Mental Health & Social (Media) Distancing

With the closure of nearly all schools due to COVID-19, students suddenly find themselves with plenty of time on their hands. And if students are like most people, they have already started gravitating towards social media to fill their downtime.


With 96% of Americans owning cell phones and 81% of Americans owning smartphones, millions of people will use social media to fill their social void and communicate with other in the coming weeks. Keepings these ideas in mind, I wanted to share a few thoughts about the dangers of social media and the importance of using social media in moderation:


Anxiety & Mental Health

A 2015 study by Common Sense Media found that teenagers were consuming media (social networking and text messaging) nine hours per day on average. Seemingly overnight the number of students seeking mental health counseling skyrocketed. It is no coincidence the sudden rise in anxiety-related problems coincided with the first students who were raised on smartphones and social media.


Reaction: As someone who deals with moderate anxiety, I also notice my health issues can be linked to social media. Upon spending lots of time on social media I can physically feel my anxiety levels increase. I believe much of this is the result of a "Keeping Up with Joneses" mentality. When I see others share their personal or professional successes, I feel pressure and worry that I should be experiencing a "happier" life. As this Forbes article explains, this mindset is effecting the mental wellbeing of millions of Americans.


Productivity

Social media can claim your time and attention and, if used without limit, can be particularly devastating to your productivity. These apps and websites are massively addictive and therefore capable of severely damaging student attempts to complete any act of concentration. Social media can be entertaining but can seriously prevent teenagers from realizing their potential in other areas.


Reaction: Since most modern work is done on computer and smartphone, it is easier than ever to get distracted by social media. I find myself especially tempted to browse my feeds when I encounter high-level thinking tasks or when I am trying to start a new project. I currently use apps to monitor my time on social media sites, but even with safeguards in place the allure of checking the latest "news" can be difficult to resist.


Mood & Attitude

At a time when we have unlimited access to social media and news feeds, our exposure to other people's energy - positive or negative - is greater than ever. The more time students spend on social media the more they allow their motivation, engagement, and performance be dictated by the behavior of others.


Reaction: Getting sucked in to negativity and feelings of inadequacy on social media can be almost impossible to ignore. When I allow the social media affect my attitude, my whole life is negatively impacted. Often my entire day can be ruined by one post or comment! It is important not to dwell on matters we cannot control. We must remember the wise words of Earl Nightingale who famously said, "We become what we think about."


I want to be clear - social media can be incredibly useful and make our lives easier. I use social media to communicate school district news, post personal photos and updates, and share entries from my website. However, I am encouraging myself and students to use social media in moderation in the coming weeks.


Staying mindful of how much time we spend allows social media to be a productive use of time as opposed to adversely affecting our daily lives.

Looking for a great book about the impact social media can have on all aspects of life? Consider reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. It's currently one of my highest rated books.

Copyright © 2019 by Dr. Jared Smith LLC.  Specializing in Leadership, Education, and Personal Growth.