Social Media, Mental Health, and COVID-19

This article was originally published on June 1, 2020.

Social media has been booming during COVID-19, especially when countries have enforced lockdown restrictions. These restrictions limit people from conversing with each other, which is why many people have taken to social media. But is social media actually going to help you cope in these tough times? Or will it make it worse?

Social media deteriorates relationships, which sounds surprising considering the fact that social media was built on this simple foundation. Psychologists have proven that interacting with someone through a screen does not improve relationships; it deteriorates them. The simple way to look at texting is by thinking about a wall separating you and the person you are talking to. We tend to think that what we can’t see doesn’t have emotions. When we are looking at this “wall,” we tend to miss the other person’s emotions. This lack of knowing what the other person is feeling causes us to not understand the importance of the issue. One may also argue that FaceTiming is always an option. Think of FaceTiming as a see-through wall. While you may see the other person, the barrier is still there, which would hinder the progress of a relationship. On paper, it sounds great to say use social media to talk to your friends, but unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as that.

Social media is one of the major reasons people develop depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc. People who already have these conditions are going through so much pain and agony. We may not understand the gravity of mental disorders because we don’t have them, and I was like that before I went through a small sample of it just a few days ago.

It was a sunny Saturday afternoon. My mother and I were just finishing up a movie when she asked what I wanted to do next. My mind went blank. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. I told her, “I’m not sure… maybe another movie?” She said okay and she took a restroom break. In the span of 2 minutes, my mind became fickle. I didn’t want to watch a movie. I didn’t know what to do at all. When she came back, I told her I didn’t want to watch a movie. She sat down and said, “Okay… then what do you want to do.” For no reason whatsoever, I started to bawl, and I am not exaggerating. I was bawling, not even knowing why. My mother looked very concerned, and at that moment, I understood how people who had mental disorders felt.

I am not saying I have any illness; I am simply saying that because of quarantine and social distancing, my mental health was falling apart. Everyone seems to focus on physical ailments, but no one seems to understand the stress the brain is taking. Humans are social creatures. We rely on communicating with each other and our brain feeds on these interactions, so just imagine what would happen when your brain “starves” because there are no proper interactions. Approximately 725,000 people die due to suicide around the world. The percentage is projected to increase by 25% during quarantine, meaning that projections show that 1 million people will die by committing suicide this year. What scares me the most is that we seldom talk about these 725,000 people, and because of COVID-19, we won’t talk about the million at all.

I ranted a whole bunch, but I didn’t really talk about the solution. The solution, in some ways, is simple, but in others, not so much. Taking a few gulps of fresh air never hurt anyone. It is scientifically proven that breathing outside air helps reduce stress and depression. This seems simple enough and it isn’t something radical. People should take some time away from social media. By doing so, people can refresh their minds. I would also say that it’s okay to go on a walk or bike ride with one or two friends as long as people follow the CDC guidelines on social distancing, meaning that people walk/ bike 6 feet apart from each other wearing masks and/or gloves. I may get some backlash on this, but hear me out. People should follow the guidelines, but should also take the time to rejuvenate their mind. Inner self-care is extremely important. Think about it like cleaning a car. You wouldn’t do half the job by just cleaning the outside of the car right? You would clean the inside as well. The same applies to your body. Taking care of your physical body is important, but so is taking care of your inner soul as well. Stay safe. Be brave and take care of your mental health. Peace!