Social Media is often regarded as a necessity in our society, for staying connected with others and creating career opportunities. However, whilst Social Media has its benefits, it can also increase feelings of isolation. Advisees struggling with content on social media may have fallen foul of these three common pitfalls:
- Social Snacking: This involves activities such as browsing through other people’s profiles or reading other people’s comments without making any of your own. Social snacking may feel like social engagement, and while you’re doing it, but just as junk food makes you feel both bloated and empty afterward, social snacking only leaves you with much time wasted and more loneliness than before.
- Self-Comparison: Other people’s filtered lives seem so much more exciting than your own. In particular you’re all alone late at night, the exaggerated glamour portrayed can make you feel insignificant by comparison.
- Bullying: People can be more comfortable being direct and aggressive online than in person.
- Doom-scrolling: This involves the over-consumption of particularly negative news or social media posts which can impact your mental health including increasing feelings of anxiety and/or low mood. It may be important limit how much we read these types of posts so that we can manage our feelings of overwhelm at constant negative information.
Often these issues aren’t limited to Social Media, they’re the same traps that socially-isolated people can struggle with in face to face relationships. In the end, whether using social media makes your advisees feel lonelier or not depends on their own perspective. If they already have good social skills, they may find Social Media a useful tool for keeping in touch with friends and family. But if they find themselves passively browsing through social media to take their mind off loneliness, it would be better for them to spend some time on self-help instead.
Queen Mary's Report and Support website offer information about local and national support services for anyone experiencing bullying and harassment. There is also the opportunity to make a report to the university, either anonymously or with contact details.