While self-isolation is vital for flattening the COVID-19 curve, the lack of social interactions can have devastating consequences on our wellbeing and mental health.
The uncertainty that clouds our lives is causing stress and anxiety for almost everyone, however, Dr Harley Watson says that social media offers an antidote to relief some of this anxiety, and ensure our mental wellbeing is maintained.
“The biggest thing is to remember that you’re not alone in this. Everyone else is experiencing this too,” she says.
Dr Harley Watson is a clinical psychologist and the CEO of Open Parachute, an online school health program that raises awareness about mental health among teenagers and aims to reduce bullying in school.
Social media is the reality of this generation, and instead of denying that fact, Dr Watson said that we need to find ways to take advantage of what this reality offers. The key to interacting online is whether the experience is having a positive or a negative outcome on one’s wellbeing. Having a network of support, especially for young people, where they can have intimate conversations about their emotions and struggles, is now more important than ever.
“Reaching out online and staying connected to their friends and using social media to connect with them is really important for their mental health right now,” says Dr Watson.
Being online often may also mean being exposed to content that lowers self-esteem and confidence, which only adds to the problem. In order to avoid this, Dr Watson advises social media users to interact with friends in small private networks instead of sharing personal feelings and content publicly.
“When we share something with the whole world, we lose that personal feedback and personal interaction, and we open ourselves to any type of response including online bullying,” she says.
When asked about online challenges that appeared in the past months, Dr Watson says that if participating in those public challenges helps young people cope with this crisis, then that’s fine. Creating a sense community support and knowing that everyone is going through similar struggles is equally important. However, she says that every person needs to constantly reflect on any online interaction, and use their judgment to determine whether that’s beneficial or counter-productive.
“Ultimately, we want the online world to connect us not separate us,” she says.
In a Snapchat survey, the majority of Snapchatters, 66 percent, said that communicating with friends and family online have helped them cope with the situation, and allowed them to still enjoy some quality time despite the COVID-19 restrictions. More than 71 percent said they have become more aware about how to stay safe, through the platform, since the beginning of the crisis.
Many social media platforms are playing an increasing role in proving information about ways to stay safe during COVID-19. In a press release, General Manager for Snap Inc. ANZ, Kathryn Carter, said that Snapchat is collaborating with local and international health experts to increase awareness about health among its users.
“Content on our Discover platform is curated and moderated, and we work closely with only a select set of partners, including some of the most trusted news organisations around the world, to develop fact-based content for our community,” says Ms Carter.
In partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO), Snapchat launched a series of filters and Bitmojis with information about hygiene and self-isolation, as well as links to local mental health support services.
If you need mental health support services, don’t hesitate to contact any of the following: