There are many in today’s world who do not remember a time before the mainstream social media platforms, a time before the social interconnection that we consider quintessential today. With the domineering size of the leading social platforms, you would be forgiven for thinking they’ve been a mainstay within the digital sector since its inception, however, this is not the case. It wasn’t until the early to mid-2000s that sites like Myspace and later Facebook emerged as early forms of social media platforms, much has changed in the subsequent 15 years but retains its title as a relatively new medium. The last few years have been plagued with online abuse, trolls, and even racism, this clearly demonstrates that these platforms are heavily lacking in both moderation and regulation. Beneath the surface, beyond the sounds of the major well-documented issues, rest a set of potential mental health red flags just as harmful as those heavily documented ones, in order to help spot these and in turn come to understand them, I have compiled some of these red flags you may encounter while browsing social media.
Akin to real life, many social media platforms can be compared to a large room filled with people sat around tables. Many of them are communicating, some only with those at their own tables while others are shouting across the room, social media encourages this kind of interaction and there is always someone -be it near or far- with whom a conversation is possible. This does not mean that everyone is always communicating, there are times when you’re may not be comfortable talking to anyone or may even be watching those at your table interacting amongst each other without being involved. Due to social platforms heavily encouraging interaction, the moments where you are not are blatantly apparent and serve to make you feel disconnected from those around you.
Presenting oneself online is worlds apart from doing so in person, have several pairs of branded clothing? Take turns wearing them every time you post and the people on your timeline may just start to believe you wear nothing but branded clothing. Family member has a fancy car? Take a picture next to it every once in a while and people may believe it’s yours. Altering perceptions on social media can be a shockingly simple endeavour, albeit one born from low self-esteem. An issue that when underlined in tandem with an online presence, will only further hurt the mental health of the user.
There is no such thing as a closing time for social media platforms and with their sheer size, it would be completely viable to spend whole days connected. This may seem like an exaggeration but with the worldwide daily average of 2hours and 25 minutes spent on social media per person, you can certainly see that there are people who spend huge quantities of time online daily. With the online accessibility of mobile phones, it is now easier than ever to access social media platforms while out and about with many even reporting that they check their online feeds during social gatherings, on public transport, and even during work hours. Social platforms are built from the ground up in order to be as addictive as possible and when they get to the point where they intersect private lives it may be time to call it quits.
Contrary to much of what’s been mentioned in this article, social media does have a multitude of benefits and when used in moderation with an understanding of the potential red flags can be used constructively. Unfortunately, it still lacks the level of regulation needed to cement It as a force for good for all users, these changes are ones we can hope are implemented into the future.
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