Social Media and Mental Health Issues

The Mental Health Camp, which is a conference in Vancouver, Canada, that acknowledges the relationship between social media like and mental health, believes that social media like Facebook and Twitter may be used to help people with psychiatric issues. Dr. Isabelle Mori, one of the organizers, says that they have seen how social media helps decrease the stigma, with the relative anonymity it offers encouraging more and more people to be open and to speak out about their own mental illnesses.

Dr. Mori also shares some of her thoughts regarding other people’s takes on social media impairing mental health. Specifically, Dr. Mori points to a ThoughtPick article written by one writer who contends that this promotes certain psychological disorders.

Insomnia. According to the writer, known as “Beirut,” social network is one of the causes of insomnia (as she herself has been kept awake on several occasions by Twitter). She acknowledges that overusing won’t help with existing insomnia, but she contends that there is a difference between not being able to fall asleep and deciding not to go to sleep. She also points out how people automatically equate social media with it’s excessive use.

ADHD. Beirut wrote that the use of social media brings about many distractions that help promote ADHD among people. To this, Dr. Mori points out that ADHD causes are not yet known. In fact, she relates that Texas Tech University study on the connection between TV – which is quite similar to social media – and ADHD could not find that television causes ADHD in young viewers. However, she says that social media does tend to promote fragmented attention among everyone, even people who are not suffering from the clinical condition.

Addiction. Beirut said that these provides a platform for those who are weak and who are not capable of organizing their time and of controlling their use. The writer said that while there are those addicted to drugs, alcohol and nicotine, there are also those who are addicted to social networking. She has a problem with Beirut referring to people with addiction as weak. She argues that addiction is a mental health condition and not a weakness. Although she agrees that having a lot of readily accessible social media sites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube is akin to having a casino right next to a gambler’s home, she points out that there’s still a lot of academic debate as to whether internet addiction really exists. Dr. Mori opines that addiction is mainly a behavioral problem and not something associated with a particular substance, therefore an individual can develop addiction to anything.

Anxiety/Depression. According to Beirut, this encourages a person to spend more time by himself in front of their computers, instead of spending it interacting with other people, and this sort of solitude can in turn cause anxiety and depression. Dr. Mori agrees that isolation is detrimental to one’s mental health, especially those who are already experiencing depression, but she questions the writer’s contention about social media actually increasing isolation. After all, it is called “social” media, and Dr. Mori points that many people do report finding deep and meaningful connections through the internet, with these connections turning into face-to-face connections.