Health – Care needed with social media

Social media – love it or hate it, there is no denying it plays a huge role in our lives.  As we recently had another lockdown, I thought I would bring to your attention some New Zealand-based research into social media use and mental health.

When we are stuck at home, we may be tempted to reach for our phones and log onto Facebook or Instagram. Or maybe our teenagers are spending more time in their bedrooms on their laptops? Please be mindful of how much time you and your family are spending on these platforms, as there is some concerning data which suggests social media may be harmful to our mental health.

As an immigrant, I occasionally use social media to stay in touch with family and friends. Social media, however, is a double-edged sword. 

Both of the papers from which I quote below are taken from the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study, a large New Zealand-based longitudinal study that looks at the social attitudes and health outcomes of over 60,000 New Zealanders.   

Firstly, cyberbullying – defined as intentionally aggressive behaviour that is implemented via digital communication such as email, text messages, or mobile phone. In a sample of over 20,000 participants Andrews et al showed that 14.9 percent of the sample experienced this form of bullying, and that it was particularly prevalent within the younger, female groups, and more common among Pacific and Maori populations. This paper was published in 2020 in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking.

Social media provides a perfect platform for cyberbullying.

In another paper, published by Stronge et al in the journal Sex Roles, it was shown that having and using a Facebook profile was associated with poorer body satisfaction for both men and women. This association was strongest among middle-aged women. We are perhaps comparing ourselves to our airbrushed and photo-shopped younger peers.
Pay attention to how much time you are spending on social media. I encourage patients to, at the very least, avoid taking phones into the bedroom or using them at the dinner table. It is inevitable that our children will be exposed to social media but as with many aspects of parenting, try to maintain open communication channels. Check-in with them regularly and make yourself available if any problems arise. 

If you or a loved one has a problem, please make an appointment with your doctor to discuss this further.