Though people are keeping themselves safe from the COVID-19 pandemic by self-isolating, increased social media use has led some to experience an increase in negative mental health effects.
A study completed in 2016 by Dr. Brian A. Primack, dean of College of Education and Health Professions at the UA, found that increased social media use is correlated with symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Primack thinks now that people are at home and practicing social distancing, social media is likely to be used more as a way of staying connected and informed, he said. He also warned against any negative mental health that could potentially occur as a result during the ongoing pandemic.
“Even if there are negative things going on,” Primack said, “those things are going to be magnified (on social media) in sort of an unnecessary and unrealistic way.”
Although Primack had already discovered a link between social media use and mental health patterns, he thinks the ongoing pandemic could cause depression and anxiety symptoms to rise because of increased usage and exposure to consistent virus-related content, he said.
“People, while they may not realize it, are putting themselves at risk for sort of unnecessary, extreme levels of anxiety and depression,” Primack said.
UA alumna Kristiana Kramp has turned to social media more than ever since her quarantine has started and noticed she has been more anxious lately, she said.
“I would say that since I’m using social media more,” Kramp said, “I’ve kind of started to feed into the hype and the hysteria of the pandemic.”
Kramp said she is being exposed to COVID-19-related content on every platform she uses. She avoids reading the news because it brings her anxiety, but finds it impossible to avoid posts regarding the pandemic, she said.
“The more I see people talking about it,” Kramp said, “the more anxiety I get about it.”
Seeing increased coverage and opinions regarding the virus can give viewers a convoluted and exaggerated view of the ongoing event, Primack said.
Kramp said aside from COVID-19 content, she is more negatively affected by content she would typically see due to her having more free time to use social media.
“I scrolled through pictures of Instagram models for three hours,” Kramp said. “I just have more time to look at them and compare myself.”
Morgan Law, a sophomore, has used her phone consistently from when she wakes up to when she goes to sleep, since the UofA switched to online classes on March 16, she said. Law said seeing consistent virus-related content on social media has caused her stress.
“I feel (coronavirus information) is important to know,” Law said, “but I do feel like it's stressing me out a lot, just the effects the coronavirus is having on the world.”
Law sees people on social media ignoring social distancing and going out and socializing, making her wish her choices were different, she said.
“I see people going out and having fun,” Law said, “and I want to go out and have fun.”
While Law said she sees social media as being more negative than positive during the pandemic, Kramp said she is still having some positive experiences.
“I’m Facetiming my sisters more than I did before the pandemic,” Kramp said. “I think using more social media can be helpful right now for keeping in touch with people you can't see.”
Though social media does certainly carry some negative impact, it can also be useful for people seperated from friends and family, Primack said.
Primack said he acknowledges both the benefits and disadvantages of using social media, especially during the pandemic.
Getting in touch with people also experiencing isolation can make users feel good and comfortable, Primack said.
Kramp wants to try to use social media more as a form of staying connected, as opposed to a way of keeping herself entertained when she's bored, she said.
“I’m happy after I’ve used (social media) to talk to people I miss,” Kramp said. “I think if I just cut back on scrolling through Instagram and Tik Tok for hours, I’d be even happier.”
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