Sat, 05/10/2014 - 01:05 — Pauline Neckles

Is Social Media Making You (Literally) Crazy?

Social media is fun, multi-purpose and also taking control of our lives. These tools connect us with friends, family, associates and other people in our country and across the world. We are now so connected we don’t know how to be disconnected from our mobile phones or tablets even in the midst of live encounters with our friends.

Drive down my street and you will see young men hanging out together and instead of speaking to each other their heads are in their phone and the same can be seen with people having dinner with each other.

Social media is known for being so addictive that even this writer had to institute a tech-free Sunday rule to get back to enjoying her life outside of Facebook, Twitter and their electronic friends. Even in light of this, would you say that social media is bad for your mental health?

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  1. Narcissism Recent studies are showing that having copious amounts of selfies – photos taken of you by you – are a clear sign of narcissism. People with this personality disorder have an unnatural obsession with their own physical and mental qualities. Instagram and other sites encourage the use of selfies (#SelfieSunday, hello) and we end up sharing our self-obsession with the online universe.

  2. Low Self-Esteem – Due to the constant sharing of achievements, milestones etc by friends, family and associates on social media, studies believe that these sites are harmful to those who suffer from low self-esteem and struggle with comparing themselves and their lives with that of others. This can lead to sadness, discontent and varying levels of depression. There have been stories of suicides and attempted suicides, such as the young man whose recent attempts were rooted in critiques of his photos on Facebook.

  3. Borderline Personality Disorder – This condition consists of impulsive and instable behaviour that can negatively influence self-image and relationships with others. Social media lends itself to negative displays by its instant nature assisting users in posting rants, compromised pictures and other tawdry displays without first considering the negative consequences. Social media may not cause this disorder to develop but certainly isn't helpful for someone who's predisposed to suffer from it.

There are several other disorders such as anxiety and the inability to enjoy regular activities that one would normally find pleasurable that have been linked to the persistent use of social media sites.

Pundits have sayings such as ‘Guns don’t kill people, people kill people’ to indicate it is not the tool that does the harm, it is the person behind the tool. One may ask if the tool not had been available, would damage be done to such an extent or would we just find another way to cause ourselves harm?

The links between social media and mental health issues should not be dismissed with a casual shrug of the shoulder. People all over the world are harming themselves physically and mentally due to what is seen on social media, including cyber bullying and other dangerous practices.

Perhaps the use of social media magnifies mental health prolems that already exist. But we should be mindful of where we see patterns of dangerous or harmful behaviour in ourselves and those we care about.

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