How Social Media Can Be Less Toxic For Our Mental Health

How Social Media Can Be Less Toxic For Our Mental Health

Social media may have good intentions in trying to provide strong connections with others on a professional and personal level, but it can also shatter the mental health and body image of others as well. We may not be able to control what others post, but social media can control the functions they have set up that can fuel the damage that inflicts social media. By social media sites taking responsibility for the functions that make an impact on a person’s mental health, more companies can follow suit and be more aware of their actions.

New Policies on Instagram

A 2017 study showed that Instagram has had the worst effect on a person’s mental health, including eating disorders and body image issues. Facebook is trying to change all of that. They announced two new policies to ensure the wellbeing of members is improved as well as creating a healthier culture around dieting. One of them is that Instagram will prevent those under 18 from being shown any ads that are related to dieting. Another is that it will ban any ads that will glorify certain diets or weight loss products. Facebook has also announced that it is trying to hide likes. While these policies are heading in the right direction, we need to ask if there is a limit to what can be done for social media to not touch the mental health of others.

Commentary From the Experts

Emily Brunner, CEO of the Recovery Clinic and psychotherapist in eating disorders and body image issues, believes there needs to be a stronger relationship between users and social media companies. She believes that these companies need to take the feedback of users more seriously. Brunner also believes that the biggest problem is that users do not have the ability to be specific when it comes to reporting harmful content. When you flag it, it does not tell you why it is reported, problematic, or offensive. This can help companies decide whether this content is personal for one person or could make a negative impact on the masses. Brunner believes that the problem does beyond diet ads.

Dr. Ysabel Gerrard, a lecturer at the University of Sheffield, believes in the opposite in that Facebook’s efforts should be appreciated. That Facebook is speaking to experts, activists, and health practitioners, showing that they care. Dr. Gerrard thinks that there is no point in calling what Facebook is doing a PR stunt as they did not have to engage in any of these efforts. Despite admiring Facebook's efforts, Dr. Gerrard still believes that these policies are not perfect. Deciding what is considered a “glamorous diet ad” is subjective. There may not be a way to know what ads should not be seen.

Recommended Content

Dr. Gerrard worries about the content that gets recommended to people. Liking a certain post or engaging with certain people can make you see more and more content with the potential of it being harmful. For example, if you like a post on Instagram about eating disorders, all you will get is more posts about eating disorders flooding your home feed. Just when you want one day where you do not see the same familiar content, you cannot get that as it is all run by an algorithm. For example, British teenager Molly Russell killed herself after getting graphic images of suicide and self-harm that was recommended by her Instagram account months before. Pinterest was sending her automatic emails of violent images of death that said: “things you might love.”

Social Media’s Pressure to Compare

In reality, there is only so much that social media companies can do. You cannot control the dialogue that people on social media have with each other about eating disorders and mental health. But, fixing one policy will not fix the lengths of time when women were told how to look, the ads of products and creams, and what the standards are beauty are. The cosmetic and beauty industry is to blame for centuries of putting pressure on women while social media is just another addition to the pressure. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others and the lives they lead which makes us feel small. Before social media, people would compare themselves to models. Now, social media allows us to compare ourselves to average people. Our friends on social media could be making us feel like they exercise more or can afford more than others. 

Where to Go From Here

Because Facebook is the largest social media site, the company most likely feels a responsibility to ensure that no member on their sites is harmed by functions that the company places. Removing the like button and controlling the ads may not be the sole solution to solving how social media affects mental health, but it is a start. Big companies like Facebook do have a responsibility to ensure that their websites are making others happy and making any changes to ensure that. While these social media sites may be addictive now, accounts will be deleted and fewer people will join when they realize what these accounts are doing to their mental health. People will find other ways to communicate compared to continuing to go on a site that will make them feel lousy. Facebook taking the first steps to protect the mental health of its members shows just what a priority our mental state is.

Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center that uses evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress-reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Woman Uses Instagram to Teach Others of Her Boyfriend’s Addiction Recovery Journey

Woman Uses Instagram to Teach Others of Her Boyfriend’s Addiction Recovery Journey

Instagram is a social networking tool where you can post pictures and videos of yourself and your friends as well as including filters to them to give them a sense of style. Instagram can also be a good way to document a person’s journey such as trying to lose weight or even trying to recover from addiction. A woman from Nottingham decided to use Instagram as a tool to document her boyfriend’s heroin addiction to teach followers how bad it can get and to encourage others to go into treatment.

Using Instagram to Stay Sober

Recovery.org did a study to show how Instagram can help those struggling with addiction to help recover. Hashtags like #sober, #soberlife, and #12steps have been used in over 79,000 posts. #Soberlife was the most common addiction recovery hashtag with 32,707 mentions followed by #sobriety which has 19,033 mentions. Recovery programs like #narcoticsanonymous had 1,638 mentions and #alcoholicsanonymous had 1,272 mentions. The study also showed that Utah had the most addiction recovery posts 144.4 posts per capita and California had 70.8. Ironically, Utah has one of the lowest national rates of illicit substance abuse with California having high levels. This shows that substance abuse must be fairly new in Utah and more people are interested in learning about it. 

