Health experts have warned youths and all internet users to avoid too much addiction to social media platforms saying that it might increase the risk of mental health problems and might compromise one’s well-being more generally. This increasing level amongst all that use social media every day, consistently, can be worrying as mental health has become a big issue nowadays. Many are trying to find ways that they can support their mental health and calm down the stress response, so stepping away from these platforms every once in a while and doing something like going for a walk, meeting friends, even looking into websites like wonderbuds and others like it, can help them gain clarity and improve their mental health in a proactive way.
The experts gave their views during a panel discussion at the sixth edition of the Uganda Social Media Conference held from 25th to 27th August 2021.
Dr Benedict Akimana, a psychiatrist at Butabika Hospital said the situation in Uganda has been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic lockdown that followed – sending many youths into depression.
It’s not just youths who have been affected by the global pandemic. Furlough schemes and companies going bankrupt has meant that many people around the world have lost their jobs. As such, they are turning to other means to fill their days. From using the internet to search for products from somewhere like this breeze recreational cannabis service to online chat rooms and signing up to any social media sites they have not yet signed up to have become popular options. Because of this new way of living, people and more specifically the youth of today have become depressed.
“Quite a number of people have been affected by the Covid-19 situation. Many people have suffered depression due to loss of jobs, loss of relatives, adjustment orders at work places have also set in, among others,” he said.
Dr. Akimana further observed that some internet users have developed a tendency of judging their bodily looks by what they see on social media yet social media is not only about having an amazing life. Some may develop body dysmorphia, whilst others can develop depression or even bipolar. There are treatments available for many mental health issues nowadays, with bipolar disorder treatment and depression treatment often working effectively for many. Social media is a new phenomenon, however, and treatments for mental health issues caused by sites such as Instagram and Twitter are less well understood.
“What happens when someone posts something on social media and they don’t get the number of likes they hoped for? It gets to them. They start feeling less worthy, others develop suicidal thoughts or isolate themselves because they think people are having more amazing lives than theirs,” he added.
Studies have concluded that social media is linked to mental health problems due to the reduced person-to-person communication that has seen many youths resort to e-communication. For the same reason, many young people have trouble with personal as well as professional relationships, leading to miscommunication and further mental health issues. One way to combat this would be to recognize the problem and take help from Counselling Kingston services or similar ones in other places. But, the first step is to become aware that a problem even exists-for a teenager or young adult to see that their use of social media is going over-the-top and needs to be controlled.
Dr. Paul Kasenene, a wellness and nutrition specialist who was also one of the panelists at the conference says social media addiction makes one more restless.
“You cannot even conceive getting off your phone unless you’re aware that being on phone all the time can cause mental breakdown. As long as you start to notice change in your behavior or mood then you should be aware of what’s likely to happen. The choices that you make are really because of your brain health,” he said.
“Try digitally detoxicating yourself. Do physical exercises which create the same craving you’re looking for on social media. Eat well to make your brain better. Learn new things which will take attention away from social media,” he added.
On his part, Leo InstituteFounder Awel Uwihanganye called for regulation of social media saying that without that in mind, they are left with too much power which could be misused.
“These social media platforms are very important, and we want the younger generation to also utilize them for things like business. We just need to have a global conversation on how they are regulated,” Uwihanganye said.