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social media and human behavior

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On average, Americans spend a little over two hours a day on social media. Sites like Tik Tok, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter allow you to reach just about anyone and they let just about anyone reach you. That can be a good thing, but that can also be a bad thing. If on a scale of one to 10, your ability to edit what people and information came into your lives was at, say, a six, before social media, it may be at a negative something now.

Not every mind is prepared to download all of that data. Even happy and stable individuals can feel depressed and lonely after too much time spent on social media. It’s a tricky place because, in some ways, there are many useful tools on there for mental health. There are groups where you can connect over certain issues and information you can gather for your wellbeing. There are mental health experts you can follow and uplifting articles you can read. However, in order to get to those, you have to trudge through a lot of trash. We spoke with Deana Davis, licensed social worker and therapist, about social media behaviors that could be a sign one needs professional help. We also examined why social media isn’t the best place to share personal matters.

social media and human behavior

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Do we ask too much of social media?

“People have turned social media into this grand thing. The expectation of social media, I feel, has changed,” says Davis. As for behaviors that could be a sign one needs to seek professional help, Davis says, “The long post is a perfect indication that you need a therapist…when people start unpacking long drawn out stories, relationship issues…videos of them crying hysterically.” She also states that any mention of suicidal thoughts should be taken seriously and requires professional attention.

social media and human behavior

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When posts turn dark

Davis went on to list some additional types of posts that could be indicators it’s time to see a therapist. “Very pessimistic posts. Everything is negative..there is no sign of optimism. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel.” She adds that if one begins writing about feeling depressed, or shows drastic mood changes through posts, that could also be an indicator that something is wrong.

social media and human behavior

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“Friends” aren’t always friends

The danger in sharing such deeply vulnerable moments online is that they can fall on deaf ears or blind eyes. “People think that the people who are viewing their page care more than they actually do,” says Davis. “You will have some family members who see it and reach out to you. But some people use social media…from a mental health standpoint…for a cry for help.” And they don’t always get the response they’re hoping for.

social media and human behavior

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Getting lost amongst the noise

Here’s a statistic worth noting when wondering how many eyes your post may get: the average adult has 338 friends on Facebook. So, with that number in mind, one’s deeply personal and even troubling  post can get quickly lost amongst the noise. Each of their friends is viewing posts from over 300 other friends. Facebook isn’t a place to get much personal attention.

social media and human behavior

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Getting lost can lead to feeling ignored

“If you’re posting so much, people become desensitized to what you’re posting. It’s like the boy who cried wolf.  The first time you post, you may get a lot of attention, but the fifth time you’re posting the same thing…you get less attention.” And that drastic drop in attention can be difficult to weather.

social media and human behavior

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Friends and followers aren’t therapists

As a clinician, Davis says she reaches out whenever she sees someone post about suicide. “Any time could be the real time,” she adds. “But friends who aren’t trained mental health professionals can think ‘She’s just bluffing’” says Davis about those who make frequent posts about the subject.

social media and human behavior

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It’s not personal, but it feels personal

When one doesn’t get the attention they want from a vulnerable post, Davis says, “There can be feelings of ‘my life is over.’…People can take social media very personal and think it will yield them a certain reaction. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. But there is a delusional connection with social media.”

social media and human behavior

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When FOMO gets clinical

“There’s also the element of seeing other lives that look so great. But it’s all staged,” says Davis. She notes that influencers and celebrities we follow aren’t going to show the messy or dark sides of their lives, creating the illusion that other’s lives are just that beautiful. And when we compare ourselves to that, we’ll always feel lacking.

social media and human behavior

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Do a detox

“It’s good to do a social media detox,” says Davis. “You’re absorbing all of that energy from other people. You absorb the things that you are watching. If you are on there all day, every day, it’s going to affect you in some way. So someone who has severe mental health issues is going to absorb it differently than someone who isn’t mentally ill. The brain function is a little bit different.”

social media and human behavior

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Social media and self-esteem

How exactly social media use will impact our long-term mental health still isn’t quite clear. But extensive studies have been done on the matter. There have been mixed findings on Facebook use and self-esteem. One study found that those with low self-esteem tend to post more on social media than those with good self-esteem. The same study found that increased time spent online leads to a direct decline in time spent with family and the size of one’s social group. One thing is clear: almost nobody can use social media regularly and enjoy zero impact on their mental health. So being aware of this relationship is very important as we move into an increasingly digital world.

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