My last article explored how social media and networking sites like Facebook can affect mental health in different ways.
Experts discussed issues some people face with body image issues, depression and limited meaningful social interaction due to a more excessive use of social media.
Despite some benefits that sites like Facebook do offer, other experts point out how social media sites can even affect personal finances, productivity, and time that could be spent forming real connections.
Dawn Wiggins, a licensed marriage and family therapist, said in an email that sites like Facebook can actually be detrimental to society.
“Social media such as Facebook is driving a culture of poor boundaries and personal insecurity,” Wiggins said.
“This is created by the habitual or compulsive Facebook ‘stalking’ that provides external forms of validation and communication instead of intimacy in relationships. If not kept in check, for some it can fuel an addictive process, slow healing from a breakup, etc.”
Karen Carlson, Director of Education for InCharge Debt Solutions, said in an email that using social media sites can sometimes lead to money issues, which then can result in stress.
“One of the often overlooked effects social media sites have on people is in the area of personal finances,” Carlson said.
“Whereas consumers in previous decades often felt the need to ‘keep up with the Joneses,’ suddenly they are bombarded by input from colleagues and friends that encourage them to live to a different standard. All too often, the temptations are unaffordable and not only cause mental stress, but can lead to overspending and poor financial decisions. It's a very new phenomenon and certainly social media is something that challenges a consumer's mental toughness and financial consistency in order to stay physically and economically sound.”
Kevin Roberts, author of “Cyber Junkie: Escape the Gaming and Internet Trap,” said in an email that social networking can actually directly affect the brain.
“When we talk about Facebook/social networking issues, we are dealing with the brain’s reward and pleasure centers,” Roberts said.
“There are mini-satisfactions that are available constantly in social networking and some people have brains and lifestyles that make them susceptible to this satisfaction becoming something that drives obsession. Brain scans confirm that in some cases, neural networks involved in this phenomenon are some of the same ones involved in well-studied addictions such as substance abuse, gambling, and [hoarding]. The negative side is that people who struggle with self-regulation, social anxiety, addiction, or ADHD are at an increased risk of negative consequences from Facebook. The level of excessive use determines the detrimental impact.”
People who are not prone to addictive or harmful behaviors and mental health issues can benefit from social media use, but only in measured amounts.
“Studies suggest, on the other hand, that for people who are more easily capable of maintaining balance, Facebook enhances relationships, encourages social networking, and leads to higher quality relationships across the board,” Roberts said.
“In this population of people, Facebook is a vehicle for keeping people abreast of the goings-on in the community, and thus leads to greater social engagement outside of the home.”
He suggests using certain applications on your computer to help keep Facebook and social media use in check.
“Use an application like ManicTime that runs in the background of your computer and tells you how much time you've been spending in certain activities,” Roberts said.
“When at the end of the day you see you've been on Facebook for 5 hours and 24 minutes, you might be more motivated to regulate yourself, and curtail your usage. You can also use Leech Block, which is an add-on for Google Chrome and Firefox that allows you, when you need to get other things done on the computer, to prevent yourself from potential ‘time-wasting’ websites like Facebook.”
Robert Hunt, a board-certified adult, adolescent and child psychiatrist, said in an email that he suggests people avoid negative side effects of social media sites by getting engaged with activities offline and limiting time spent online.
“Because social media, such as Facebook, is designed to keep people engaged, it can pose as a distraction and interrupt one’s work and/or studies,” Hunt said.
“Social media updates and photos are a constant stream that never seems to cease. Therefore, an overload of social media content can certainly impact mental health. For those with ADHD, social media interrupts signals and impairs one’s depth of attention.”
Besides distractions, Facebook has the potential to hold unlimited amounts of negative information because people can post whatever they desire.
“The updates and posts may include gossip that can humiliate and expose others, which create an emotional intensity,” Hunt said.
“Additionally, women can get self-conscious from photos others post and compare themselves to their peers, which can lower self-esteem and make others feel even more self-conscious.”
You can read the first part of the two-part series on social media and mental health here: Are Facebook and Other Social Media Sites Good For Mental Health?
Wiggins, Dawn. Email interview. April 11, 2012. http://www.dawnwigginstherapy.com
Carlson, Karen. Email interview. April 10, 2012.
Roberts, Kevin. Email interview. April 10, 2012.
Hunt, Robert. Email interview. April 12, 2012. https://www.medoptimizer.com/drhunt.html
Reviewed April 13, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith