SOCIAL media plays a huge part in the lives of today’s youth. Its role is so big that it can affect their mental wellbeing.
Universiti Malaya Centre For Addiction Sciences director Dr Rusdi Abd Rashid says that social media addiction can even lead to depression.
“It can also be that depression was already present in the individual before the addiction,” he says.
“Social media is used to sort of ‘self medicating’ (the depression),” he adds.
He says that people who are depressed turn to social media because they have lost interest in meeting people in real life.
He adds that during the initial stages of using social media to “treat” their mental illness, people will feel better.
“They can alleviate their depressive symptoms or anxiety.
“But later on, their excessive use of social media and the negative comments (they might receive) and so on, can make their symptoms become worse.”
On the other hand, Dr Rusdi says people, especially youth, are at risk of mental depression when they compare themselves to their peers on social media.
“Everybody is trying to show off and they feel happy when people praise them, admire them and click ‘like’ or ‘share’ (on their posts),” he says.
When people give recognition or praise them, it increases the secretion of dopamine in the brain’s reward center, he says, adding that this is a form of positive reinforcement and makes someone feel good about themselves.
“They will want to seek more of this feeling and eventually, they will lose control of their social media activity leading to addiction.”
This can also work in the opposite way when someone receives negative feedback or comments and becomes depressed due to it, he adds.
Dr Rusdi says those who use social media to seek validation do not feel the same sense of happiness as real life interactions.
“This chronic sense of dissatisfaction may also give a negative impact on their emotions leading to major depression,” he adds.
Besides the big threat of suicide, Dr Rusdi says social media addiction also has a negative impact on one’s physical health and relationships.
He says that for youth, psycho-social intervention such as counseling is the first step in treatment.
“Drugs like antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication are only used if the mental illness is very severe.”
If someone becomes suicidal, mental health professionals will normally advise that they be admitted into the hospital and be prescribed medication, he explains.
Medication, he adds, is not the preferred first form of treatment for children as it has been found to worsen their mental illness.
Last Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said the incident involving the 16-year-old who committed suicide after conducting an Instagram poll showed that mental wellbeing awareness needed to be improved.
“It showed the negative influence and negative effect social media has on the younger generation,” she said after chairing the Mental Wellbeing Meeting.
According to Bernama, the committee also agreed for October to be declared a mental wellbeing awareness montha and for a national awareness campaign “Let’s talk Malaysia” to be organised, as part of the Government’s efforts to remove the stigma associated to mental health among the society.