By Natalie Jacewicz, California Healthline
It was 1:30 a.m., and Anna was trying to keep her mind off her ex-boyfriend, with whom she had ended a painful relationship hours earlier. It was too late to call the therapist she was seeing to cope with low self-esteem and homesickness, and too late to stop by a friend’s house.
So, she turned to social media. “I’m having a really hard time right now,” Anna — who asked to be identified by a pseudonym — posted on Facebook. “Is there anyone I can call and talk to until I feel better?”
Almost immediately, three people responded with offers to talk. They were friends she had met playing Quidditch, a sport based on the Harry Potter fantasy books, and she kept in touch with them online. Anna talked to two of them until she was able to fall sleep.
“I used to be very shy about posting personal stuff on Facebook because I didn’t want people judging me,” said Anna, 26. “But that night, I was in such a bad place; I was desperate, and I thought anything would help.”
The negative effects of social media on young people’s mental health are well-documented by researchers and the press. Social media can drive envy and depression, enable cyberbullying and spread thoughts of suicide.
But some academics and therapists are proposing a counterintuitive view: They have found that social media may also help improve mental health by boosting self-esteem and providing a source of emotional support. These benefits have attracted too little attention from journalists and parents, they say.
“Yes, social media is contributing to a new era of adolescent (and adult) social stress, but when we accept that it is here to stay, we can also see it as a new opportunity for connection and mindfulness,” according to an online advice column published by the University of California-Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.
“We need to think about social media as not being absolutely good or bad,” said Amy Gonzales,…