Instagram has the power to let users stay anonymous compared to Facebook where you are told to put in your personal information in your profile. Instagram helps give people space where they can share their experiences of addiction without having to worry about coworkers or family members knowing about it. While unfortunately there are websites that can trigger a person’s addiction, there are also others that encourage others to seek treatment.

Instagram Addiction Recovery Accounts

One Instagram account is called “Sober Quotes” that posts life lessons and motivational advice to get through the hard days of keeping sober. “Let’s Help Broken Ones” focuses on promoting self-love and passing it on to others. Users can also ask questions or messages in 300 characters for account creators to answer. “12 Steps to Recovery” provides messages of hope and messages of healing through the 12 steps. “Recovery Daily” provides encouragement through faith in a Higher Power. This is good for those who incorporate their religious beliefs into their recovery.

A Relationship Starting with Addiction

Lisa Selby met her boyfriend, Elliot Murawski, in 2015 at Alcoholics Anonymous. While they quickly fell in love with each other, Murawski relapsed and was sent to jail for two years and eight months after he was caught drug dealing to support his habit. Elliot first tried drugs when he was 12 and moved onto illegal substances when he was 15. After keeping his relapse a secret from Selby for three months, he finally confessed to her about it. This inspired Selby to create the Instagram account, @bluebaglife, to better understand her boyfriend’s addiction. The account was named after the little blue bag that Murawski would keep his drugs in. This account now has 11.5 thousand followers. 

Creating An Honest Addiction Recovery Instagram Account 

Selby started to take photos and videos of Murawski to better understand her boyfriend’s addiction in the hope it would help him detox. She would also show Murawski the pictures that she took of him when he was high to help each other understand what it was doing to both of them. She would take pictures of him looking high, pictures of the needles and other supplies used for drug supply, and even a picture of himself staring at a needle filled with heroin. Murawski would help Selby out with her Instagram account by sending letters and captions for her to use despite having no access to social media. 

There would be honest posts of Murawski suggesting to Selby that they should do drugs together and her refusing. She also posted a caption where she explains how she would see syringe packets surrounding her as she ate breakfast. He would hide his drug habits in his car and then in the bathroom. He then began using drugs in front of her. Selby was then able to learn from him where he acquired drugs and how it was done. Because she lost her mother to heroin use, Selby wanted to learn through her boyfriend about what made her lose her mom.

Instagram Account Reactions

This couple was amazed to see how many followers they were getting and how much they were supporting Murawski to overcome his drug use. In order to prevent people from being triggered by the photos and videos that were posted, the account was created as private. Selby said that she is proud of the network that she created through this account and hopes to help others suffering from addiction. Making accounts like these will encourage others to be honest about their addiction. By seeing the worst of drug addiction through these photos and videos, this will make others feel incredible joy when that person reaches recovery. 

Elliot Murawski’s Recovery

Murawski has been clean for two years and believes that Instagram is the reason why he reached recovery. Now, Selby is using Instagram to help others tell their stories of addiction. Breaking the stigma on popular social media platforms can make a difference. These Instagram accounts will show the honest brutality that addiction can inflict on someone and can encourage others that there is always time to better your life.

Located on the shore of Southern New Jersey, Enlightened Solutions is a recovery center using evidence-based therapies and holistic healing to treat addiction and mental illness. With the opportunity to learn about therapies that are keyed in to healing the human spirit and learning about new stress-reducing techniques centered around a 12 step network, you will ensure a lasting recovery. For more information, please call us at 833-801-LIVE as we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Billboards Have Nothing On Instagram For Body Image Damage

“Put your best face forward” is a cliche which has taken on a whole new meaning in the age of social media. Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have been criticized for promoting body shaming, and pro-anorexia communities. Instagram especially comes under fire as the “news feed” for the social media platform is 100% photos. It is easy to fill one’s newsfeed with nothing but photos of idealized perfection in models, celebrities, and more.

Self Editing

For the ultimate Instagram photo, there is a lot of editing involved. People even buy special backlit photo cases to be able to take the perfect “selfie”. Apps help people digitally edit their faces or their bodies to make it look more “perfect”. Many people argue that social media is damaging to self-esteem because people portray their real-life identities to the online identities of others. Recent research suggests that instagram might be more damaging to body image than big media mediums like billboards.

Social Media Comparison

According to theSydney Morning Herald, “research found women rarely compare their appearance to others’ in magazines or on billboards, and only sometimes compare their appearance to others’ on TV.” Women are more apt to make social media comparisons than any other, the research found, and social media comparisons describe the way young women are comparing themselves all the time.

The results of the study were startling. Women were asked to report how often they compared themselves to other women and social media and what their mood, body image perception, and thoughts about diet and/or exercise were like. “Women reported being in the worst mood after social media comparisons relative to other comparisons,” the study explains. “When women made social media comparisons, they also reported being unhappier with their appearance.” In addition, women were more “motivated” to start drastic weight loss regimens. All of these reactions were more extreme when women compared themselves against images on social media.

Body image can lead to a damaged sense of self-esteem and encourage extreme behaviors which can lead to the development of an eating disorder. Spending too much time online can be problematic. If you or a loved one are concerned about body image issues leading to an eating disorder, call Enlightened Solutions today. We provide dual diagnosis treatment for body image, eating disorder, and co-occurring substance disorders as well. For more information, call 833-801-5483.