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Mental health: When to become worried about a friend’s social media activities

By Winnie Mabel October 12th, 2023 3 min read

The World Health Organization describes mental health as “a state of mental well being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well; and contribute to their community.” They further state it allows an individual to have collective abilities to make decisions, build relationships and shape the world we live in.

Mental health can be impacted by psychological, biological and environmental circumstances as well as exposure to unfavorable social, economic and geopolitical circumstances. One of the biggest risks to mental health today is the age of social media.

According to Forbes, about 4.9 billion people across the world use social media and the average user has about six to seven accounts on various platforms. The most common way people access these platforms is via their mobile phones, therefore making social media access and use instant and private.

There are millions of influencers achieving great financial success and fame on social media. Forbes’ influencer statistics research revealed that 50% of millennials trust influencers and would take their recommendations at face value while 88% said they value the authenticity of the influencers they follow. These influencers can be in different sectors including fashion and lifestyle, health, luxury promotion, cars and real estate, home making and interior design among several others.

In addition to influencers, there are also friends and acquaintances who seemly are faring on better in life. Altogether, such personalities on social media can either make a user (friend) either be motivated  to achieve their level of success or make one feel like they are not making it in life socially and financially. Their mental health begins taking a beating.

So when do we start becoming worried about a friend’s social media activities in light of the above?

  1. Unnecessarily harassing and trolling people seemingly doing better in life than them- If they were sweet natured before, jovial and happy-go-lucky but suddenly they are unprovoked trolls, you need to begin worrying about your friend. Something has triggered them and it is manifesting as negative behavior of lashing out at others.
  2. Publishing content about being depressed- Suddenly, you will notice your friend constantly posting content about being stressed about being a non achiever or being financially pressed despite your knowing they are doing better than most. You will see them publishing photos associated with depression or sad music, posting coded messages that may signify intentions of self harm, intentions of disappearing and so forth. Check in on this friend.
  3. Social media isolation- You need to begin worrying about your friend if they were overactive on social media but suddenly, they are missing in action. They are no longer in group chats, they deleted all their posts and photos and videos, changed their profile name or constantly deactivate and activate their social media accounts; and stopped interacting on various platforms where they thrived before.
  4. Body Image Concerns- Influencers tend to present curated, idealized versions of themselves, leading to body image issues and unrealistic beauty standards. Users, including your friend (especially female friends) may develop unhealthy eating habits and body dissatisfaction. You should begin worrying when you see them constantly comparing themselves to someone they see on social media, embarking on drastic diets or overdoing it on exercising to fit a certain body size.
  5. Burn out- The social media pressure of being a ‘baddie’, a guy with a six pack, a young lady with an apartment and a car, a married couple with an apartment/own compound, have certain body measurements, live a certain lifestyle will lead someone, including your friend, to experience mental exhaustion. You need to begin getting worried when your friend starts losing interest with things that pleased them in life and would rather sleep or use ‘help’ to forget about the state of their life.