Healthy use of social networks

Social networks are now part and parcel of our daily lives. Our cell phones are never far from our fingertips. Depending on how we use social networks, this can be good or bad news.

Let’s start with the good news. Social networks can be a great way to stay in touch with friends and family or to find an old friend we’ve lost track of, and to break social isolation. There’s no need to wait for our 25th class reunion. We can also use them to relieve our boredom by virtually joining groups of people with whom we share ideas or interests. Networks provide a forum for us to express our opinions and affirm our identity. They also give us the opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of our loved ones and provide them emotional support in difficult times. In short, they give us access to a virtual community that spans the globe. Of course, all this is based on moderate use of these wonderful networks.

And now for the bad news: excessive or abusive use of social networks can have a negative impact on our mental health. First, they encourage us to present a controlled, almost perfect image of ourselves, which in some cases promotes unhealthy comparisons with others and their supposed happiness. This quest for perfection can lead to body image problems, which can be a source of anxiety and depression. It’s not uncommon for social network trolls to threaten and intimidate members. This is especially true in the school context.

Also, every day, social networks are so full of bad news and stories about the dangers that surround us, it’s sometimes hard to know what to believe. Some users become addicted and literally lose themselves in this virtual world for fear of missing out.

It’s clear that social media are a great communication tool. But as in all things, we need to exercise moderation and judgment. It’s important that we properly manage our use of social media, monitor their effects on our mental health and take breaks to reconnect with our immediate environment. And we always need to keep in mind that virtual networking is just that, virtual.

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