As we approach Safer Internet Day, St Patrick’s Mental Health Services highlights the risks that the ‘always on’ nature of social media creates for our wellbeing.
Cyberbullying and negative self-comparison are widely spoken about in terms of the impact of social media on our mental health. However, according to Adolescent Pyschotherapist at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services Colman Noctor, the main risk of social media on our mental wellbeing is the risk of ‘constant distraction’.
“The evolution of technology has meant that smartphones and other internet enabled technologies have become ‘anti-boredom’ devices. This removal of boredom seems at first to be a good thing, but perhaps there is an unseen value to being bored that we do not recognise?”
“The most important relationship we will ever form in our lives is our relationship with ourselves. However, like all relationships this requires time and space to develop and be nurtured. In the contemporary world, the always on nature of social media can mean that the time and space to be alone is minimised. This causes us to never truly know ourselves and never engage in self-reflection. The knowledge of the self is key to good mental health”.
Therefore, tips for maintaining wellbeing include:
- Creating space in our lives to be alone and reflect and be bored.
- Becoming critical consumers of technology and challenge the allure to fall into the sinkhole of these weapons of mass distraction.
- Engage more in becoming emotionally reflective rather than just emotionally expressive.
- Make time for face to face relationships with people we know and respect. It is the view of these important people that help us to create a meaningful sense of self.
- Try to learn to instil balance, equilibrium and accept that sometimes the more meaningful things in life, like fulfilment, take time and are not instantly creatable despite what contemporary narratives would lead us to believe.
Safer Internet Day is an opportunity for each of us to reflect on why and how we use modern technology and the long-term risk to our wellbeing. Nurturing the sense of self is labour intensive and does not fit with the modern narrative of instant gratitude, however ignoring it can leave us vulnerable when adversity strikes and we turn to our sense of self to cope; it is underdeveloped, under resourced and unfit to meet the challenge.
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