Browse the Internet wisely to protect your mental and emotional health

Social media can be used to improve relationships in real life

Cambridge (Massachusetts, USA): Maureen Salmon

While social media can facilitate communication in the real world, it can also have a dark side.

Social media platforms provide a way to connect with others – long-lost friends, busy family members and neighbors. So why do you sometimes feel upset after spending time on the internet?

Social media may not be the problem. The problem may be how you use it, says Jacqueline Sperling, co-director of the MacLean Anxiety Management Program and professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School.

Negative effects on mood

Research has found an association between social media and negative effects on mental health in young boys and girls, according to Sperling. Although there is less research in adults, some show a similar association.

A study conducted in November 2021 and published online in the journal JAMA Network Open found a link between social media use and depressive symptoms in adults. The researchers looked at data from an internet-based survey collected between May 2020 and May 2021 from more than 5,300 adults (average age around 56), in which participants completed at least two questionnaires. None of the people in the study reported depressive symptoms in the first survey, but those who used social media were more likely to report an increase in depressive symptoms in subsequent surveys than those who did not. fact.

“Although research has found an association rather than a cause, it is possible that certain types of social media use are associated with negative effects on mood across a wide range of lifespans,” said Sperling.

– the bright side

Although social media can negatively affect your mood, that’s not always the case. Online social interactions have been shown to have beneficial effects on the mood of some users. The question is: why are social networks harmful in some cases and not in others?

The difference, Sperling says, may have to do with whether you participate in active and self-directed activities or other activities that may be passive and passive.

Sperling adds that active, self-directed activities, such as sending a direct message to a friend or updating a profile picture, reduce the likelihood of mood swings. But the reverse may be true for passive or ineffective practices, such as searching through social media posts. This type of navigation creates opportunities for social comparison, according to the researcher. Did someone else’s photos get more likes? Did their posts get more positive comments? Why go on an adventure when you find yourself stuck at home?

Tips for relieving discomfort

If you feel overwhelmed after using social media, there are things you can do to improve your experience without giving it up completely, says Sperling.

Track your feelings: First, find out how you feel using social media. Rate your emotional state on a scale of zero to 10 before and after using social media. (The number 10 indicates the most intense feelings, for example, very happy, anxious, or sad.) Also note whether you engaged in passive or active use during the session.

If you find that the time you spend online is making you more upset, angry, or anxious than before, it might be time to make some changes. Here are some possibilities:

> Understand things in their context. Sperling says people don’t typically post the full extent of their real-life experiences on social media. People can use filters on photos to make themselves more attractive than they are in real life, and they can carefully edit their photos online.

When you’re feeling jealous, remember that there’s probably a lot you’re not seeing. While a woman might post photos from her last flight, you won’t see the fight she had with her partner at the airport, or the strained relationship she had with her visiting daughter. Remembering this can help reduce the urge to compare yourself to others.

– Selective and active browsing

> Be selective in your choice of content: remember to be more selective about what you read when browsing. For example, do you have a friend whose messages constantly make you jealous or angry? Instead of continuing to see content that annoys you, use the “unfollow” or “mute” option available on some social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This allows you to keep friends, but you don’t have to see their private messages unless you deliberately view them. Sometimes keeping a few problematic people out of sight makes for a healthier experience, Sperling says.

> Activate your experience: Instead of passive browsing, use social media to improve your real-life relationships. Send direct messages to your friends or family members to stay in touch. Also use social media to identify real social networking opportunities. For example, if you see a post about an event from a restaurant you follow, invite a friend over, says Sperling.

> Choose your fight. Social media sometimes becomes a forum for fragmenting controversial topics, and feelings can quickly escalate. “Consider having these conversations in person rather than online,” says Sperling, as tensions tend to escalate faster when people communicate online. People can say things using the keyboard that they would never say in a face-to-face interaction.

If the person you’re dealing with isn’t closely related to you, consider whether a controversial or emotional topic is worth discussing. Sometimes it’s better to walk away.

> Keep perspective: Be aware of the energy you devote to social media. Some people spend a lot of time writing the “perfect” post. If you’re one of those people, consider setting limits or changing your usage. For example, if you really want to share photos of restaurant meals you enjoy, take the photo. But don’t post it until you get home, because the time you spend posting the photo at the restaurant and looking for likes takes up the time you’re supposed to be spending with your partner at the restaurant.

> Examine your motivations: If your online habits are hurting your personal relationships, think about the root causes.

“What are you looking for? Are you looking for a missing item elsewhere in your life? Is there an aspect that is missing from your actual social contacts?” asks Sperling. measures to enrich your personal interactions and reduce dependence on those on social networks.”

Letter from Harvard “Women’s Health Watch” – Tribune Media Services

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