Regular Column: Auntie Po – Social Media and Mental Health

Pauline Blanchet is a Third Year Development Studies and Linguistics student. For the past year she has been producing her own podcast about mental health and young people where she has investigated some of the biggest issues young people are facing. The first episode was released on October 10th 2018.

Credit: Khadija Kothia

 We need to stop fighting social media and take control!

Does social media affect us mentally, for better or for worse? Whose responsibility is it to check users’ wellness? Is there a way of using social media to positively empower people?

These are questions that need to be raised and answered. I decided to create a poll asking students questions such as how much time they spent on social media, how it made them feel, and which social media sites they used. These were important to ask as it seems increasingly evident that social media can sometimes have a negative effect on one’s well being. However, I wanted to see if that was the case with everyone and whether or not there was any way of changing that around. After asking some questions in a poll around SOAS, here are some of the findings.

We have all heard that social media is bad for us. That’s what we have been fed by the press for a long time. Meanwhile, there is also a huge pressure to have a social media account. 42.9% of people said they felt pressure to have some form of it, in the poll. But the real point of discussion should be regarding how can we use it to our advantage and to improve our wellbeing. Only 4.8% of people said that social media made society better. How can we use the tools that technology and social media give us to better ourselves and be happier. It has come to a stage now where social media is part of most of our daily lives, in fact, 71.4% of people in the poll said they find it hard to put down their phone for more than a couple of hours. Therefore, it isn’t time to fight it, but rather effectively use it!

One of the ways in which this can be done is by charging the big technology companies for wellbeing services which users would use. This was suggested by Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, who said that sites like Facebook should pay compensation for the mental issues which young people are faced due to these sites. However, the transparency of these technology giants is not one to rely on. Especially when they are doing their best to avoid paying taxes, this might be too idyllic of a proposition. Another proposition is a social media app for therapy. An instant messaging app, just like Facebook or WhatsApp. In a generation where face to face communication is becoming replaced with virtual conversation ever so quickly, this might be the right answer. 55% said they would use a service like this and 30% said maybe which is logical as the rest of the students said it didn’t have an effect on their mood. Countless times, I have scrolled through endless images of girls in bikinis, wearing clothes I could never afford and getting thousands, even sometimes, millions of likes. It’s easy to think that this is the way I’m meant to be if I want validation in this society. Countless times I have felt like I have missed out on something all my friends have experienced. And countless times, my virtual self not being validated online has been reflected on my own view of myself.

The important aspect here is to see how we can turn the idea of social media around to make it empowering and positive in our lives. It is there to communicate, connect and for activism. There are already platforms which are created, we have to treat them as facilitators but we need to be in control of our own content, what our feed is and our relationship with it. Ways of doing this are unfollowing the accounts which make you feel bad about yourself, which make you have FOMO (fear of missing out), and make you think about your body image negatively. Start following the images you want to see on your feed every day.

You’re the one in control of your feed. Once, you remember that, you can reclaim your social media space into a positive and enriching one.

 

Send in your troubles, questions, and stories to our agony aunt, on [email protected]

Post Author: SOAS Spirit

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