Social networks linked to mental health issues make users dependent

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Social media was created to allow individuals to stay in touch with their friends and extended family who may live anywhere in the world.

Some people will use social media apps to network or find career opportunities, connect with like-minded people, and share their own thoughts, feelings and ideas online.

Recently, the news reported revelations about these social media companies that are now part of most people’s daily lives, and the results have been quite worrying. These companies don’t just promote their use, the platforms were designed to make users dependent on their products. These stories show me that social media companies are actually using the same business model that tobacco companies used years ago. They sit idly by and deny that their products pose any health risk to their users, while designing them to be as addictive as possible.

The use of social media has been linked to many mental health issues, ranging from the deterioration of the self-image of young women to the breakdown of families by promoting “clickbait” misinformation (their polite word for lies) which has completely overheated our current political environment. They make no effort to hold users or advertisers accountable for behaviors and misinformation that harm the general public.

Describing the number of ways clients have told me about problems caused by their use of social media is far beyond the scope of a brief column in a newspaper. Suffice it to say that interpersonal conflicts, self-esteem issues, and many compulsive behaviors that are all related or caused by the use of social media occur in a clinical setting almost every day.

I urge everyone to take a look at how they are using and what has been replaced by the use of social media. I think a lot of people spend way too much emotional energy trying to maintain their online personalities at the cost of interfering with their daily lives and relationships. Too many people have come to worry about how complete strangers might respond to any of their messages rather than worrying about what their spouse or children might have been going through that day.

Based on my experience with the difficulties people face with social media, I have come to the conclusion that the only solution, like smoking, is to simply stop using these products. Family photos can be shared by email, and now they can easily be sent by SMS. You can choose to speak directly to people. You can be a true friend, rather than “befriending” online. Life is quite complicated today, why add the burden of living a second life online, which is not real and only hinders the time and effort that would be better spent on our loved ones and ourselves.

Find activities and organizations that help you thrive in your community. Whether through faith, the arts, or a community organization, there are ways to connect with like-minded people and network professionally right here in your own backyard.

View the Watertown Area Family Resource Directory here www.humanserviceagency.org/NEPrevention/neprcwhy.html to find resources that may be of interest to you.

If you feel that you are experiencing any negative side effects from using social media, please contact us. We offer one-on-one counseling at the Human Service Agency or you can call 211, text 898-211 or visit www.helplinecenter.org/2-1-1/ to find additional help in your community.

Stephanie Traversie is Clinical Director at the Human Services Agency and a Registered Mental Health Therapist.


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