In recent years, there is a significant increase in the usage of social media sites. One study estimates that 69% of adult Americans and 86% of young adults aged 18 to 29 are active social media users. This goes to show how social media has become an integral part of our daily lives and culture. It has revolutionized the way people access content online. It is common nowadays for people to use social media to access news and entertainment and even buy products and services. These sites contain all the information that people are seeking.
Since social media sites like Instagram and Facebook create an urgency among users that they will miss important and interesting information, it has become commonplace for people to spend hours scrolling through these sites to consume content.
While social media can benefit mental health, as it enables users to form social connections, overuse can be harmful to mental health. This has increased the demand for mental health counselors. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that from 2021 to 2031, the demand for mental health counselors along with substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors will grow by 22%, with around 43,000 job openings each year over 10 years.
So, it is the perfect time to enroll in a Master of Arts in Counseling and Human Development — Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. Walsh University offers this program online. It is CACREP-accredited and perfect for people who want a career that supports those who need assistance. The best part is that students can complete the program in their own community as there are no mandatory campus visits. So, this virtual program enables those who have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school to become a mental health counselor.
As a future mental health counselor, one must understand the complex relationship between social media and mental health. That way, they can use their knowledge, skills and expertise to work with their clients and develop strategies to help them deal with the effects of social media.
Positive effects of social media on mental health
As stated before, social media can have positive effects on mental health by providing a sense of social support and connectedness, as well as access to valuable mental health resources and information. Some mental health experts believe that social media sites provide the same benefits as face-to-face meetings.
Social media is a source of social support for individuals who may otherwise feel isolated or disconnected from others. By connecting with friends, family members and online communities, these people can find a sense of belonging and support that can promote mental wellbeing. For example, individuals with mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression may find it difficult to engage in face-to-face interactions. However, they can find solace in online support groups that provide a safe space for individuals to share their experiences and receive encouragement from others who are going through similar challenges.
Promotion of mental health
Many positive online communities promote mental health on social media. For example, some communities support mental health advocacy, raise awareness about mental health issues and promote positive self-care practices such as meditation and mindfulness. These communities can help individuals feel empowered, build a sense of belonging and promote positive mental health.
Access to resources
Social media sites are a repository of information. They can provide access to mental health resources and information. Many organizations and mental health professionals use social media to disseminate information about mental health. People can find tips for self-care, information about mental health disorders and resources for seeking professional help. As a result, it can help reduce the stigma around mental health and make it easier for individuals to access the care and resources they need to be mentally healthy.
Negative effects of social media on mental health
As mentioned earlier, social media has negative effects that can contribute to, or exacerbate, mental health conditions. Some of the ill effects of social media on mental health are as follows:
Feelings of loneliness and isolation
Despite being more connected than ever, social media can promote feelings of loneliness and isolation. This is due to the superficial nature of many online interactions. Most people may only share the positive aspects of their lives. This can create an unrealistic comparison that can lead to feelings of inadequacy, jealousy or loneliness.
Exacerbation of existing mental health conditions
Social media can also exacerbate existing mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression. This can be due to the constant comparison and pressure to present oneself positively on social media. This can create feelings of inadequacy or lead to anxiety. Furthermore, constant exposure to negative news or stressful events can also harm mental health.
Contribution to the development of new mental health conditions
These virtual networking sites can also contribute to the development of new mental health conditions, such as social media addiction or social media anxiety disorder. Social media addiction refers to a compulsive need to use social media, which can lead to the neglect of other responsibilities or activities. Social media anxiety disorder refers to anxiety related to the use of social media, such as the fear of missing out (FOMO) or the fear of negative social evaluation.
Negative social media interactions
Cyberbullying, trolling and other negative social media interactions can harm mental health. One study found that nearly 59% of teenagers in the US have experienced cyberbullying and abusive behavior online. These interactions can create feelings of shame, embarrassment or humiliation, which can have long-lasting negative effects on mental health.
Mental health counselors need to be aware of these potential negative effects so that they can develop strategies to help their clients cope with them.
Factors that affect the impact of social media on mental health
The impact of social media on mental health can be influenced by a variety of individual and contextual factors. Understanding these factors is important for counselors when assessing the potential effects of social media use on their clients’ mental health.
These factors include things like personality traits and mental health history and they can affect the way social media affects mental health. For example, if a person has a pre-existing mental health condition, they may be more vulnerable to the negative effects of social media. Or, if a person suffers from neuroticism, they may be more likely to experience negative emotions as a result of spending time on social media networking sites. On the other hand, if a person has high levels of self-esteem and strong social support networks, they may be less susceptible to the negative effects of social media.
These refer to things like the amount of time spent on social media and the type of content consumed. For example, if a person spends a lot of time on social media sites, it is more likely that they may experience negative effects on their mental health. These effects could be increased anxiety or decreased self-esteem. People who consume negative or stressful content on social media, such as news about current events or images of violence, may be more susceptible to mental health issues.
It is important to note that these factors are not mutually exclusive and can interact with one another to impact the way social media affects mental health. For example, a person with a history of mental health conditions who spends excessive amounts of time on social media consuming negative content may be at increased risk of negative mental health outcomes.
How counselors can help clients deal with the effects of social media on mental health
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that mental health is a basic human right. Depression is a leading cause of disability in the US, according to the CDC. With social media sites having the potential to influence people’s mental health, it has become more important than ever to provide the right care.
Counselors can help clients better understand the impact of social media on mental health. This may involve providing information on the potential positive and negative effects of social media use and also discussing the individual and contextual factors that can influence how social media affects mental health.
Assess and monitor the usage of social media
Counselors need to empower their clients. Hence, they should teach them ways to assess their usage of social media and how it impacts their mental health. This may involve discussing the amount of time they spend on each social media site, the type of content they consume and the emotional reactions they experience when they use these sites.
Teach coping skills
It is necessary to teach clients how to cope with the negative effects of using social media. This may involve teaching relaxation techniques, cognitive-behavioral strategies to manage negative thoughts and emotions, and mindfulness-based approaches to manage stress and anxiety.
Develop healthy social media habits
Counselors should aim to help clients develop healthy social media habits that promote mental health and wellbeing. This can involve setting boundaries around social media use, such as limiting the amount of time spent using it, avoiding use before bedtime, and taking regular breaks from browsing and checking these sites.
Connect clients with resources
Another way mental health counselors can help clients is by identifying and providing access to positive online communities and resources, such as mental health support groups and educational resources on mental health. This, in turn, can help clients build social support networks and access additional tools and resources to manage their own mental health and take responsibility for their mental health and wellbeing.
Social media can have both positive and negative effects on mental health, and it is important for counselors to be aware of these effects and to help clients develop strategies for managing them. With the right strategies and therapies, mental health counselors can help clients develop greater resilience and wellbeing.