FIFO Life Part 18: Impacts of social media on your mental wellbeing

FIFO Focus’ Sharon Rudderham joins Big Al as part of the REDFM series FIFO Life.

In part 18, Sharon talks about the pros and cons of social media and technology and it’s impact mental wellbeing.

Are you using social media and technology in a healthy way?

  • Do you check your phone as soon as you wake up?
  • Do you check Facebook, Twitter or Instagram constantly during the day?
  • Are you posting updates everyday?
  • Have you had an argument with someone online?
  • Do you prefer to text family and friends rather than call them?
  • Does the lure of the internet keep you from going to sleep?

If you answered yes to some of these, chances are you may be using technology in an unhealthy way.

How technology affects our mental health

Technology is developing rapidly and becoming more accessible. It’s faster, instantaneous, demands more immediate responses, and has a greater reach than ever before. Importantly, technology has changed the way we communicate and interact with each other.

Technology, including texting, FaceTime and Skype, and social media are invaluable tools when you work FIFO. It helps you keep in touch with friends and loved ones when you are on site, assists you to grow your social network when you are away, and can boost your self-esteem by developing a sense of connectedness, especially if you feel lonely or isolated. It is useful for relieving boredom and is a good source of information and support. Used appropriately, it can be a positive way to supplement phones calls and face-to-face conversations, especially when you work remotely.

However, texting and social media can be anti-social or destructive if not used properly. It can negatively impact our mental health, which may flow onto our work and homes lives. Daily use of technology and social media in teenagers can make them more prone to anxiety, depression, negative self-esteem, and a loss of confidence. In adults, it can make it difficult for us to relax, sleep or enjoy other interests. It can have long term consequences such as deterioration of relationships, ill health or social isolation.

Some of the things to be aware of.

It’s easy to become addicted and waste time

Technology can take over your life without you even noticing and become an inappropriate coping mechanism. It may wake you up in the morning and keep you awake at night. You may be stressed or overwhelmed if you are trying to be across many things. If you are constantly checking your phone, emails, or social media you will not be giving the current activity or people our full attention, and may miss critical information or events which can impact relationships.

Our work performance can suffer

If you are constantly distracted by social media you won’t have your mind on the job. You may not be focused on what is important, may miss critical details to information or deliver poor quality work. If you are distracted you may unwittingly engage in risk taking behaviour which may have potential safety impacts. What you post is also important. It may potentially breach workplace policies, even if it is outside of work hours and not on company networks. All of this can negatively impact your career and potential for promotion.

We compare ourselves negatively to others

It’s unrealistic to assume that what people post represents 100% of their lives. People choose what they post and want you to see. They usually don’t post the negative things that are happening in their life, instead they generally post the best bits, and even then it could be photoshopped!

Comparing ourselves to others can lead to jealousy, feeling inadequate, a fear of missing out (FOMO), loneliness and frustration. We may attempt to over glamourise our life to “keep up.” We become overly critical of ourselves and second guess our decisions when we don’t achieve or meet these unrealistic standards. We can feel inadequate or not good enough, and that there is something wrong with ourselves which leads to a decline in self-confidence and self-doubt.

We often misinterpret things

It’s not your intention that is important, it is how it is received that is critical! The loss of verbal and physical cues when using technology makes it difficult to communicate effectively. When you send an email, personal message or text, people can only read what is written. Simple misinterpretation and misunderstandings have the potential to grow and become something bigger. This impacts work, social and family interactions. Importantly, it can damage our personal relationships. Intentional or not, it’s also easy to hide behind your profile, allowing you to comment and say things you wouldn’t normally say directly to a person, including strangers, or get into arguments. This can lead to bullying, harassment, trolling, cyberbullying which may have social, work and legal implications.

Everyone thinks they are an expert

If it’s on the internet, it must be true! Or is it? Information is everywhere and people comment and blog on everything with their own opinions, often without checking their facts and sources. Conflicting advice on what to do / what not to do creates uncertainty and confusion. Make sure you check your facts before you post and don’t believe everything you hear and see. Take the time to research and make your own decisions. See professional support or guidance rather than relying on internet or social media.

You can’t turn back time

Once you post something it will always be there. Texts can’t be recalled and whilst you can delete things on some platforms, chances are others will have seen it and may be able to access it. Be aware of potential privacy issues too.

Tips for using social media appropriately

1. Think before you press enter

Take responsibility for what you post and share. What you post impacts others – if you’re positive, chances are others will be positive too. Check your facts and grammar, reread before you hit enter and remember etiquette. Ask yourself: Is this emotional? How may others perceive or interpret it? Consider what image are you trying to portray. Are the photos and article you are sharing appropriate for the audience? Ask if yourself whether you are oversharing or post vague comments and whether this is the right medium for cries for help. Never post when you’re tired or feeling emotional angry, upset, lonely, hurt, or jealous.

Remember, if you wouldn’t say something to someone in person, you probably shouldn’t say it in a public forum. Importantly, if in doubt, delete it.

Everyone will feel entitled to their opinion …and it’s not always going to be the same as yours!

It’s reasonable to expect people will comment on your posts or potentially be argumentative. If you receive negative responses, try and consider them from the other person’s perspective before responding. Rise above things and don’t get caught up in arguments or escalate situations. It might be better to take the higher road and not respond at all. Reconsider whether you want to engage in social media (eg Facebook groups, twitter accounts) that are negative. You may even think it would be better for your health to delete or unfollow people who bring you down, bully or criticise. Try to facilitate connections with like-minded individuals who are positive instead.

2. Consider the media you are using

The internet, social media and phone calls will never replace talking to people face to face, but when you are away, they can either facilitate and grow the relationship, or can damage it if used in the wrong way. Make sure you use social media and technology to enhance your relationships and find the right balance for you. Before you pick up your phone to text or use Facebook, ask yourself: Is it appropriate? Is there a better way to communicate? Before you publicly comment or text, think about whether a phone call, Skype, personal email or message is more appropriate. If you feel a text message conversation is getting out of hand, it probably is. Take time to call the person and have a conversation, it’s likely things have escalated unnecessarily.

3. Be present and engaged

Put your phone away when you are in social situations with family and friends. Take time to engage in conversations. Be conscious and aware about how much you are using technology and social media. As yourself, is this healthy? Try to limit the number of times you log into social media, instead give yourself set times each day to check emails, your phone, twitter and Facebook.

4. Check and maximise your privacy settings

Do you know who can see your posts, comments and photos? You might be surprised at how broadly you are communicating. Check privacy settings and get a friend or colleague to check what they can see.

The content in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. We recommend consulting with a registered health practitioner or contacting us for more tailored support.

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