Social Media, Vicarious Trauma, and Mental Health

Social media and its involvement in our lives has exponentially increased since the early 2000s. From Instagram and Facebook to Tik-Tok and Snapchat. Our ability to consume live and worldwide content (both positive and/or negative) is at our fingertips.

How Does A Person Experience Vicarious Trauma From Social Media?

As long as we have an internet connection people can be exposed to both traumatic and disturbing content before it can be removed by media giants. This content can be related to the ongoing war in Ukraine, natural disasters throughout the world, or news headlines related to world hunger, genocide, or extreme heat. Depending on the amount of exposure and connections one has to a ‘said event(s)’, they can experience degrees of vicarious trauma.

On occasion, feelings of powerlessness, helplessness, and feeling that things are out of their control arise from viewing this type of content. This then results in vicarious trauma.

How Does Social Media Influence Mental Health Symptoms?

There are many factors to consider when discussing this topic. Some of these factors include:

  • A person’s age Social Media Applications
  • Amount and type of content consumed
  • An individual’s protective factors
  • History of mental health symptoms

Social media, in general, can create challenges with a person’s self-esteem and worth when viewing how other people live their lives or have what you don’t have. Other times, social media can be a platform for bullying and/or harassment – also known as cyberbullying. These experiences can negatively influence one’s self-confidence and create anxiety and/or depression in a person’s life.

What Are Some Ways to Manage Social Media Exposure?

  • Setting boundaries and limits on your devices can act as a cue to shut off or change activities
  • Limit social media exposure to certain times of the day, e.g. during lunch break
  • Delete accounts and uninstall social media applications
  • Build time in throughout the day to physically distance yourself from social media access
  • Seek mental health therapy to support decreasing social media use

Can A Mental Health Therapist Help Learn Skills to Decrease Social Media Use?

If social media in your life has become all-consuming then a mental health therapist may be able to assist you in making needed changes in your life. One of the ways working with a local psychotherapist can support you is by uncovering the reasons social media has taken over and learning how social media functions in your life. Often, human beings avoid or escape tasks, memories, or past experiences in order to kick the problem down the road. However, that can often create a problem that gets bigger and bigger.

We offer various forms of therapy to address problematic behaviors and/or habits one experiences in their lives. There is not a specific therapy for ‘social media problems.’ However, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy may be helpful in learning how and why social media has a powerful grip on your life. Submit a form here to see how mental health therapy can benefit your life!

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