Has your social media usage increased amid lockdown? Psychologist REVEALS how it impacts mental health

In an exclusive interview with Pinkvilla, Dr. Miloni Sanghvi, Psychologist & Outreach Associate, Mpower-The Centre, Mumbai revealed both positive and negative impacts of increased social media usage amid lockdown.

Updated on May 01, 2020 12:18 PM IST  |  1.3M
Social Media,mental health,Health & Fitness
Has your social media usage increased amid lockdown? Psychologist REVEALS how it impacts mental health
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Amid the Coronavirus led lockdown, many have turned to social media websites and apps to pass their time. It has not unnoticed how the usage of Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and WhatsApp has gone through the roof. Due to social distancing and lockdown rules, many are relying on apps to keep in touch with their family members and loved ones. Activities such as video chats, virtual fitness classes and continuous browsing of newsfeed are now a bigger part of daily routine. However, during such time, social media can act as a double-edged sword. 

While it is helpful as we can stay in touch and share information and the same is now important than ever as we cannot meet anyone, there are chances of us falling in a dark hole of social media as well. In an exclusive interview with Pinkvilla, Dr. Miloni Sanghvi, Psychologist & Outreach Associate, Mpower-The Centre, Mumbai revealed the impact of increased social media usage on mental health. She said, "I like to think of using social media as consuming dark chocolate. It can add sweetness in your life by giving you the “sugar fix”, it may come with a bitter aftertaste for many. It can be good for you in moderation, yet have adverse effects if you overindulge."

Benefits of social media
"Let’s start with the sweet benefits of using social media. Using social media platforms enables us to connect with family and friends from the comfort of our own home, whether your loved ones live a block away from you or across the globe. In a way, these online connections replace physical meet-ups, mitigating a sense of feeling detached from the ones we care for."

"The fact that these platforms enable video chats also adds to our experience of being with them as we can register their facial expressions- whether they are thrilled, surprised, sad, worried or simply distracted -providing us with important social cues during the interaction, enhancing the depth of our connections online. We can also access a plethora of services online with small-scale businesses to retail giants operating digitally through social media. This provides us with a sense of normalcy and comfort in our lives during the lockdown, with social media becoming a transitionary tool as we adjust to this new normal."

Bitter realities of social media use
As per several studies, social media usage has been linked to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and other several negative physical and psychological health issues. And now, there is always an avalanche of news rolling and this can leave us overwhelmed and exhausted.

She added, "We must also recognize the bitter realities that come with social media use. For many, online engagement may be proving to be more harmful than helpful as it can elicit emotional and physical distress. For instance, seeing your friends having fun at home on their Instagram or Snapchat accounts can leave you with a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) as well as comparing their seemingly fun lives to your mundane one; we tend to forget easily how people are inclined to post the “having-fun”, “appearing-happy” and “doing-something-cool” posts online, not showcasing their difficulties or flaws."

Anxiety manifesting from information overload
During such times, it is very important to recognize the mental health problems of oneself as well as of your near ones.  If you or any family member is facing difficulty in sleeping and concentrating, worsening health issues, increased use of alcohol or tobacco, then be supportive and if required contact helpline i .e.080-46110007.

Dr. Miloni added, "Moreover, with coronavirus updates flying around through WhatsApp, Facebook, etc., we are living in a world where we are seeing anxiety and helplessness manifesting from information overload. Another downside is that we can get carried away with social media, such as using them for hours on end or at odd hours in the day (e.g. past your usual bedtime). This not only upsets your routine and sleep cycles but also has a negative impact on your mood and energy during the day."

Be mindful of your social media usage and avoid its detrimental impacts
Social media might is now important than ever, however, we need to learn to use it in a positive way. "It is important to be mindful of how the use of these platforms, taking necessary steps to safeguard our wellbeing; this can be done by monitoring your use of social media, being mindful of what emotions you are feeling, setting limits if necessary and splitting your essential use (e.g. work) from your non-essential use (leisure)."

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