Making a difference via social media
Although I study marketing and public relations, I somehow managed to get accepted into a closed Facebook group run by occupational therapy students called “The Mental Health and Happiness Project”. To summarise, the group acts as a community forum, where members share articles relating to mental health and happiness. There are posts on topics such as understanding anxiety, caring for ‘sad’ people , autism and animal therapies and glamorised soup kitchens . There are also posts on chickens, more chickens, even more chickens, and my personal favourites, the memes.
This group has created an environment that cultivates empathy, support and compassion. As someone who is not supposed to be a part of the group -and is currently laying low- I still feel so much pleasure in checking notifications from this group. Sometimes it’s not even the content, it’s the concept of ‘happiness sharing’ and this community of positive thinkers.
I belong to various groups on Facebook where we like, share, comment and laugh at each other’s posts. Albeit not of a mindfulness topic, they create a warming sensation of belonging and acceptance, which, according to Wendy Zukerman is closely linked to happiness.
So if we can promote happiness through social media groups, then why aren’t there more groups like this?
Contrary to popular belief, there is actually a mass of studies that encourage social media in encouraging happiness among users.
“We fail to acknowledge that for many people, using Facebook is a gratifying experience that can even lessen depression” (Tandoc, Ferrucci and Duffy 2015)
“The paper provides case studies of people experiencing mental health problems who are using social media as part of their recovery, to live well and to challenge stigma. […] many people are using social media for peer support, shared learning and to decrease isolation” (Betton and Tomlinson 2013).
“We did not find evidence supporting a relationship between SNS [social networking sites] use and clinical depression” (Jelenchick, Eickhoff and Moreno 2013)
While some researchers argue otherwise
“media multitasking is associated with symptoms of depression and social anxiety (Becker, Alzahabi and Hopwood 2013).
“‘media amplification’ has been used to explain post-traumatic stress responses […] with media exposure even more strongly associated with stress than direct exposure” (Goodwin et al. 2015).
“higher amounts of personal social media usage led to lower performance on the task, as well as higher levels of technostress and lower happiness[…]. These results suggest that the personal usage of social media during professional (vs. personal or play) times can lead to negative consequences” (Brooks 2015).
It is a scientific debate that has taken place since the dawn of social media.
In accepting the facts presented by studies both for and against, I would suggest that the use of social media is equally destructive as it is invigorating; it is intent that differentiates our online experience.
In this way, social media opens a huge avenue for promoting mindfulness, gratitude and happiness, IF done in the correct manner.
And if that means sharing weird chicken videos, then count me in, let’s use technology for the better!