Last Updated: January 2, 2018, 7:28 pm

Technology harms, benefits mental health

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Professors at Dixie State University said there is a direct correlation with poor mental health and social media. 

Christine Chew, an assistant professor of psychology, said sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram give ways for social competition.

Chew said social media has created a lot of envy. She said people in their younger years often have problems with depression and anxiety because of envious or jealous feelings. 

People tend to forget it is not required to put your whole life on social media, so many tend to crop out the bad parts of their life, Chew said. There has been an emphasis placed on the good and not the bad, and that is not reality, she said.

“[With] social media, sometimes people use it to kind of project what they want to project about themselves,” said Edward Wu, assistant professor of psychology.

Wu said social media can heavily impact those with depression because the individuals are given the opportunity to easily contrast their emotions with the elated experiences of their peers.

“Bullies can use social media to bully somebody else, and it’s been known to drive kids to suicide,” Wu said.

People are able to use social media to say things they would never say in public because of the anonymity of the sites, Chew said.

“[Social media] has definitely increased the amount of people that can say hateful things toward [other] people,” said Bailey Summers, a freshman communication studies major from Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Summers said there is a lot more hate on the internet because of the ability to make fake accounts and remain anonymous. 

Chew said schools and families need to focus more on eliminating cyberbullying and make it one of the primary issues.

“The younger you are it seems the bigger the problem,” Chew said.

Chew said younger people are unable to deduce what is real from what is fabricated, and cyberbullying creates a confusion that can be deadly depending on the already-present factors. Body image, especially, has become a huge issue, she said.

“We see these pictures of people, selfies and other things that are enhanced or changed a little bit to make them look a certain way,” Chew said. “People think ‘Oh God, I can’t match up to that.’ How could you? It’s altered.”

Despite the increased issue of harm, Wu said social media is just as beneficial.

“It’s nice to have pictures and places to put all of the pictures where everyone can see it and some places you can keep it there forever,” Wu said.

Chew said she likes to keep an accurate account of her 9-year-old son’s life on Facebook.

“It keeps people in touch,” Chew said. “I think it helps you have ways of sharing positive events that happen in your life with people you choose to be friends with.”

Summers said there are quite a few things she does to remain mentally healthy in such a time of information overload.

“I generally try to avoid my phone in certain times of the day,” Summers said. “Or if there’s a lot of tragedy going on, I try to stay away from social media.”

Summers said the best thing to do is take time away and go out with friends to gain your own experiences instead of watching others. She said this makes it easier for you to come back to all of the information available more calm and level-headed.

“What you see is totally interesting, but it may not be the whole story,” Chew said. “And when that happens you need to take a step back and just realize that, like you, these people just want you to see the best parts.”

As social media and technology continues to grow, creators are becoming more aware of the growing need for mental health apps. Apple has a built-in “Breathe” app on their Apple Watches and the app store contains apps such as “Optimism,” which helps keep track of patterns in your mood by identifying triggers and offering solutions.

Summers said the best advice she could give someone is to stay aware of your feelings and emotions.

“If you feel like something’s wrong, something’s probably wrong,” Summers said. “Don’t just ignore it and think it’s going to get better because it could become a problem.”

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