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It turns out that emotions expressed on Facebook can affect your mood. It can even provoke instances of elation or depression. Exposure to Facebook has been called “emotionally contagious” and can even affect your mental health. And now there’s research data to back it up.
Much research has been devoted to studying the downside of social media. Many of these studies are, in fact, legitimate. For example, addiction to social media is an epidemic among our nation’s teens, and this seems to be the case everywhere. The potential downsides of social media are many, as you can see below, yet nearly half of the sources I reviewed suggested possible benefits as well. What the negative findings seem to overlook are the many positive effects social media has on its users. In other words, the use of Facebook, Twitter, etc, may be good or bad, depending on how they are used. Sound familiar?
“Concerns about the negative impacts of social media have dominated public debate. However, recent studies show there are clear health benefits to being online and connected.” – Joanna Egan, Women’s Health
Here are several frequently-overlooked positive effects that social media can have on mental health:
Social media offers the chance to connect with others, and offers enough anonymity to allow people with mental illness to express themselves without revealing their identities. In other words, it allows self-expression without the danger of stigma.
We’re kidding, right? Actually no. Social media can be used as a motivational tool to achieve healthy lifestyle goals such as quitting smoking or attending the gym on a regular basis. Announcing a goal via social media and regularly posting about it promotes accountability to others, creating positive reinforcement from friends and stimulating an online “social support system” which may lead the aspirant to form or join other communities dedicated to similar pursuits. This is a classic case of “positive emotional contagion.” Research has shown that sharing a goal publicly not only promotes accountability but helps one stay focused, and dramatically increases one’s chance of success, whether it be weight loss, or sobriety for recovering addict/alcoholics.
Social media can benefit therapists and psychiatrists by extending their reach. Mental health professionals are increasingly using social networking tools such as Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest to collect data that can be used in research, and to connect with other professionals in the online community.
Twenty-four hour suicide prevention hotlines aren’t the only sources of intervention. An increasing number of websites are now offering support through social media channels. These sites often provide anonymous forums for people to connect, share personal experiences, and many even allows them to sign up for an SMS service to receive daily advice, motivational messages, and information useful for seeking or promoting recovery.
Did you know that Meetup.com is a social media channel? Although one of the most popular and widely used, Meetup isn’t the only place to connect with local organizations, groups, and clubs, or to network with people having similar interests. Twitter has a feature called Tweetups, which are face-to-face meetups that are organized online involving people with similar interests. These may range from people who share a love of playing bridge to groups of recovering addicts. New relationships resulting from tweetups are ubiquitous nowadays, and we have Twitter to thank for that.
Tweetups are just one example of how social media can build new relationships. Social media (and not only Twitter) can also help manage relationships, especially with those who live far away from each other, thus breaking down geographical barriers. It can also be helpful at maintaining relationships for those with disabilities, such as elderly individuals and people with physical handicaps which limit their mobility and prevent travel outside the home. Far from increasing isolation, social media can provide alternative means of finding support, even helping to lift depression, and as Tweetups have shown, provide a healthy excuse to go outside rather than stay cooped up indoors or hunched over a computer.
A common dilemma among people with mental illness (including depression) is the reluctance to talk to people closest to them about their problems. More and more young people are turning to the internet for health advice, including topics such as contraception, acne treatments, etc. Far from being a singularly-destructive force in their development, social media can in fact do quite the opposite. Many teens will post online what they are reluctant to share with their parents. For troubled youth, this makes early intervention by concerned friends and peers more possible. For others, it provides a rich opportunity to experiment with different modes of creative self-expression, which is in itself therapeutic. While it is impossible to deny the dangers of social media, parents may choose to focus on the positive uses of online media in order to promote better online habits in their children.
Kevin Naruse is Painted Brain‘s social media manager and a longstanding contributor to Painted Brain News
[…] However, the disagree team pointed out, the online world can also be a great place for the younger generation. They argued how the benefits of social media outweigh the risks. I couldn’t agree more when they claimed that social media has the potential to strengthen relationships and I truly believe that it has the ability to benefit and enhance personal interactions. The world today is so well connected which was unimaginable decades ago. Their further arguments on social media providing support to mental health and marginalized groups caught my attention. As I further researched on the topic I found many articles supporting the claim. The article 7 WAYS SOCIAL […]