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‘We set unrealistic standards, feel worse about ourselves’: how social media affects mental health

The impact of social media on mental health has often been a matter of debate. But this issue has raised concern recently. Whistleblower Francis Haugen, a former Facebook Employee reveals harmful effect of Instagram on mental health and self-esteem of teenage girls.

a wall street journal The article published in September shared the findings of Facebook’s internal study, according to which, 32 percent of teenage girls said they “felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse”.

Several studies in the past have shown how social media influences body image. Ketki Natekar, Psychologist Mindpeer, explains, “Research shows who you follow has a huge impact on how you feel about yourself or your body. If we follow appearance-related pages, we can hold unrealistic standards about how we should look worse about ourselves.”

Social media has blurred the lines between the virtual and real world for many users. (source: Pixabay)

The psychologist further shares, “A survey conducted on 1,244 women between the ages of 15 and 65 in 20 Indian cities including Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai found that 76 per cent believed that media portrayals of beauty contribute. to body shaming. Again, 89 percent of women reported feeling uncomfortable about themselves when they read comments on social media about other people’s appearance.

But how can social networking apps leave such a deep impression? A primary reason, as the experts note, is that a significant portion of our day revolves around social media. Eventually, it has become one of the most convenient ways to pass the time, whether we are waiting for someone or something, or to escape boredom. With more and more time invested in the virtual world, this is what shapes our understanding of reality. Ironically, what we see on screen is only half true and sometimes, not true at all.

“Our virtual self is different from the real self. If a person is ignored on social media and doesn’t get likes and comments on a post, he can feel sad, irritated and even anxious,” Dr. Satish Kumar CR , Emphasis Consultant-Clinical Psychology, Manipal Hospital, Old Airport Road.

Natekar says “with” lots of filters And with photo editing available, the appearances we follow are often untrue. The more time we spend online, the less time we spend in face-to-face interactions, affecting our overall well-being and making it less likely to meet and interact with real motivations. “

Unfortunately, the situation has only escalated in the last two years, especially amid the pandemic, where the screen time of teenagers has increased significantly, shares Dr. Ajay Dudhane, President, Anandavan De-addiction Center in Pune. also treats “From what I’ve noticed, today’s teens use Instagram a lot more than Facebook or Twitter, apart from a few video sharing apps. They feel the urge to become a viral sensation; they emulate influencers or They instantly make videos and reels on social media trends. Not only in the city but in rural areas too, it is becoming a trend. But, often, they follow the wrong role models on social media.” As a result, they end up living in a world of fantasy, he adds.

What can cause all this is a change in personality. Dudhane points out that excessive screen time disturbs sleep. “It also affects the body clock and one’s eating patterns. The person becomes hyper and irritable.”

A simple way to cope is to set realistic limits on how much time you want to spend on social media. “Balance your time on social media with real conversations. Decide who you want to follow on social media,” advises Ketki. More importantly, work on boosting your self-esteem and self-image, he emphasized.

Influencers play an equally important role in the kind of content that one sees online. Therefore, it is important that they take responsibility for what they share on social media. Popular digital content creator and influencer Masoom Minawala says, “I stick to my ideals and focus on sharing content that resonates with my audience, as well as important and powerful, on social media. Many things can affect the audience on social media in one way or the other, but what is important here is to focus on the positive side of things, not just for you but for everyone out there.”

“I also emphasize that Instagram is a part of life and not my whole life so that people don’t make the mistake of thinking my life is just a grid. Keeping the type of audience in mind; I only post such content I am someone who is positive, influential, informative and empowering. I think a clear mindset is the way to go,” she expresses.

Dr Kumar advises that it is also important to strictly avoid engaging on social media from time to time. “Deliberately avoiding posting pictures and stopping looking at social media multiple times a day can be very beneficial. Don’t check it first thing in the morning and midnight and whenever you feel bored. Trying to put the phone away especially while sleeping at night. Socializing and making friends and talking to people in real life can be very rewarding. “

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