Social media and the internet can be a fantastic resource for adults and children alike. However, to ensure that the mental health and emotional wellbeing of users is maintained we need to be aware of potential risks of using it and the rules surrounding the use by children which are there to help protect them. The benefits of social media and the internet can not be denied, the ability to gain knowledge and communicate with others from near and far is incredible and has made the world a smaller and more accessible space for people to learn about how other people live. It also provides people of all abilities a platform on which to be heard in a way that they have not previously had. This provides an amazing ability to help with equality and diversity when used appropriately.
One of the cons of this technology is the expectation that we are potentially available 24 hours a day. Emails can be sent from all over the world, messages from family and friends on social media from different areas of the globe can also pop up tempting us to open them as we see the flash or hear the beep no matter what the time.
There can also be a temptation when using the internet for gaming, social media or streaming etc to lose track of time which can lead to lack of human interaction with family and friends. This is where we can start to see the implications on mental health and emotional wellbeing. When we rely on validation through computers rather than our physical interactions this can have a significant negative impact on us physically and emotionally. As discussed earlier the potential to always be available can impact on sleep, it can also be tempting to ‘check-in’ if we wake in the night, this can be more so for the younger generation as they can be more prone to seeking their validation through the amount of ‘likes’ they get on their posts or the comments they receive and followers they have. This can happen as adults too, trying not to take it personally when you don’t get the responses you want can have a detrimental impact.
The internet and social media also gives the opportunity for us to compare ourselves to others, from looks, to abilities to lifestyle etc. The temptation is for people to display their best selves when sharing information on social media etc; this therefore tends not to be a 100% accurate view of reality but the portions of our lives we wish others to see. Keeping in mind the idealised glimpses we get into each other’s lives it can set us up for a poor self-image of ourselves as we compare the apparent dull by comparison existence that can be portrayed. We must remember that people share their highs not the mundane that is generally normal life.
The written word can also easily be misinterpreted either due to grammatical inaccuracy or simply not being able to portray the emotions behind the words. Consider when you have a physical conversation, you pick up on vocal intonation as well as body language, (smile, smirk, sympathetic look, roll of the eyes etc) this can make a considerable difference to the meaning behind words.
Recognising that age restrictions for games (PEGI ratings) are in place for a reason to protect children from what they can see and what they are emotionally ready to deal with and understand. The same goes for the age restrictions on social media sites; Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr all age13. WhatsApp age16. This is for the protection of children. What we need to be aware of is that we can’t always trust the information people present which could cause vulnerable members of society to be left open. Protection is paramount despite the social pressures that can be evident.
The mental health and wellbeing of us all needs to be a priority, taking time out from the technology based communications and screen time maybe of benefit and allow us to maintain and enhance our physical interactions with those around us who may get to know us on a much deeper level of understanding.
Finding a balance between your emotional wellbeing and mental health is worth perusing, there is no denying the benefits of our technological world, but the balance needs to be there so that we are emotionally and mentally fit enough to enjoy its benefits.