Social media and suicide rates
Recent results of a study into teen suicide rates, show a dramatic increase in completed suicides between the years 2010 to 2015.
Although the study doesn’t say that social media is the root cause of suicide, it does make a link. In fact, that’s what they set out to do, talking about suicide and depression rates rising as linked to increased new media screen-time.
Behaviour and attitudes
Even though it’s based on the behaviours and attitudes of teenagers in the US, there are similar levels of usage and ownership over on this side of the Atlantic, and the concerns that come with it.
It also claims the connection between social media use and depression and suicide is only apparent for teenage girls and not boys.
Is all ‘screen-time’ the same?
There is an issue with using the term “screen-time” like it’s all just one experience. As if everything we do while using or watching screens is the same. There is a big difference on the impact of your wellbeing between, watching hard-core porn and watching a funny movie or face-timing a friend.
Equally, spending hours airbrushing out all your flaws, on the 100th selfie you’ve taken that day, is quite different to editing a short abstract film you made.
Social media activity
Even considering the use of social media as one similar activity is a bit misleading. Having chats with a friend over messenger can be a positive thing, whereas losing hours stalking an ex on social media can’t be called positive, no matter how easy it is to do.
Some of the ways the questions are phrased in the study when put to the young people led to one conclusion with multi-choice answers. The highest use was considered ‘daily’ with no differenciation made between ‘once a day on the train at home time’ and ‘all day long, from the moment I wake up, during class and under the covers preventing me getting to sleep’.
So, what are we saying? Well, this level of connectivity is new to all of us. We do know that being ‘always on’ is hindering our sleep and doesn’t allow us to take time out of 24 hour news or contact with others and that is not great for our mental health.
Time spent on our own is important, to process things and just chill out and phones interfere with that.
Even so, the links between social media use and depression and suicide are quite weak as it’s not clear where the individuals were at and what was going on for them over time.
When there is any increase in depression, anxiety or suicide rates it is of course a huge cause for concern and we often feel the need to point at one thing for the blame.
The fact is, we are complex creatures and there are often many reasons why someone takes their own life. There are no simple answers, unfortunately.
Tired of social media?
However, we do hear from young people who get invovled with ReachOut.com that they can get sick of social media and it gets them down.
They’re tired of being presented with images that make them feel like they need to look and be a certain way, living a perfect life, when it is the last thing they feel.
Tips to manage social media if it’s getting you down
If something is making you miserable, stop it. Stop doing it. Step away. Take breaks. Easier said than done, we are well aware of this and don’t want to sound like we don’t understand the need to feel connected.
Completely switching off may not be for you, so stay connected by creating multiple accounts. Pare down the ones you have – a new one for following the things you like and maybe not the accounts belonging to people who make you feel #fomo or just not good enough.
Avoid the ones that make you feel bad about yourself on days where you’re feeling crap anyway.
Use Whatsapp and Viber for closed group sharing, instead of broadcasting. Share the good and the bad stuff with people in your life who really care.
Turning off alerts
Turn off push notifications and alerts. It can take a few days but you’ll learn to value the lack of interruptions. This also goes for the people around you, as you gradually stop reaching for your phone while someone is talking to you.
With notifications and alerts off, designate time that you go into your phone to look at your different accounts. You will start to use the time on these more effectively when you’re not on them mindlessly all the time.
Having very dark thoughts
If you ever find yourself engaging in any behaviour that makes you have thoughts about taking your own life, remember these are just thoughts. You do not need to act on them.
Do reach out to some one you trust or a service like Samaritans in times like these. Take a look at having thoughts about taking your life.