The social media craze is now permanent.
I often drive down a street and see an oncoming car looking at their phone- no matter how many commercials are out there against this practice. There is scrolling in waiting rooms, cashier lines, at family gatherings, etc., etc. etc. I am not innocent here, just simply stating the facts.
What has social media done in the mental health arena? The global phenomenon of instant social media responses affects us all. Obsessed for likes, follows, and shares, our everyday live interactions are changing. Some will argue this is negative, while others see nothing wrong with it.
My first thought turns to our youth. Now linked to social media, the tender years of finding whom you are, and finding your own confident approach to life is complicated between real life and a portrayed best life. Growing up with instant access at their fingertips, it is a true addiction for some. As the likes come in, the reward center of the brain is responding- from a thumb on a screen! My question, what happens to those with no thumbs, likes, comments, or shares?
One of two things happen in my personal experience with others- the status updates become dramatic, over reaching, or misleading. The need for attention outweighs the need to be honest. Lo and behold, the other identity is exposed. Do we take those fake status updates or tweets serious? Not usually.
Should we take it serious? Moreover, when should we intervene?
Typically, we take notice of the after effects of social media addiction when real world treatment for depression begins, if danger is imminent, or when a life is lost due to a ‘mental cyber collapse’. Yes, all scenarios relate to life in the social media world. Suicide relating to cyber bullying, combined with additional life issues, have seen a steady climb in recent years. Some kids may never experience mental health related issues as a direct consequence of social media, but I think it is fair to say, many already have, and many more will.
The truth is, some of the same issues that plague our youth in cyber world, continue well into the 20’s, 30’s and beyond.
As a progressive society, parents, and family of loved ones, we must ensure to teach strategic coping mechanisms. Pacifying kids and young adults with material bribes or over indulging our future generations must end. For decades now, we have pushed aside personal growth of human care and compassion and turned to a more ‘me’ dominated society. We see the results of this every day! As an adult living with bipolar disorder, I can confirm I am at my best when I am giving my best to others. I have more fulfillment handing out a meal to someone in need than I do in receiving a response on a social media screen. If I am giving of my finances, giving of my time, and giving of possessions, I am more aware of those around me and have interest in life itself, outside of my bubble and social media safe place.
I am like the next person; my phone is often close at hand. I scroll through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I post, share and comment all over the place. After years of learning my personal triggers, knowing my own mind, and being conscience of my feelings, I know my boundaries and my limits. For those who crave this reward the brain gives off, social media can be a dangerous place. For those who already deal with a brain that works a little different from others, how it works relating to cyber life may be a bit more complicated.