- In the midst of the present, unpredictable age, a new poll finds that Americans are adjusting their social media habits.
- The COVID-19 epidemic, the 2020 elections, and global instability have flooded our social media feeds with triggering and unpleasant content.
- This may result in increased worry and stress, as well as major mental health problems such as depression and even suicide.
- To address some of the issues that are disturbing you in the news, mental health professionals recommend unplugging for a while, picking up a hobby, or engaging with your community.
At the time of publishing, all facts and statistics were based on publicly accessible information. It’s possible that some of the material is outdated. For the most up-to-date information on the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our coronavirus portal and follow our live updates page.
With the current state of affairs in the globe — from the COVID-19 epidemic to political unrest and natural calamities — we’re continuously assaulted with possibly upsetting material on our social media feeds.
A new reality in which many people are out of work, hunkered down at home, and signing on to social media to connect with loved ones and friends while simultaneously being riveted to an ever-updating stream of terrible news has had a significant impact on how we engage with social media right now. What impact does all of this social media activity have on our physical and mental health?
During COVID-19, how are we connecting with social media?
According to a recent poll, Americans’ social media habits are changing dramatically at this turbulent period. A poll of 2,000 persons in the United States was commissioned by researchers from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to look at their social media usage during this period. The COVID-19 epidemic, together with political pressures and the country’s long-overdue confrontation with racism, was widely agreed to be at the forefront of people’s thoughts throughout the country. More than half of those polled — a whopping 56 percent — indicated they’ve modified their social media habits in general as a result of the national and global problems.
Due to the political and public health issues, over 29% indicated they’ve increased their social media usage, while 20% said they’ve taken a break from it. Other studies have shown that people’s social media postings reflect their tension and worry in response to current events. Many others are likewise attempting to navigate the choppy seas of disinformation, trying to separate fact from fiction when it comes to politics and COVID-19.
During this time, the problem of “doomscrolling,” or the impulse to compulsively seek news that may cause tension and anxiety, has evolved. Simply put, in a world that may often seem upside down, social media can stoke the fires of tension and worry, and understanding how to limit your use of it can be beneficial to both your mental and physical health.
The survey’s lead author, Ken Yeager, Ph.D., director of The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s Stress, Trauma, and Resilience (STAR) Program told USAHealthline that he was shocked by the large percentages of individuals who were dramatically adjusting their social media practices at this time. While he anticipated some changes during such a historic period, he was surprised by how many individuals said they were changing their behavior in reaction to the flood of information.
He described avoiding social media as an “enormous task,” particularly when the day’s terrible news seemed to have a confusing and disillusioning impact on Americans, who were typically taught that “if you work hard and do good things, good things would come to you.” Now, the news of the day, as well as the social media discussion around it, shows that this isn’t always the case.
“So you have the pandemic, a long-overdue examination at racial injustice in the United States, and a near-record recession lurking on the horizon, all at the same time as political rhetoric is spiking to new heights.” It’s difficult to avoid it no matter where you go.”
Selena Chan, DO, an integrative psychiatrist and associate physician diplomate at the University of California, San Francisco’s (UCSF) Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, told USAHealthline that many of her patients are divided about how to “plug into” and “unplug” from social media at this time.
On the one hand, social media provides users with access to personal, user-generated content that may seem more relevant than conventional sources of information. “Turning to the expressive reservoir of loss, sorrow, anger, emotions of doubt, moral discomfort, and instances of the pandemic’s silver linings may help some people process difficult experiences,” said Chan, who was not involved in the current study.
She went on to say that social media may “provide space” for loved ones and friends to support one other. While some pre-COVID-19 stress-reduction techniques are “offline,” she claims that social media gives “a forum to discuss varied, opinionated opinions about the health issue, politics, racial inequality, and social inequity.”
That may seem good in principle, but our ability to process all of that — at times painful — information at the same time may be overwhelming. “Even if a person avoids direct interaction with social media, indirect exposure to triggering information through anybody with whom a person interacts in their everyday life is still a risk,” Chan noted.
“When we passively interact with the material, we may unintentionally ‘download’ social cues like emotional tone and nonverbal body language.” Our stress response system may become hyperactive and hypersensitive if there aren’t enough ‘filters’ to buffer stress-inducing social media information,” she added. According to Yeager, the notion of “doomscrollers” has enthralled him, and he predicts that it will be the “word of the year.”
Why would you continue to expose yourself to material that might be damaging to your mental health?
Watching the phenomena, according to Yeager, are similar to witnessing a “train crash”: It’s difficult to look away. It may also be a way for some of these folks to feel better about their situation. It’s a way to practically mentally Armor yourself for the news of the day if you know there are flames raging in California but your house is alright, or that a storm has ripped through a neighborhood but your family is safe.
Social media’s impact on our health
In what ways does this social media material influence your health?
Yeager points to the sharply increasing rates of depression in the United States at the time. He believes that figures from 2013 to 2014, which are obviously pre-COVID-19, indicate relatively stable rates of depression, which have been rising in the short time after COVID-19 was implemented. In a recent episode of her podcast, former First Lady Michelle Obama admitted to suffering from “low-grade melancholy” during the epidemic.
