat next to during your school days. Unless you see these people on a regular basis and they’re part of your inner circle, does it really matter if they click the ‘like’ button or not? And they’re people you may loosely know. Why would a like from a stranger mean any more than this?

Finally…

I know I sound disparaging to the poor souls whose lives are entrenched in their social media activity. Poor self-esteem can easily spiral, and once this false reality has you in its grip, it takes a lot to rise above it and cut it out of your consciousness. I do appreciate that; I just wish people didn’t fall for it in the first place.


It’s also a generational thing. I wasn’t brought up with the internet, it appeared in my adulthood. I know how great life can be on the user’s side of the screen, so it’s easier for me to ignore the virtual world for everything else I enjoy. For those who spend as much time on the net as they do in real life, because that’s all they’ve ever known, it’s bound to be different.


I want to grab these people who live their life through social media and show how little it actually matters, but I can’t. They need to learn that lesson for themselves—which they will, one day.

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