World Mental Health Day: Impacts of social media on our cognitive health explained by Psychiatrist Sonal Anand

World Mental Health Day is observed on October 10 to increase awareness about mental health issues. So, here are the positive and adverse effects of social media on our mind explained by psychiatrist Sonal Anand from Wockhardt Hospital.
World Mental Health Day: Impacts of social media on our cognitive health explained by Psychiatrist Sonal AnandWorld Mental Health Day: Impacts of social media on our cognitive health explained by Psychiatrist Sonal Anand
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World Mental Health Day is celebrated on October 10 annually to increase awareness amongst people globally against mental health problems. So, on this day, Dr Sonal Anand, Psychiatrist at Wockhardt Hospital, Mira Road, shares some positive and negative impacts of social media on our cognitive health.

The influence of social media is such that there is rarely anyone who hasn’t been able to form a view and judgement of it whether positive or negative. Internet and social media usage have definitely changed brain cognition. Whereas on the positive side, we have seen better means of expression, positive changes in social acceptance, new skill development and overall progress and on the negative many perils and problems.

World Mental Health Day 2020: What are the impacts of social media on our mental health?

Positive impacts of social media

Research is still going on as to how the brain is changing in structure and cognition due to the usage of screens. We know for sure that the brain is adaptable to continuous external stimuli and learning new experiences so it won’t come as a surprise that our mindset and behaviour is influenced by social media and social networking usage. The number of ‘likes’ and positive comments that we get activate the reward centre of the brain and hence addiction becomes highly likely.

Social media for our development

Communication is the key area in which social media has exerted a very heavy and positive influence. With just a tap, you can join a community with similar and sometimes revolutionary views. This can be an advantage for introverts or people with lesser opportunities and marginalised individuals. Having a platform to express oneself without any boundaries can open whole new ways of thinking and creativity. Learning new skills and the variety of choices promotes self-worth and development.

Social media for sharing emotional problems

Social media makes it easy to find new friends, easy means of connectivity and new ways of social development. Sharing emotional problems online has helped many individuals who were otherwise cocooned into their own shells. A wave of change in some redundant and unfair social patterns has been seen because of the positive influence of social media. Taking part in such movements gives the individual a feeling of being an integral part of social change. Social media movements like ‘MeToo’, ‘BlackLivesMatter’ have been successful in reaching out to the masses and touching the right chords.

Negative sides of social media

While the positive influences of social media on societal change cannot be doubted, the negative effects are what is bothering research scientists. The social media deprives a face-to-face interaction which is critical as non-verbal cues because body language has been an integral part of our evolution.

Habit of comparing

The virtual image and real image become two parts of the individual and the resultant conflicts arising from the disbalance of the two is what mainly brings about negative changes. The impact of seeing ‘perfect lives and photographs’ of others and comparing them with oneself can become quite traumatising and difficult to express. One forgets that only one dimension is seen in these pictures and that reality could be different. People tend to post mostly the best versions of themselves and hence comparisons cannot be relied on.

Severe mental health issues

Cognition is definitely affected by higher use of social media in the form of attention, memory and prioritisation problems. Sleep pattern could get dysregulated due to the blue light from screens leading to further problems. Cyberbullying, hate spread, negative comments, lies, misinformation, FOMO (fear of missing out) can hurt young minds and leave deep emotional scars. Growing minds are yet to hone their rationalisation and problem-solving skills. Such negative incidences lead to a variety of mental health problems like anxiety, panic, depression, insomnia, problems of self-esteem and hopelessness leading to self-harm behaviour and suicide.

Addiction to social media is what most people and parents fear. Living in a virtual world and forgetting to live in the real world can take out the meaning of life as we know it.

NOTE:

We cannot deny that social media is here to stay and so moulding oneself to use its positive influences and striking the right balance can make life better. One must not be isolated with problems and social media pressure but instead open up to seeking help from family, loved ones and mental health professionals.

There is one tool that will always be with us and that is the power of thought. Thinking right is always in our hands and making the right decision can take care of our anxieties.

Also Read: World Mental Health Day: Here's why you need a staycation ASAP and the science behind it

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