Social media platforms create virtual communities through which we communicate and stay up to date with the world around us during a time of social distancing. During the pandemic, not only were people using social media to connect with others, but people have also started looking towards social media for information and news. Information is more accessible now than ever. While having the virtual world at your fingertips can be good, it can have negative effects on your mental health and wellbeing.
After students were sent home to quarantine, many like junior in chemical sciences, Lexi Yerton, not only used social media to see what was happening in the news but to connect with friends and see how others were doing with isolation.
“I keep up with my friends and, especially not being able to see everyone in large groups and everything,” she said. “It definitely helps me feel more connected to see what they’re doing throughout the day.”
News during the pandemic has spread rapidly and more rumors, opinions and ideas are flowing through social media than ever before. This flood of information can be overwhelming and confusing with sources telling us opposing things.
“I’ve had to be very strategic about the way that I use it and just not taking everything for face value,” Yerton said. “So, I really try to not believe everything that I see on social media.”
Luckily, there are accredited news sources out there to help you take a closer look at social media news and examine with a grain of salt. Remembering to double-check what you see on the internet can be crucial during COVID-19.
“I don’t go to Twitter or Facebook for the facts, I just go to see what people are talking about and then I’m looking up the facts myself,” Yerton said. “So, just kind of using it not as a resource but kind of as the first step in finding out what’s going on. I think that it can be a little bit dangerous when you take everything that you see on social media for face value because at the end of the day it is a human being who’s writing that information.”
People have also turned to social media in search of a little good news or funny memes for joy and relief from the unfortunate circumstances of the pandemic. Lilli Ward, senior in history and anthropology also took this time to embrace a more positive side of social media.
“I know I would search posts on there that’s just like ‘Hey, everyone’s going through a rough time but, here’s a positive post’ to kind of, not undo but, to help with all the negative stuff,” she said. “It would usually be pictures of dogs or someone’s cute kid, or whatever, but I would see people just trying to be that little light for someone’s day.”
Ward recognizes the effect social media can have on our mental health. It can be difficult to remain positive when a lot of what we see online causes distress.
“Some of the stuff is really negative and if you just see all the negatives all day every day, that can impact your own mental health,” she said. “It can lead to depression and what not or just to someone having a really bad day. Because if all they’re seeing is negative news, then it’s hard to stay positive throughout that. Especially during pandemic times when a lot of the news was just negative stuff everyday.”
Overall, social media can have many benefits during quarantine including raising awareness, staying connected with family and friends, and having a creative outlet. But, social media can have just as many negative attributes such as panic causing anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Like Yerton, Ward has learned to proceed with caution on social media.
“Personally, I just have to force myself to be conscious of how much I’m on my phone and paying attention to if all of this stuff has just been all negative things,” she said. “Then maybe I need to go work on something else for a little bit or just take a break.”
It is always important to be mindful of what you consume through social media as well as how much time you spend on social media. For more information about mental health and social media, here’s a list of tips for helping navigate social media during COVID-19 or anytime. Or, if you’re struggling with mental health issues during COVID-19, you can reach out to Lafene Counseling Services.