Social media has changed the way people socialize, interact, exchange thoughts, and connect with one another. It has shifted the human-to-human interaction to the new digital audio-visual communication done using images and written words. Although virtual social media can affect the mental and physical health of a person.
Though researchers have been continuously talking about the negative impact of social media, one cannot deny the fact that it also has several positive effects. For example, talking about mental health is still considered taboo in society but social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are changing the way people view, think and talk about these illnesses and the perspective towards people with such illnesses.
Social media tools
Social media can adversely affect an individual, for instance, looking at Facebook posts depicting the lives of other people can lead to unfavorable comparisons with one’s own and end up lowering a person’s self-esteem, making him/her low, jealous and lonely. But using these can also have a positive impact such as prompting one to introduce healthy lifestyle changes, relieving social isolation, making social support available and strengthening existing relationships.
Keeping in mind the way people use social media to express their feelings, different social media platforms have introduced several features and tools to benefit those with some sort of mental illness. For instance, Instagram’s feature “Perfectly Me” was introduced in 2016 with an aim to create a digital safety net. It allowed the user to anonymously report about somebody who seemed to be struggling with an eating disorder, self-harm or suicide. This helped in making assistance available to such people and encouraged them to seek help.
According to a research done by Andrew G. Reece, Department of Psychology, Harvard University and Christopher M. Danforth, University of Vermont, analyzing different aspects of sharing photos on Instagram can help predict if the user was depressed. For this, the researchers analyzed the filters, color analysis, face detection and metadata used by the user. The study was published last year on arxiv.org as a pre-print study.
In 2011, Facebook in partnership with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, allowed users to report suicidal posts. A direct Facebook message could be sent to a mutual friend to help coordinate help efforts and even to the friend in distress.
Using social media for better mental health
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 18.5 percent of the U.S. population suffers from a mental illness. Such statistics, prove the importance of raising awareness about mental health. For this, the month of May is observed as the Mental Health Awareness Month, annually. It aims at raising awareness about different types of mental illnesses affecting people globally; the habits that increase the risk of developing or exacerbating these illnesses; fighting the stigmas associated with mental illnesses; and providing information about supporting the affected people and advocating for equal care for people with mental illnesses.
Social media is no more limited to be used merely for entertainment or connecting with people. It now has a broader horizon and is helping people deal with the challenges they face during their illness as well as recovery.
Seeking help from a mental health expert is advisable if one is showing symptoms of a mental illness. Additionally, one can also opt for self-help strategies such as meditation, yoga or counseling sessions.
If you or someone you know is dealing with any form of mental illness and looking to connect with the best mental health professional, 24/7 Mental Health Helpline can assist. Call our 24/7 helpline number 855-653-8178 or chat online with one of our experts who can help you get information about the mental health facilities offering comprehensive treatment plans in your vicinity.