Addiction of Social Media & Mental Illness

In the spirit of human relationships we love to maintain our social connections while getting to know new people. Social media is that amazing channel of communication which allows extensive means of self expression in engaging with our friends, family and other people. It provides an incredible medium for people from all over the world to share their thoughts with the potential of an outreach even beyond their own social groups.

Hearing from friends and family makes us feel important and loved. Finding a community which shares similar thoughts can bring us belongingness. Relative anonymity in interactions through social media can help decrease stigma in affected individuals by allowing them to be more open in speaking out. Using social media to follow experts like doctors, dietitians, psychologists and therapists can be extremely helpful for people seeking advice in such matters. It can even help us to make human connection with perfect strangers with the potential of changing each other's lives. Many people report deeply meaningful connections online, and sometimes these connections also turn into face-to-face connections.

With that mentioned, it is also imperative to understand that too much of a good thing can be bad. You can often come across examples where families are socially active in the digital world but not among themselves. Almost two in five people spend more time socializing online than they do face-to-face and this behavior is changing how we communicate and how we define  ”relationship.” Overstretched use of social networking sites have been proven to deteriorate quality of life, decrease mental stability and promote all kinds of distractions from one's requisites. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, social media sites can help develop a child’s communication, social interaction, sense of community and technical skills while also noting “can cause profound psychosocial outcomes including depression, anxiety and severe isolation.”

The urge to stay connected is the key component. The phenomenon called Fear of Missing Out (or FOMO) can keep you glued to Facebook or Twitter every waking moment (and then some). Constant connectivity can lead to information overload and can lead to stress, anxiety, insomnia and depression. This overload due to fast moving environment of social media can also affect one's attention negatively and promote ADHD.

A recent study on psychological effects of social media conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri and published in the journal Psychiatry Research, revealed that several habitual participants showed signs of the schizotypy condition called social anhedonia - the inability to encounter happiness from normally enjoyable activities, such as interacting and talking to peers. Additionally, some people also showed schizotypy symptoms, called perceptual aberrations - irregular experiences of one's magical ideation and senses - also known as the belief that experiences with no real cause-and-effect are distantly linked. The study concluded that social media profiles can provide insight into the mental health of patients and therapists should possibly use social media activity to create a more complete clinical picture of a patient.

In a speech delivered to the American Psychological Association, Larry Rosen, professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, outlined the results of some recent research, which points to the darker side of social media. He found:
— Daily overuse of media and technology has a negative effect on the health of all children, preteens and teenagers by making them more prone to anxiety, depression and other psychological disorders, including anti-social behaviors.
— Facebook can be distracting and can negatively impact learning.

Love it or hate it, a lot of us are addicted to digital social media and keeping away from an addiction is far easier said than done. But I would like to establish that while social media in the digital world does help us to be "social", nothing can counterpoise the sense of being involved in the real world experiences. Which reminds me, I gotta go out and enjoy my self and maybe you should too.