Young people can’t really escape the world of social media these days. It’s become an integral part of life to tell everyone how you’re feeling on your status, but does this have an effect on our mental health?
In the old days, if we felt a certain way, then weíd probably call a particular person or write to a friend, but now we open ourselves up to a whole host of people online, from close friends, to complete strangers. So how might displaying our most personal issues to everyone impact on our well-being? The online world literally puts us on the line, and can expose us to the world of bullying which can increase any anxiety we may already be feeling. Perhaps itís because weíve become so reliant on the internet that weíre turning less to mental health care professionals and family to help us through whatever issue we may be facing.
Because we mostly want comfort and reassurance from people when weíre at our lowest, how might social media help or hinder us. Of course, our 475 ‘Facebook friends’ are not all going to be our most caring friends, so telling our most personal problem is risky, but as we can tune in and out of the social world of being online, is it less daunting than talking to a professional?
Similarly, blogging sites have become widely popular with people suffering for mental health difficulties. For example, sites like Tumblr makes it easier for people to share personal experiences in the hope that others may also come forward to share their own issues. This is positive in that it is helping young people to talk about their problems, but also reflects that people find it much easier to admit and confide in the anonymity of the internet. For that reason, weíre probably more likely to share in more detail how weíre feeling and what we’ve done, being more personal in an impersonal space. This suggests that as more and more young people are turning to blogging sites to display issues and to seek help, these sites have become like an unofficial mental health information page.
In one sense, this is incredibly positive, because it gives people the chance to offload their feelings and understand how people in a similar situation are coping. It becomes a shared experience. On the negative side, if the person seeking help is only getting help from reading othersí accounts, these accounts may be distorted as everyone see’s things differently. More than this, the internet can glorify some aspects of mental health like self-harm and eating disorders, making it detrimental to sufferers. It is vital, therefore, that people are provided with official support systems both online and off.
As the internet is ingrained in our day to day life, and Google is a comforting source of information to many mental health sufferers, it’s crucial that these needs are met by providing the online generation with supportive and correct information, but that it must not become a substitute for specialised support.