Research has shown that social networking – particularly on Facebook- is bad for our mental health. Sounds strange doesn’t it? A site that helps us stay in contact and reconnect with friends and loved ones must surely only make us feel good, right?
Kross conducted a study and found that a statistically siginificant number of participant’s reoprted feeling worse after interactions on social media (not reported after spending time with someone in person). He says it could be that Facebook activates ‘a powerful social comparison process':
Other people tend to post information—pictures, announcements, etc—that make their lives appear to be great. Frequent exposure to such information could lead people to feel worse about their own lives. That’s just one potential explanation. There are likely to be other factors too—for example, lack of interaction with other people directly.
Let’s take a look at Koko. Rob Morris has been developing a social network designed to actually help sufferers of depression and other mental illnesses. The concept is sort of like an online self-help group and supportive community. People post things to help others rather than boast about themselves.
The idea is every time we have a stressful situation, there are innumerable things we tell ourselves and that story can have huge implications for our well-being,
The crowd [on Koko] might come up with a whole bunch of interpretations that are wholly plausible, but way less negative.
This social network is based on the idea that mental health creates of ‘faulty thinking’ and adapts a form of cognitive behavioural therapy to aid sufferers. In other words, the way we think about a certain topic is what is causing the problem rather than the topic itself.
In this social network, other users play the role of the therapist – pointing out the ‘faults’ (thought processes that aren’t rational or helpful) in a person’s thinking, prioviding alternatives reasons for situations which are not as negative as the inital poster immediately thought.
But why would you want to spend time reading about people being negative? Morris thinks that assisting other people in fixing faulty thinking is itself therapy for the person offering the advice.
“As you’re helping other people, you’re learning techniques and rehearsing them over and over. That’s an interesting interaction idea that I don’t believe has existed before in the mental app space,” he says.
Maybe social media can have a positive place in mental health? We’ll have to wait untill the autumn for the public release of Koko to find out. But in the mean time, it might be an idea to cut down on Facebook…
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