Social media and mental health discussed at support meeting

| September 19, 2018

COSHOCTON – For the last three years, Coshocton County has had a family support group for those who have or who live with someone who has mental health issues. The group meets the third Monday of the month at 7 p.m. in the grand central station room at Coshocton Regional Medical Center.

Gwen Bordenkircher, facilitator of the group, said that some of their meetings they just chat about the issues they are dealing with and they have speakers join them during other meetings. “Anyone is welcome, but everything is confidential. What is said here stays here.”

On Monday, Sept. 17, Ken Smailes, pastor and radio announcer was the featured speaker. His topic was “Social Media and Its Effect on Mental Health – The Dangers, Risks and Rewards of an Online Social Presence.” Smailes said about two years ago, he started studying social media and that he has a lot of concerns about where society is heading.

“Social media can be used as a tool – a resource, but everyone has a personal responsibility when they use it,” said Smailes. “Everything is instant – more misinformation and mistakes are shared and no one acknowledges the mistakes.  The competition of being first to report something is fierce.” Smailes said, as a reporter, he takes extra time to be sure what he is sharing is the truth, but not everyone is that careful.

Smailes believes that the lines between traditional and social media are blurring.  “Opinions are being added to the actual news.” One of the members of the support group commented that she used to read the news and then could turn the page to read opinion pieces, but now it’s all mixed up. Smailes also said that fake news has been around forever, but with today’s social media, people hear about it and share it faster than ever. “The constant access to social media is causing added stress to our lives.”

He then asked the group to share what they thought was good about social media.  Their ideas included long distance communication between friends and family, being able to see pictures of family, reestablish connections to old friends, job opportunities, and learning about happy events, such as anniversaries and birthdays.

After these were listed, he asked about negative things. The suggestions were a false sense of belonging, too much time spent, looking can mess with your emotions, and it can become addictive.

Smailes shared an example of two teens sitting in the same room and instead of talking to each other, they text back and forth. “We are losing the ability to communicate.” When texts are read, people try to read between the lines – try to guess what exactly is meant by the text. It’s easy to misunderstand what was truly meant.

He also believes too much social media can cause self-esteem issues in young people. They believe what they see and read and compare their own lives to others.  They want to try and “beat” what they see on social media. Social media also can disrupt sleep habits.

To ease the effects of social media on your life, the following tips were shared:

  1. Schedule time to check social media and don’t look at any other time.
  2. Turn off push notifications as they make you feel as if you have to check statuses constantly.
  3. Consider a social media fast – no type of social media for a certain period of time.

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