By Dr. Sheila D. Williams
With drastic advances in technology and the overuse, and oftentimes misuse, of social media research indicates that heavy social media use may also lead to fewer meaningful in-person (or real) human interactions. Without meaningful social interactions, it is virtually impossible for friends, family and loved ones to detect that there may be any issues or mental health concerns. Let’s face it, we post our best pictures on social media, snap shots of our favorite meals from those 5 star restaurants, fast and expensive cars, lavish vacations riding horses on the beaches of Aruba, jet-skiing on South Beach in Miami, the best and biggest houses, the nicest cars, clothes and jewelry and the list goes on. These images on social media often depict the persona of a life that is unbothered, free from stress, what can appear to be ‘perfect’.
This ‘perfect’ persona that many portray of themselves and the lives they live, is unrealistic and promotes a false image that many children and young adults feel immense pressure to live up to. By constantly being bombarded by the need to ‘fit in’ and overwhelming feelings of not measuring up, the unhealthy comparison to those on social media who have ‘perfect lives’ has led to increased rates of depression, thoughts, attempts and completion of suicide. Sure many of us can discern between what we see on social media and what is truly ‘reality’, but for children and those already suffering from low self-esteem, or emotional and/or psychological disorders, the constant images of others living their ‘Best Lives’, can lead to increased levels of stress and depression for those that are observing.
While income inequality and the percent of uninsured adults in the US has drastically increased, so has the rates of suicide. Did you know that suicide occurs in the US approximately once every 12 minutes and that suicide now claims two-and-a-half times as many lives in the U.S. than homicides? So why is it that we are not focusing more attention on this epidemic? Why are we not addressing this issue and the factors that lead up to suicidal ideations and attempts? Why are we not addressing the need for mental health services for children in schools, prisons or even hospitals?
I propose we take a minute to regain focus. Let’s be real with ourselves, FIRST. We have to get back to the basics of understanding that we are all a work in progress. None of us are perfect. In fact, to even think that we have perfect bodies, perfect hair, perfect relationships, perfect finances, perfect careers/jobs, and relationships is unrealistic and a set-up for disastrous thinking. Let’s get back to having ‘human interaction’. Let’s talk to one another (face to face) and develop real and meaningful relationships. You know, like we used to do. Let’s turn off and unplug from social media sometimes and simply enjoy one another and this thing called ‘life’. Let’s learn to enjoy the moment, be present in the moment. In fact, rather than quickly pulling out our smartphones to take pictures of those 5 star meals, let’s thank God for allowing us to be able to afford the meal, the health to enjoy the meal and even the company (if you have company) that is dining with you. As a person who loves to post and share on social media myself, I’m learning that everything doesn’t require a post and it’s okay to unplug and that, in my opinion, is how we Live Our Best Lives!
If you or someone you know may be contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. In emergencies, call 911, or seek care from a local hospital or mental health provider.
Dr. Sheila D. Williams, Ph.D.
Mental Health Advocate
Best-Selling Author of
‘My Mother’s Keeper’
Internationally Certified Speaker,
Trainer and Coach
This article originally appeared in The Florida Star.