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Social media. These two words have spread like a tumour across the world. It is no longer about live interaction, but social interaction via the internet.

You sleep with your phone, wake up and first look at your phone, and it becomes part of your body throughout the day. I myself sometimes feel naked without my phone or laptop. I have become possibly too attached to social media. I find it the quickest way to get the news, find out what is happening with my friends who are becoming my virtual friends as time goes on. I count my steps on it; use it as my notepad; as well as writing my every thought. Forget having a diary. Social media has replaced that. I find myself buying clothes with pockets, so that I can always at least carry my phone to check social media. I’m at the dinner table staring like a zombie into my screen rather than the food in front of me. If social media could give you air and hydration I think I would quite happily live in this virtual reality. But it is not reality. It is living through waves of technology rather than actual life.

Social media soon becomes an almost addiction, you get one app, then must continuously absorb your time in it, then another app, another post, another like, another comment. When does it end? I am starting to feel physically sick from it, headaches and nausea from staring at these sites too much and for far too long. I recently tried to go through a digital detox and couldn’t last a week not because of my temptation of wanting to check the internet, but because of work. The doctors actually use social media to send updates about meetings and various aspect of our work via apps. So even when I tried to detox myself, I couldn’t do my job properly as we have become a medical world through the use of social media.

Working in mental health, it makes me think, is social media even good for our wellbeing?

Using social media as your biological alarm clock daily must indeed increase your levels of anxiety. Constant checking and uploading information for fear of not getting enough followers adds to neuroticism. Not only does it increase overall generalised anxiety, you become psychologically dependent on interaction with others through the internet, which will decrease your social interaction in actual life. I even find myself more comfortable hiding behind words online then actually confronting the individuals in person.

Working in mental health, I see a real problem with social media with my patients. Social media creates an environment of perfection, a way of life that is similar to a film: beautifully artistic but creating high standards for others observing. My patients are at higher risk of becoming depressed as well as anxious looking at these sites, as they feel they cannot compare to the beautiful holiday destinations users of social media go on, their apparent high intense social life online, and stunning lifestyle options. It is absurd as most likely you do not even know these social media users in actual life, they are just people you start to follow as they appear they have a superficial fantastic life of their own. How can anyone compare? It creates a negative image for my patients of themselves, and they struggle to see the objective facts that sometimes these sites are not in fact real. They are to lure you in into a false sense of perfection, of what life should be for the elite. There is a concept of your how your body image should be, rather that it not being as important as who you actually are. There is a constant unattainable picture of how one should live their life and constant judgement of yourself as a result if you are not fulfilling it.

Social media also increasing the chance of my patients having internet addiction, creating a low self-esteem for themselves, and amplifies already existing risk factors. However, a growing problem is in fact: online bullying. Everyone is vulnerable to this. I have recently witnessed celebrities themselves being attacked from users online. Everyone can be a target. Not only do you now have to be concerned about bullying at school or in the workforce, there is added stress of being a victim from online attacks. It baffles me. Some of the abuse online is incredibly vicious, comments stating they think others should actually die. You wouldn’t throw a knife in real life at someone, so what gives anyone the right to throw it around online?

Don’t get me wrong, social media, if used correctly is an excellent tool for spreading wonderful messages and education. However, one needs to be very careful in not falling into the trap of trying to create a virtual perfect world rather than real life, and abusing the system.

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