By Dr. Gautami Nagabhirava, Senior Neuropsychiatrist, Kamineni Hospitals, Hyderabad
The importance of social media cannot be understated in today's world. Especially with the onset of the pandemic, social media has become an integral part of our lives and has helped in staying connected with our families and friends, raising awareness for various causes and even boosting businesses and sales.
However, as technology and hyperconnectivity continue to permeate every aspect of our lives, it may do more harm than good. Studies have shown that heavy social media usage is associated with many psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, sleep disturbance, addiction impulse, and behavioral issues.
Whenever we are upset and uncomfortable many of us log onto social media to escape; however, while scrolling through the posts, many of us are inundated with feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction, making us feel even worse. Often, we tend to compare our real lives with others' reel lives which are primarily highlights leading to further issues. We get sucked down the rabbit hole into further despair but cannot stop.
Social media uses reinforcement to hook people; getting likes and tweets helps activate the brain's reward center leading to the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, raising concerns about social media addiction. Often the user will search for validation and try to boost their self-esteem.
Another reason users cannot disengage from social media is due to (FOMO, fear of missing out, or social anxiety ). Users are often preoccupied with the fear of missing out on connections and experiences, leading to problems such as anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, concentration difficulties, and even physical symptoms.
Other concerns include cyberbullying and increased loneliness as users have been found to avoid face-to-face interaction leading to even more loneliness.
Though completely abstaining from social media may be extremely difficult, there are specific solutions. Using social media in moderation is extremely important by setting time limits. It is also essential to be self-aware and recognize the impact social media has on your mental health, and avoid negativity and comparisons. Parents can also set examples for their kids by restricting their usage as well as carefully monitoring the content consumed by their children. Specific skills training may help kids and adolescents use social media responsibly and safely.