Social Media and Mental Health
Although most workplaces have strict rules about access to social media sites during working hours, there are tools like VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) that the avid worker can use to bypass such restrictions. Furthermore, employees still have a life after work, and a significant amount of that time is spent on social media.
The latest statistics show that the world’s 3.4 billion social media users spend an average of 136 minutes or 2.2 hours daily on social media today compared to 90 minutes in 2012. Many would agree that 2.2 hours is a conservative estimate in an era where you are more likely to be looking at your phone than talking to the person sited next to you.
When did social media become bad?
After more than a decade of social media use, people have started seeing the negative effects of social media use on mental health among other areas like productivity.
The cons of social media are dependent mainly on the amount of time spent. Many studies have established a correlation between high social media use and mental health problems like anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, feelings of isolation, loneliness, and suicidal thoughts.
Facebook executives have even been on record stating that the platform poses risks to the emotional well-being of users. In 2017, the social network announced plans to make the platform less about spending time and more about meaningful social interactions. Facebook now has social scientists, psychologists, and sociologists collaborating with developers to make the platform have a more positive influence. Time will tell how successful they will be at the task and whether it will make a difference to the mental health of their users.
Social media anxiety
If you feel anxious at work when you haven’t checked your social media accounts, you could be suffering from a mental health disorder known as social media anxiety disorder. But don’t rush out to get a diagnosis for this social media triggered disorder. After all, this relatively new disorder is the same as social anxiety disorder affecting 20% of social media users who can’t go for more than 3 hours without checking their social media accounts. Given anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health disorders, the importance of regulating social media use can’t be overlooked.
Individuals with social media anxiety suffer from severe anxiety when they aren’t able to check social media notifications after a few minutes. Common symptoms of the mental disorder include;
- Losing interest in everything else apart from social media.
- Interrupting conversations to check social media updates.
- Lying/being defensive about the time spent on social media.
- Spending more than 6 hours daily on social media sites.
- Trying to reduce or stop excessive social media use in vain.
- Neglecting important commitments like work to engage in social media activities like commenting.
- Having an overwhelming need to share social media posts with others.
- Suffering from severe nervousness when you can’t check your social media notifications.
- Poor professional and personal life because of excessive social media usage.
Spending several hours daily on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, among other social media sites, can hinder your ability to do truly meaningful things in life. It can cost you a job, relationships, among other things like advancements in education. Here’s an in-depth discussion on the specific ways social media affects your mental health.
Comparing yourself to others on Instagram and Facebook with near-perfect photos and videos can bring a fair share of unwarranted insecurities, including feelings of self-doubt, even when you know the pictures have been photoshopped. The problem is that, when your sense of worth is dependent on how others are doing, you place your happiness beyond your control. There are studies showing that many social media users suffer from more envy compared with their counterparts who are rarely on social media. To avoid developing low self-esteem, become more conscious of the time you waste on other people’s social media profiles, and focus on yourself instead.
Poor human connections
Human beings are heavily dependent on personal connections with each other. Social media makes this impossible. Instead of developing real connections, we are more acquainted with digital facades. Many published studies are linking regular use of social media sites like Facebook with poor human connections.
Social media could also be distorting the way you remember certain aspects of your life. Although you can look back at past memories and recount how they happened, the process of perfecting social media posts distorts certain aspects of the real-time experience being captured. Perfecting social media visuals like photos and videos, overshadows the importance of witnessing the experience in person.
The importance of sleep can’t be overlooked. You need enough hours of uninterrupted sleep to avoid mental health problems like stress. However, many of us are on our Smartphones before going to bed, making it harder to fall asleep. The blue light emitted by Smartphones is misinterpreted by the brain as daylight. This light suppresses melatonin, the hormone responsible for preparing you for bedtime by altering the circadian rhythm. In a nutshell, social media makes it harder for you to fall asleep, which can, in turn, affect your work when you don’t get enough sleep. It’s advisable to avoid social media 40 to 60 minutes before bedtime.
Poor attention span
The mental health effects of social media go past the subconscious brain. You also need to worry about your ability to concentrate when you are working. Social media makes it extremely easy to distract people. Although social media places a lot of information on our fingertips, it’s harder to pay attention to serious tasks. The easy access to never-ending entertainment offers constant temptation to access new social media content instantly and repeatedly. Very few people today have the willpower to resist checking their phones even during serious engagements thanks to social media.
Serious mental health problems
If you overuse social media and the internet by extension, you could become depressed. You can also suffer from impulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, paranoia, and mental functioning problems. It goes beyond peer pressure to comment and share things. Social media has introduced unique problems i.e., the subconscious need to compare your life with that of others on Instagram or Facebook. This has been linked to feelings of depression, jealousy, and suicidal thoughts in extreme cases if your own life isn’t as “perfect” as what is depicted on social media.
If you are always working but keep being bombarded by pictures and videos of individuals who always seem to be on vacation, such exposure is bound to cause feelings of depression or jealousy. You may also feel suicidal about your own life.
Strategies for workplace mental health
Given social media is a leading cause of depression and anxiety today, problems which cost the global economy approximately $ 1 trillion yearly in lost productivity (according to the WHO), the importance of developing strategies for workplace mental health can’t be overlooked.One of the best approaches is through peak performance research and programs offered by organizations such as the Workplace Mental Health Institute (WMHI). Organizations are now legally obligated to care for the overall well being of their employees. The WMHI has programs which meet such legal obligations. Since managers are the primary influencers in workplaces today, programs that educate them on how to respond to mental health related issues at work benefit everyone (including employees and the bottom-line).
Effective workplace mental health programs tend to start with a company assessment meant to establish the precise state of mental health in an organization. Given 25% of the global population suffers from a mental disorder, every workplace, even those with the best recruitment practices, have employees with mental health problems that need to be addressed.
Mental health assessments should be followed by strategizing and designing the ideal, mentally healthy environment for high performance. Managers should then undergo training to be able to spot or preempt mental health issues as well as contain, solve, or reduce them. For organizations to deal with mental health issues effectively, managers must practice savvy leadership.
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Employees must also be equipped to deal with mental health issues. Mentally healthy employees have better job involvement, satisfaction, commitment, performance, and turnover. The best programs provide employees with mental health essentials such as personal resilience strategies that help employees cope with ever-increasing work-life challenges. Employees who are mentally tough have the willpower to resist distractions like social media and focus on productive workplace practices.
Employees who are depressed or suicidal because of social media can get the help they need through suicide prevention skills training meant to equip employees in spotting warning signs among colleagues and how they should respond. Suicide is more prevalent than we think. In Australia, for instance, eight people commit suicide daily. Six of those are men. The prevalence of death by suicide is higher than that of death by car accidents. Workplace mental health programs can help employees identify and respond to warning signs exhibited by colleagues.
These programs are not only a great return on investment, with an average of two hundred and thirty percent return according to PWC, but also offer a platform for introducing mental health conversations in the workplace to reduce stigma and eliminate myths and misconceptions associated with such issues.
Workplace Mental Health Institute peak performance programs are tailored to promote good workplace mental health, which is crucial for achieving business wealth. WMHI programs are endorsed by CEOs and trusted by globally renowned organizations such as PWC, Glencore, American Express, and Tradies.