Social Media — Harmful or Helpful?

social media

As social media has advanced over the past few decades, more and more research has been conducted surrounding its usefulness and role regarding engagement with friends, family, and now even coworkers. This research has been especially relevant in the past year, as social media and technology, in general, have been tools used to integrate a virtual work environment for individuals across the world.

Research has also revealed the many harmful effects of social media on mental health and overall well-being. The two biggest concerns include the effect blue light has on the physical well-being of our brain, and the psychological ramifications social media has on our attention span, self-confidence, and the effect on already occurring illnesses like anxiety, depression, and dependency on addictive agents or behaviors.

However, at Lakehouse Recovery Center, social media and technology have been essential in transitioning our treatment and recovery programs from in-person to virtual offerings. Additionally, transitioning to virtual treatment has benefited others by broadening our treatment to individuals struggling outside our immediate area.

Common Negative Effects of Social Media Use

The term internet addiction has been recognized in the DSM-5 since 2013. The Displaced Behavior Theory helps to explain the connection between social media and mental health. In regards to social media and its connection to mental health, an article from Cureus claims that “people who spend more time in sedentary behaviors such as social media use have less time for face-to-face social interaction, both of which have been proven to be protective against mental disorders.”

Out of various reviewed pieces of literature and studies, it’s been shown that anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental illnesses that arise from social media use. While anxiety is a commonly shared struggle among many individuals today, studies are showing the increased likelihood that time spent on social media will increase the chances that a mental illness will develop or worsen.

Social Media as an Addictive Agent

Studies have shown that social media use is highly correlated to addictive behaviors among young adults and adolescents. At an impressionable age, young individual’s often experience feelings of peer pressure and fear of missing out (FOMO). As a result, they may find themselves becoming physically dependent on both on-screen use and social media.

Some science suggests that the likelihood of someone becoming dependent on social media is specific to the person. Just as some are more likely to struggle with substance use, others are susceptible to relying on social media as a coping mechanism, security blanket, or again, getting sucked into constant use due to peer pressure or FOMO.

Positive Uses of Social Media and Technology

On the flip side, the expansion of social media and digital technology has allowed for greater meanings and methods of addiction interventions. Technology and social media allow for two significant developments regarding intervention and treatment: face-to-face exchanges and interactive engagement, not only with case managers, therapists, or counselors but also with other individuals in treatment and recovery. Essentially it allows for your entire support system and sober community to be right at your fingertips whenever you may need them.

At Lakehouse Recovery Center, we believe in the importance of tailored treatments, interventions, and support. Technological advancements allow for a better implication of these tailored treatments. The Indian Journal of Psychiatry examines the use of digital technology and refers to patient-facing technology. These technologies include:

  • Web-based self-help interventions
  • Internet technology-mediated therapy
  • Artificial intelligence and virtual therapeutic software
  • Therapeutic use of social media

The Necessity of Social Media and Technology Use Throughout COVID-19

Last March, when most of our worlds turned upside down, many found themselves cut off from their sober communities, support systems, and had no access to the therapies and treatments essential to maintaining recovery. Like many treatment centers and health care providers, at Lakehouse, we found ourselves scrambling to make a transition to telehealth. Part of that transition included meeting specific requirements for conducting treatment, group therapies, and telehealth services through zoom and other useful technologies.

We saw many silver linings while making adjustments to our telehealth services. Incorporating technology into treatment programs has allowed individuals to make meetings, support groups, and therapy sessions from the comfort of their own homes. This alleviated previous blocks to progress, such as not attending due to work, lack of child care, or other commitments. Technology and social media allowed our patients to stay connected and maintain a very apparent culture at Lakehouse throughout the pandemic.

As the world finally finds its way back to normalcy, one thing is for sure — social media and technology have proved to be essential despite potential negatives that can result from it. Connecting to local treatment centers, finding virtual programs that may be out of your area, and having a sober community at all times in your pocket can help you maintain your recovery. Keep in mind that social media and technology are simply tools that should augment reality, not replace it.

While social media and technological innovation have experienced growth, expansion, and use over the past few decades, it has never been as essential to daily life as it was during the COVID-19 pandemic. One silver lining of the pandemic is that it solidified the usefulness of social media and technology in implementing effective interventions to treat dependence on substances, behaviors, and other addictive agents. Here at Lakehouse Recovery Center, we saw improvements in our patient’s treatments thanks to telehealth access and the continued connectivity of their sober community. We’ve been able to provide help and treatment to people not in the immediate area, expanding our reach further than we were able to before. If you or someone you know struggles to find access to a treatment program, reach out to us at (877) 762-3707. Your path to recovery can start today, in-person or virtually, and thanks to social media and technology, you can have access to support your greatest hour of need.