Mental Health Corner: The social media cleanse: Can you do it?

by Julia Rhea, Southwest Mental Health Counselor

Social media is a global network of connectivity that has become an addicting emotional trigger for some users.  Like most things, it has its pros and cons. One of the positive attributes of social media is that it helps people to stay connected to those who are not in close proximity. Instead of having to call grandma or grandpa to update them on life’s happenings, users update family and friends simultaneously with a social media platform.

Julia Rhea

Another positive is that people using social media are able to stay up-to-date with global news. In the past, a person had to rely on reading a newspaper or watching the morning or nightly news, and could easily miss out on detrimental happenings occurring both locally and nationally. Now, at the click of an app, you can receive news in real-time and stay abreast of what’s happening in the world around you.

Social media also provides an opportunity to socialize online where people can inform one another of their activities and share personal insights, opinions and information. But, as with anything, social media has its downfalls. One of the negative aspects is that it gives users an opportunity to develop alternative personas different from who they are in real-life. For some young users who are at turning points in their lives, and who are impressionable and sometimes emotionally fragile, social networks can do more harm than good.

Like any production, when cameras begin to roll and we know we have an audience, we tend to behave differently. The same type of behavior is true with social networks. Users can amplify their successes and whisper their failures making an onlooker feel like she or he will never match up to the hype. Social media makes us feel the need to portray things as “perfect” when, as we know, nothing in life is perfect.

With increasing amounts of individuals using social media, it’s difficult to detach from it, even when you’re noticing it is harmful to your mental health. How many times have you scrolled down your news feed on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and your mood noticeably changed for the worse? When these things begin to take place, it’s a sign that it’s time to “check-out.” Sometimes we need a timeout from things to reflect upon ourselves and gain a better sense of self-awareness.

If you begin to feel that being active on social media is harming your mental health or altering your mood for the worse, I challenge you to take a temporary hiatus. And if the idea of temporarily taking a timeout from social networks seems impossible, I challenge you to ask yourself, why? What do you gain from it that makes you refuse to let it go?

The Department of Counseling and Social Services will host an interactive table throughout the month of February to give students an opportunity to learn more about our department. We’ll be present at the Union Avenue and Macon Cove campuses, and the Maxine Smith and Whitehaven centers, so be on the lookout for us.  We look forward to meeting you all!

Counseling is available for students by appointment at the Macon campus Tuesdays and Fridays and the Union campus Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Other centers are by appointment only. Call (901) 333-5121 or email Faculty and staff resources are available through Partners for Health’s website Here4TN or call anytime, day or night, (855) Here4TN, or (855) 437-3486.