My article, as published in Estates Gazette 20 November 2020: https://www.egi.co.uk/news/how-a-tweet-or-two-can-help-your-wellbeing/
Social media tools have undoubtedly changed the way we communicate with each other. A new form of communication that allowed us to be connected to friends, family and strangers, sharing and consuming all forms of information.
But there is a debate about whether social media has a positive or negative impact on our souls and mental health. It would not take any of us long to find something negative about it. The ability for everyone to give an opinion on anything is always going to create tension. I’d argue, though, that if used correctly social media has the power to really support us in a positive way.
In June 2020 I wrote a comment in EG, talking about the impact Covid-19 would have on the nation’s mental health. I now sit here some months later thinking about those parts of my day that have kept me positive – one of them is social media. Remember, social media is still in its relative infancy – it is key for us all to understand how to use it productively and responsibly. For me, it’s been a positive tool that has aided my mental health over the last few months.
There are a few reasons behind this. Firstly, working from home for large parts of recent months has reduced my interaction with people. My energy is built from interactions – social energy, so to speak – and staying connected on social media has allowed me to replace some of those day-to-day conversations you would ordinarily have.
Second, the biggest positive side of social media to me is how many relationships I have built and nurtured through the use of it. It has allowed “human connection” to be strengthened, with existing relationships and new connections made. New connections with individuals who have similar interests (for me, construction) and hobbies (for me, cooking and gardening) that have enabled conversation virtually on specific topics – which have, on occasion, resulted in phone or video conversations.
Next, as someone with mental health challenges I find social media a vast source of information that allows me to see how people manage similar challenges. This has allowed me to find relevant podcasts and articles, but also “top tips”. The information offered by these tools, and the speed at which I can access them, undoubtedly makes me more productive (and surely must for others). This has been particularly key recently with World Mental Health Day and contributing to discussions both internally and externally on the topic.
Finally, linking to the above, I personally find talking about my challenges over social media easier than in the real world – however, social media has made it easier for me to talk more openly in face-to-face situations. Using social media as a mechanism to share my thoughts and receiving positive and supportive feedback has really motivated me to share more in my personal and professional life. This has benefited others too – colleagues and friends – in allowing them to become more open as well.
Everything in moderation
Whether you consider social media to be healthy or unhealthy is directly linked to how it is used. Like most things in life, if used incorrectly it will have a negative impact. A key is always to use social media sensibly.
Ensure when using the tools they are used constructively and in moderation. I certainly find setting aside time during the day keeps me focused – it helps maintain a healthy use.
Despite my positive sentiment above, like most things in life we need to manage how we use social media and ensure we are using it in a healthy way. Adopting a healthy digital diet involves spending time away from connected electronic devices, such as your smartphone – and therefore limiting your usage of social media. It doesn’t mean avoiding these devices altogether, but it might be useful to set boundaries for when and how you use devices, so you can balance their use with other important aspects of your life.
At PwC we have developed a free guide to digital dieting: PwC – Guide to Digital Dieting.
Everyone will manage their usage of social media in different ways, but the key message is making sure that you use sensibly and in moderation.