Is our mental health safe with tech?

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The coronavirus pandemic is definitely moving us closer to our phones and computers. Online platforms have also agreed to have received a huge increase in downloads and engagements.

In the first quarter of 2020, the social video app, TikTok was downloaded over 315 million times. The analytics by Sensor Tower showed that these downloads in just one quarter of 2020, were close to the entire number of downloads in 2019.

Also in April 2020, video conferencing app, Zoom announced to have over 300 million meeting participants daily. This recorded as a massive growth when compared with its 10 million users daily back in December last year.

Similarly, the social video app, Snapchat reported that in the first quarter of 2020, there was an additional 11 million daily active users making it a total of 229 million daily active users.

Unsurprisingly, all of these figures have been attributed to the pandemic. Lockdown, isolation and stay at home orders have made people less busy and therefore increased their engagements on social networks. While this increase is helpful to maintain social interaction and relationships with our significant others, overuse may threaten our mental health.

Suicide linked with the internet

Depression and suicide have been linked with the internet. Some mental health research suggest that people who spend a lot of time on the internet are likely to exhibit depressive symptoms as they attempt to replace physical interactions with online chats.

In many suicide cases, social media has been suspected as a major contributor to suicidal and depressive thoughts.

For instance, in 2017, a 14-year-old girl, Molly Russell took her own life after viewing self-harm graphics on her Instagram. After her death, her father reported to have seen lots of contents about self-harm and suicide on her Instagram account and believed Instagram had a part in her suicide. This raised awareness about social media effects and of course pressured Instagram to take precautions.

Molly’s case is not the only suicide case linked to social media. Again, another 14-year-old boy in Gurugram took his own life after being accused by a girl of sexual assault. The accusation which took place on Instagram attracted a large audience which of course the boy could not handle. The victim’s brother however claimed the girl’s accusations were wrong and blamed social media as a platform for the girl’s ‘defamation’.

These suicide cases are not restricted to minors alone as even adults are also victims. More recently, Hana Kimura, a 22-year-old woman took her own life which has been linked to harassment from the internet. Before her death, Kimura’s behaviour on a reality show had spurred some negative comments on Twitter, some of which claimed to be inciting suicide.

Staying safe on the internet

While the internet may be helpful to run some daily activities and maintain relationships, it may also be a dangerous place for our mental health.

The effect of the internet on our mental health is not outland as the reasons behind the suicide cases linked with the internet were common encounters on the internet. Accusations, negative comments and exposure to provocative contents can happen to anyone and therefore harm our mental health. Staying safe online however, cannot be over-emphasized.

These are a few precautions we can take to stay safe online:

•Take breaks from the internet.
•Filter online contents.
•Have a time frame to stay online.
•Engage more in offline activities.
•Avoid unnecessary online discussions.

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