Archive of ‘Technology’ category

Social Media & Mental Health

If I were to have 20, 50, or even 100 people in a room and asked them all if they had a social media account, chances are all (or most everyone) would say “yes”.  Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc., (you get the point), social media has become (and has been for years) a fundamental component of people’s lives.  By definition, social media is a website and/or application that enables users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.  While this is an accurate definition, it oversimplifies everything that social media represents in society today.  Social media is a way to stay connected with others and it creates opportunities for new ideas & inspiration, however, it can also create avenues for self-loathing, cyberbullying, and envy.  While it’s certainly not all good or all bad, it’s important to be mindful of the impacts social media can have on mental health. 

How Social Media is Beneficial

  • Enhanced Connectivity
    • It has become easier for us to connect with business people, family and friends and maintain relationships that may otherwise have not been sustained. 
  • Encourages Creativity & Innovative Thinking
    • Social media sites are all about content in a variety of forms. From written content to photos and graphics, there are many ways for users to participate, engage, and show off their creativity.
  • Using Social Media for the Greater Good
    • Social media offers easy ways to show support for (or condemn) an issue, raise money, promote a charity event or spread an important message. People can be encouraged to get involved in philanthropic and altruistic causes via social media.
  • Social media can benefit people already dealing with mental health issues by helping them build online communities that provide a source of emotional support. 
    • This can be invaluable for people with various health conditions to know they are not alone and to know there are sources of support.  These individuals are often one of the most vulnerable in society and can help reduce the stigma attached to seeking treatment.

Potential Detrimental Effects of Social Media

  • Social Media Use Can Lead to Feelings of Depression & Loneliness
    • Ever heard of FOMO (fear of missing out)?  Social media is a platform for people to showcase their best selves (and best version of their lives).  It’s all-too-easy for someone to peruse through a friend’s social media account and feel lonely (because they’re left out)—which could lead to feelings of depression.  This phenomena has been referred to as Facebook Envy
  • Worsened Body Image (particularly for young women)
    • When people, especially women, follow pages/accounts/media that depict attractive women’s photos, it can cause adverse effects on body image and decrease self-esteem.  When people interact with family members on social media, this does not happen. 
  • Worsened Attention Span
    • Because social media provides a means of constantly giving into the temptation of instant, easy-access entertaining, this ultimately means people can (and do) become more easily distracted. 
  • Poor Sleep Habits
    • Checking your phone ONE more time before bed is a habit that many people have created.  Doing this can create anxiety or envy—which ultimately keeps the brain on high alert and prevents people from falling asleep.  Additionally, having light from a mobile device inches from our face can suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps us feel tired.

What to Do About It

  • Turn off your notifications for at least a few hours each day.  This can be accomplished by putting your phone in “Airplane” mode or “Do Not Disturb”
  • Delete apps that contribute to unhealthy body image or feelings of inadequacy. 
  • Add apps or follow pages that help you feel better about yourself or inspire you to engage in healthy behaviors.  Some of our recommendations include:
  • Take a day off from social media to focus on other things.  We recommend doing this on a day that you don’t have school or work so you can use that time to participate in other activities you enjoy 
  • Make a plan with a group of friends to spend more time hanging out in person and less time interacting via social media.
  • Set boundaries or only certain times when you can check your notifications.  This can be done by setting screentime limits. 
  • If you are a parent wanting to learn more about how to limit your child or teenager’s social media use, check out these additional tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Ultimately, using social media, screens, anything like that is not ALL bad and shouldn’t be banished, however, it’s important to be mindful of the detrimental effects and be intentional about how much time you do (or do not) allow yourself & your children to be on social media. 

By: Julie Burke, LPC

Follow her on Instagram for some positive social media posts!

