Thoughts on World Mental Health Day 2022
Written by Dr. Nicola Eccles on 10 Oct 2022
The terms “life sucking content” and “a tobacco moment” really stood out from the recent news articles about the horrific case of Molly Russell. On this world mental health day, we want to pause to reflect on the impact that social media plays on our psychological wellbeing.
With so many of us struggling with our thoughts, low mood and anxiety and a general sense of emotional distress it is important to acknowledge that we are not ‘broken’. The reality is that we live in world which significantly challenges our psychological wellbeing. Uncertainty, the economy and marginalisation create a very unliveable life for many. But perhaps the most significant threat to our psychological wellbeing is social media. Never before in history have we had 24/7 access to everyone else’s lives and thoughts or received unrelenting content which prescribes itself for us based on vague interactions we have had. The recent distressing news story around the impact of social media on the teenager Molly Russell has highlighted the potential, fatal implications:
The way in which Molly was subsumed by distressing content altered and shaped her thoughts to a tragic end. We now live with the constant subliminal (or not so subliminal) acceptance of constant and unprecedented interruptions. By which we mean the continual drip drip drip effect of notifications on your phone. Our brains have lost the ability to focus and concentrate for periods of time (for more on this listen to the fantastic podcast by Johaan Haari and Dr Ranjan Chatterjee https://drchatterjee.com/johann-hari-on-how-to-reclaim-your-attention/). We are constantly ‘looking’ at ways in which people live, thoughts and opinions that people have, and a showreel of life presented in such an aspirational and seductive way that we simply cannot help feeling ‘less than’. In other instances, young people, whose brains are less developed and even less able to ‘filter’ are presented with concepts and ideas which may be inappropriate and irrelevant. Instead of taking moments of boredom to decompress and daydream and imagine, we are filling our minds with the ideas and concepts of others which to some extent disempowers our own ‘self’, devaluing our own thoughts and opinions. This impacts our self-esteem, our creativity and even our ability to make decisions.
It is clear that for many of us social media negatively impacts our mental health. By which we do not necessarily mean clinical diagnosed mental health conditions, but self-worth, focus, productivity, mood states and anxiety levels.
On this World Mental Health day we encourage you to really consider the way in which social media may impact you and your family and rethink your relationship with your phone.
Our top tips for managing your relationship with social media:
- Try a 2 day break from social media and see how this makes you feel. Take the apps off your phone for 48 hours. Note down some of the emotions and feelings you have. Can you identify what you tend to use the social media platforms for? Distraction? To motivate you? Boredom?
- Consider in depth what each of the different social media mediums brings to you. Write down what you get from Instagram, Tik Tok, Snapchat, Facebook etc. Really identify what it is that you get. Connection? Education? Understanding? Light hearted relief? Inspiration? Pay close attention to these
- Think about what other activities could give you the same emotions or feelings? A walk in the park? A hug? A good book? Daydreaming?
- Write out a contract with yourself about how you want to use social media going forward. How does your interaction look? When do you use it? How are you going to try and integrate other activities or distractions instead?
- Following on from Step 2 try to reduce the different social media channels that you use. What can you do without? Remember, nothing is permanent…you can go back onto channels at any point.