Social media and mental health

It wasn’t that long ago that social media didn’t even exist – or am I showing my age?!

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague yesterday around social media marketing.  We were discussing our own strategy moving forward and he commented that “I’m not sure why we talk about social media marketing – in fact, it’s just marketing now and even the word ‘digital’ is old hat”.  It did make me think – and it’s true that we don’t need to distinguish the two anymore – ‘digital’ is an integral part of our world, full stop.

Then it got me thinking about our children and I wondered how many would pick up a newspaper or a magazine these days, unless it was lying around home or the hairdressers.  Even then, most would still choose to get their news and opinions in a digital format, often via social media rather than the digital versions of traditional news channels.

Social Media training on the main platforms.

Social Media is now a part of all our lives.  If we are not using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr or YouTube, we could be searching LinkedIn.  Many of us don’t even consider YouTube as social media – it’s seen as a TV channel with comments.  We are using social media for so many different things.  Pinterest is a great one for ideas.  I have lots of friends who search for hours for garden or home ideas, looking for that perfect look.

Did you know our Gooseberry Guru’s can deliver social media training in your school?


I suppose the interesting thing is to understand how is it affecting our lives?  It is too early to assess the real impact, as the research was only really started about 10 years ago and it needs to run for much longer to see the true effect.  From my own experiences I believe it does impact us, partly for good and partly for bad.  There is no doubting the convenience of communication, the ability to keep in touch with old friends and make contact with new.  Platforms like LinkedIn are part of my every day working life and hugely useful.  But it can have its downsides too.   It’s a bit like a glossy magazine with all those gorgeous women in their stunning houses that you wish you owned.  The designer clothes, jewellery and the perfect family. The difference is that we can now use social media to paint that picture of our own apparently perfect lives.  Constantly viewing our friends and contacts looking great, doing amazing things, I believe impacts us more than the magazine images.    We expect those magazine models to look beautiful but don’t assume we must be the same.  But with social media, we can add filters to make sure we look great and even brush out those wrinkles.  We can photograph ourselves next to that racy sports car giving the appearance of ownership, even if we just came across it on the street!  This constant comparison of our own lives with these carefully curated posts of our friends can quite quickly create dissatisfaction with our own lives and the impact can be even greater on young people who have not yet experienced so much of life.

My son (18) and his friends have been ‘working out’ since they were 15.  Their whole goal is a ‘six pack‘.  They are not interested in the cardio side, just the appearance of looking ‘fit’.  Where does this come from?  Surely the constant images on social media (and yes, perhaps reality TV shows too) have had their effect.   Are young people putting too much pressure on themselves to have that perfect look? I think they are.  It can lead to unrealistic expectations, unhealthy comparisons, dissatisfaction with their body image, low self-esteem and risk their health by over-use of supplements – some of which are purchased online with little thought about where they have been made and whether they are safe.

I do think we need to address this issue with our children, to counter these unrealistic and shallow images that they find themselves surrounded with.   We need to teach them that ‘natural is good’, that being ‘you’ is amazing and not to hide behind a filter which enhances your eyelashes and lips.  We need to remind them that there are many attributes which are valued in life, and that beauty comes in many different forms.  Kindness, humour, dedication, charity are equally valuable and longer lasting!  I know times have changed, and I use social media daily myself, but children need guidance to recognise and follow the right values and not be sucked into unhealthy expectations.

I know myself that I pick up my phone far too much and just have a look at what’s going on.  Many of us spend hours just cruising our phones to find something –  we don’t know what that something is, but we seek a feel-good moment and, unfortunately, instead of finding this within ourselves we are finding it by watching others.  My youngest son is a keen scooter rider and travels to different skate parks in the UK.  He has a very active presence on Instagram with 2000 followers.  No, these are not his friends (and he knows they are not his friends), but he is building something, and his goal is to get sponsorship.  I know I could discourage him, but he is so passionate about it and it is a healthy sport.  People love watching him do his crazy tricks.   I feel that it is more important to have conversations with him and teach him how to use social media.  We have constant conversations about ‘Likes’.  Yes, when he posts he is forever looking at what the figure is, but we talk about how it makes him feel and I remind him that it isn’t a reflection on him as a person, just on that post or trick.

It is easy to assume that children don’t need educating about how to use social media when they appear to be so much more competent with it than we are.  In fact, there are many pitfalls that they could be unaware of until it is too late.   At Gooseberry Planet we introduce the concept of social media within our games around the age of 9.  I can almost hear you shout, “they shouldn’t be on it”, but the fact is, many are.  We have training videos showing parents and teachers how to use social media and what everything means, to help with these conversations.  All year 5’s and 6’s should be educated on the actual platforms themselves, not just “don’t play with people you don’t know”, “don’t add people you don’t know”.  We don’t need to encourage them to ignore the age limits, but we do need to acknowledge that they might and to give them the skills they need to protect themselves.  They are growing up in a digital world and the influence of social media is part of that growing up.  Let’s start showing them the how and why – not the do’s & don’ts

Why not share our conversation starters with your parents .

Also, don’t for get to sign up to our Gooseberry Alerts, just click on the button on the right.  This month we have added a quiz for students.

Scroll to Top