9 October 2017

Tanzania: Keeping Mentally Healthy in the Digital Era

Photo: Pixabay
(File photo).

Tomorrow is World Mental Health Day. And, speaking of this, I have come to realize that at times keeping one's self mentally healthy in this digital era can be very challenging.

And, for the people fond of using social media, there is a lot to tell about the anxiety caused by social media and addiction.

Take this scenario; when you get on line and find doctored-pictures of friends, portraying themselves as being in happy moments somewhere or on vacation.

Psychologists say when you repeatedly use social media where people post their moments in perfect situations, it's likely to cause what we call a compare-and-despair feeling.

This can lead to unsettling anxiety due to fear of personal failure. Every person has feelings of self-consciousness--and at times, perfectionism can arise.

The anxiety may manifest itself in the form of social anxiety. In the long run, this may indicate an Obsessive-compulsive Disorder.

Who are your followers? The quality and quantity of the followers matter. Certain people communicate or post negative thoughts that may in the end influence you.

At one point, social media addiction may ensue. You will know you are slowly getting into this the moment you start doing this: You wake up in your bed, reach out for your phone which you usually keep under your pillow.

Then you check it out several times or use any other social media sites. In the evening when you return home after work, your children catch you trying to post Facebook updates while reading their bedtime stories.

In fact, a study in 2012 published in the journal Psychological Science said that social media is more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol.

A team of researchers from Chicago University's Booth Business School conducted an experiment using BlackBerry devices to test the will power of 205 people between the ages of 18 and 85 years in the German city of Wurtzburg.

During the study, the participants were asked seven times a day over the course of a week to identify desires they were experiencing and the strength of said desires.

This year in the United Kingdom, another study conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health surveyed almost 1,500 young people aged 14 to 24 on how social media platforms can impact health and wellbeing in issues such as anxiety, depression, self-identity and body image. According to research findings, 91 per cent of 16-24 year olds were found to use the internet for social networking which was described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol.

The researchers said the increased use of social media may have also led to higher rates of anxiety and depression in young people which have risen by 70 per cent in the past 25 years.

The author is a doctor and a health reporter based in Dar es Salaam.

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