The use of social media can be useful when it comes to reaching out to others, making new discoveries and building strong networks. It can be advantageous for your business, as well as connecting with new and old friends. I have talked about the advantages of social media in many previous blog posts. However, if not used properly, it can lead to danger.
Unfortunately, many people who are not being treated for mental illness are prone to misusing social media. They can end up falling into dangerous traps as a result. I will list some of the dangers.
1. The Risk of Isolation is Higher. If you are dealing with mental illnesses such as depression, you will have a tendency to withdraw. When you isolate yourself from others, you will likely use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc as a substitute for human contact. Excessive use of social media for this purpose especially can create further isolation and can worsen depression.
2. Increases Avoidance and Procrastination. There are always tasks that no one is enthusiastic about completing. However, people who are either mentally healthy or are being properly treated for mental illness realize that a task, no matter how unpleasant it may be must be completed. They will take the bull by the horns and do it. Those who are not being treated for mental illness will know that these tasks need to be done but will do what they can to avoid it and will use social media in an unhealthy way to fill up that time instead. When this habit becomes obsessive, they will find themselves not getting anything done- possibly including paying their bills.
3. Social Media can Lead to Addiction. Social media can be addictive as it is, even for those who are healthy. If someone has an addictive personality and is obsessively checking his or her social media feeds, that habit can easily turn into an addiction which can add more complications to that individual’s mental health.
4. You are Prone to Comparing your Life to Others. When you are dealing with depression and mental illness in general, you are going to naturally feel very down about your own life. You are going to believe you have gotten the short end of the stick. When you start going on Facebook and Instagram, you will inevitably see pictures of your friends appearing like they are having fun. You may be stuck at home, unable to go on vacation and yet you are seeing your friends post pictures of their European vacations. You may be short on cash, and as a result you are living on Kraft dinner. When you see your friends post pictures of their elegant meals at expensive restaurants- you will feel worse about your situation. If you are dealing with mental illness on top of that, the envy can be damaging. One thing to remember when it comes to Facebook Envy is that people who show pictures of their fun stuff do not live that way all the time. Chances are you have shared highlights of good stuff that has happened in the past too on Facebook. Everyone has their own struggles, however very few want to share that on social media as they shouldn’t be doing anyway. What you are seeing on Facebook or Instagram is just a highlight of someone’s brief fun time.
5. You can Easily Become a Target of Cyber-bullying. When you are dealing with mental illness, you may blurt out inappropriate things on social media. Unfortunately, many people will start a fight with you and may even start cyber-bullying you. This can easily happen in groups or forums. If you are being harassed and cyber-bullied, it will create more agony in your life. Always think before you post.
On the flip side, if you are being treated properly for your mental illness- and you are aware of the dangers, then joining support groups can be a wonderful way to use the platform to your advantage. Social media itself is neutral. The way it can affect you is how you use it and be sure to use it wisely.