This epidemic “unfolded insidiously with possibly a built-in belief that the effects would persist momentarily,” according to Chan, compared to earlier worldwide calamities. As a consequence, many individuals were caught off guard by the level of bewilderment, helplessness, and true dread brought on by the worldwide viral pandemic.
“Having the assurance that ‘this, too, will pass’ helps feed drive to keep moving ahead while facing a difficult scenario. However, it is unclear how the epidemic will progress and what this implies for our future,” she warned. Patients in Chan’s office have started feeling “tired yet wired” and that “there is no time for self-care or to digest what they are going through,” according to anecdotal evidence. This causes the body to go into “survival mode” in order to deal with the constant stress.
“A persistent urge to remain in survival mode,’ paired with unresolved trauma or sorrow, might make our bodies’ internal alarm system more sensitive to dangers.” In other words, formerly harmless social media information might suddenly cause a strong visceral response,” she said. This has crept into everyday life. Chan emphasized how things that were formerly delightful and exciting, such as seeing a buddy at the beach or going out to dinner, have now become dangerous.
Engaging with friends and the community may be beneficial to one’s mental health, but it now comes with the knowledge of the potential for bodily damage from exposure to the new coronavirus. “Shielding from COVID, on the other hand, maybe ‘good,’ but it might exacerbate emotions of isolation, despair, anxiety, or rage,” she continued. According to Yeager, the topic of mental health management has been under-discussed for decades.
As more mental health institutions close and health insurance companies make it more difficult for consumers to seek inexpensive mental health therapy, it’s created a perfect storm with more people requiring stress, anxiety, and depression treatment — but not having access to it, according to Yeager. Not surprisingly, he linked this to other issues such as self-medication — think of the country’s drug epidemic — and high suicide rates.
How do you handle social media pressures?
What are your coping mechanisms for all of these social media triggers? Both Yeager and Chan suggested simple, but crucial, actions to take. When you can, disengage, according to Yeager. Turn off the computer and set the gadget down.
Make an effort to maintain contact with your family and loved ones. It might be something as simple as making a necessary video call or spending quality time with the folks you’re sheltering with. Please keep your gaze away from Twitter. Another suggestion is to start a new interest. There are methods to avoid thinking about the social media news of the day, whether it’s via a creative activity, gardening, or exercise. You might also interact with your community directly.
It’s easy to feel powerless during this time, but finding a method to participate in resolving some of the problems that are causing you stress might be beneficial. Volunteer at a food bank, take part in a local cleaning or support a political candidate that you believe in. The last example may simply include going out and voting, or phoning local politicians if you’ve been concerned about a particular topic.
Communication, according to Yeager, is also critical. Discuss some of the tension that is weighing you down with a friend, loved one, or therapist. It doesn’t have to be “all or nothing” with your social media feed, according to Chan. You don’t have to entirely withdraw, but you should establish certain limits for yourself.
You may also customize your feeds to prevent viewing anything that might be distressing or disturbing. She also stressed the importance of determining how you react to stress. “There is no one optimal technique to cope,” she stated, noting that “extroverts energize via outward connection, introverts energize through internal connection,” for example. Chan said, “Prioritize daily time to immerse oneself in a personally refreshing self-care routine.” “It might be as simple as rising 15 minutes early to have a calming cup of tea and some alone time to focus oneself.” Maybe it’s staying in the shower longer and singing or listening to your favorite music.”
Even if you withdraw from social media, she claims, you don’t have to bear the whole burden of what you’re dealing with on your own. “Think about sharing your experiences with someone you trust or a healthcare practitioner. It might be therapeutic simply knowing you can be yourself with someone outside of your social group who cares about your mental and physical health,” Chan noted.
Yeager also emphasized the need of assisting some of the elderly persons in your life. Many of them do not use social media, which might make them feel isolated from the shared experience that everyone else is enjoying. Instead, people may fall into the trap of watching television news 24 hours a day, every day and absorbing disturbing material. He said that not everything is awful.
“I really believe that if the epidemic has a silver lining, it is that it is casting a focus on mental illness, and my goal is that everyone would take a moment to think about a family or a loved one.” “Check up on them and make sure they’re all right,” Yeager said. “It’s a dreadful, overwhelming scenario,” says one expert. Check in to see if we can be kinder to one another if we can learn to be more polite if we can be kinder. When the number of COVID-19 patients quadruples, think about taking care of each other. He stated, “Hopefully, we can restore the world to a more civilized condition.”
In the midst of the present, unpredictable age, a new poll finds that Americans are adjusting their social media habits. The COVID-19 epidemic, the 2020 elections, and global instability have flooded our social media feeds with triggering and unpleasant content. This may result in increased worry and stress, as well as major mental health problems such as depression and even suicide.
What are our options for dealing with this? According to mental health specialists, it’s critical to evaluate how you handle this knowledge and respond appropriately. To address some of the issues that are bothering you in the news, you may want to disconnect for a while, take up a hobby, or participate with your community. Talk to someone about it – a loved one, a spouse, a friend, or a therapist or counselor, for example.