Where’s the Happy Button? Social Media and Awareness

By: Caitlyn Weeks, LPC-Intern Supervised by Lora Ferguson

By: Caitlyn Weeks, LPC-Intern Supervised by Lora Ferguson

If you were born after 1985, I’d guess that one of your first impulses after crawling into bed at night or after turning off the“snooze” alarm in the morning is to open up at least one of your favorite apps. Instagram, SnapChat, Tumblr, Vine… it might be hard to choose. You might even find yourself scrolling without really paying attention to what your screen is showing you. If this scenario doesn’t apply to you, I’d venture a guess that you’ve recently witnessed someone else doing it.

Social Media and Awareness Mindlessness

When it comes to social media and awareness, it’s much easier to think of its absence. We’ve seen the videos of unsuspecting users walking into fountains, holes in the ground, and other visible obstacles. The parodies have been sketched and run on TV. Between experts, public commentators, and comedians, an approaching society of mindless social media “robots” is not undetected.

And, if I’m being honest, I have to admit that I find myself pulling up social media more automatically than I’d like…

Waiting on someone at a crowded restaurant? Open an app.

“Relaxing” on the couch? Open an app.

Riding in the passenger seat of a car? Open an app.

I’ll even wince and admit to recently scrolling through Pinterest on my iPad and opening up Instagram on my iPhone. Two devices and two social media apps at the same time. When I caught myself and realized what I was doing, I put everything down and asked myself, “Am I happy in this moment?” The answer was a resounding, uncomfortable “No.”

It’s important to realize that happiness is not the absence of a strong negative emotion like anger, sadness, or fear. Happiness is it’s own state. And, while it would be unrealistic to expect to feel happy all the time (and, arguably, impossible), we have a choice in the activities we do in our free time and whether they contribute to our well being or not.

Parental Advisory

I’ve seen a major shift in the social media debate that is important to recognize. We’re no longer focusing on whether or not to allow teens to use social media. The debate is now how teens are using social media. This shift might be tough for some parents who are still concerned about the very real threats associated with social media. And, while those dangers still exist, the conversation must go beyond whether or not a teen has a social media account.

In my work with teens, I have the honor and the privilege of hearing views, feelings, thoughts, worries, and successes related to a wide range of topics. One of these topics is always social media. I enjoy taking off the “expert” hat and learning from teen clients about their use (or avoidance) of social media and awareness of what inspires, connects, and sometimes hurts as a result of that engagement.

Adolescence is a time of increased creativity, generativity, and social motivation. Social media, by design, is a rewarding and appealing outlet for these drives. Teens are not shying away from how to live in a modern social world and neither should we. While it might be tempting for parents to avoid the unknown or unfamiliar, it isn’t realistic. It’s ok if you don’t know what app is trending on the phones of local high school students. It is more important to focus on the culture of the app in order to understand its impact.

No download necessary

Whether you have an account or not, it’s not hard to see that social media has an impact on our daily lives and interactions. Let’s move away from the mindless robot images and start a conversation – not just between parents and teens – but between partners, friends, and family. Let’s try to introduce social media and awareness.

Wondering where to begin? Here are a few questions to consider:

  • How do you use this app?
  • What is the tone of the interaction?
  • How many times do you open the app in an hour/day/week?
  • How do you feel while creating something in the app?
  • How do you feel after you share?
  • With whom are you sharing? Is your audience public/global/private?
  • What thoughts and feelings do you associate with the app?
  • How does your body feel when the app is open (tense, relaxed, constricted)?
  • How do you feel when you talk about the app?
  • How do you feel when you think about deleting the app?

These questions are simply a starting place in an attempt to bring social media and awareness together. They don’t have answers that are set in stone. However, by considering the ways in which we engage with social media, we can gain a greater understanding of how we are spending our time and how we might or might not be contributing to our emotional and mental health.

Where's the Happy Button Social Media and Awareness

4 Simple Strategies for Parenting Tech-Savvy Teens

Technology is constantly changing and so are our teens. It can be difficult to keep up with it all, but don’t give up hope! Here are a few quick tips for parenting tech-savvy teens that won’t require an “update” next week.

Caitlyn Weeks, LPC-Intern supervised by Lora Ferguson, LPC-S is a Clinical Associate at Austin Family Counseling.