Are Social Media and Mental Health Inversely Related?

Is Facebook good for humanity? Is Twitter useful? Are these platforms of exchange socially beneficial?These are frequent questions that I hear being discussed.

Does this post have anything to do with healthcare? Well, from a psychosocial standpoint of course it does. Although I hope you will please excuse my lack of psychology credentials; I don’t profess to be anything but an introspective interventional radiologist.

How we feel before, during and after checking our social media feeds is a critical component of the world we live in today. Every time we feel the need to check our news feed or see how many “likes” we have received or answer another tweet we are consciously or subconsciously recognizing a certain level of dependence.

In order to defeat that dependency we must understand, recognize and accept it as fact. Once that is accomplished we can limit ourselves from social media overload. No devices at dinner. Get back into the world. Interact with people. Vocalize. Call somebody on the phone and have a conversation. Say hi to the person passing in front of you instead of checking your most recent texts, head down, eyes focused, ignoring all else as the world passes you by. We recognize these unhealthy tendencies but we choose not to push back on them. We can do better.

The other question to consider is how meaningful is social media and, more importantly, how meaningful is our use of social media?

If we collectively use social media to educate, inform, assist or provide we will maximize its usefulness to ourselves and to others. If there is a positive meaningfulness to our use of social media then interpersonal relationships should also tend towards the positive. I have seen few interactions more socially destructive than the verbal attacks that occur on social media both in the powerful lofty political world as as well as in the world of everyday people like me and you.

Coupled with those negative interactions are the ever-diminishing times we spend in face to face communication with friendly faces. What we verbalize to each other is usually far different from what we fire off in a post, text, email or tweet. Consider that potential next time you tap/click send.

Instead of leaning towards comments made by people whose views that mirror our own, we can use social media for improved understanding of opposing beliefs. A strong leader surrounds him/herself with people who hold opposing views in order to be more effective at reaching all constituents. Each of us leads a cohort whether we know it or not. Manage that responsibility in a positive manner and the world around us may benefit.

When a fact is unknown, we can use social media to answer our question and delve deeper into the subject for a better appreciation and for more lasting knowledge. As an example, I often reach out to colleagues to assist and provide me with more information so that I can better care for people.

As with anything, It is what we make of It. With over 1 billion users, any platform will be limited by what we humans do with it. The less significant influence, frankly, comes from what the platform was originally designed to do. We all know that Facebook was originally designed as a sort of freshman yearbook to introduce incoming students to the Harvard student body. The platform is not dysfunctional, but in this context we tend to be.

We use social media for many reasons. In our ever-changing world, we will all be better off if we make our interactions meaningful and positive.

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