Beware fake world of social media

Johannesburg – Imperfection is a normal part of life.

This is according to Dr. Frank Anderson, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, and author.

But in the world of social media, the smallest incident can trigger feelings of sadness and despair – and sometimes can lead to one’s death.

Many fans of the late actor, Patrick Shai, including some of his celebrity friends attributed his suicide to the backlash from a video where he challenged rapper Cassper Nyovest to a fight. He also swore at him.

Experts have said that depression that leads to suicide is a build-up of events and not a single incident.

Professor Leila Abdool-Gafoor, University of Johannesburg’s team leader: disability unit at PsyCaD, said although browsing through social media doesn’t necessarily cause depression, numerous studies have shown that it can affect people who already suffer from the condition.

She said if you are having a particularly bad day or week, and you go on social media to see your friends or people you admire living “happy, worry-free lives”, it can trigger feelings of inadequacy.

But she warned that social media is not a true reflection of people’s lives.

“Influencers won’t tell you about the 50 takes it took to get that perfect selfie.

“Someone you admire will not tell about the fight they just had with their partner that day.

“You only see what they want you to see or hear. We don’t know what goes on behind the scenes of that ‘perfect’ life,” said Abdool-Gafoor.

Abdool-Gafoor advises avoiding social media when you are struggling mentally and are particularly down.

She said the alternative was to avoid getting involved in negative posts. “We should focus our attention on things that make us happy,” she said.

With celebrities, she said, it wasn’t always easy to avoid a backlash and insults through social media, but that they should perhaps not engage by blocking comments.

“We have seen many instances of cyber-bullying too. There are social media laws in place – especially when it comes to children. You as the aggrieved can take legal action against perpetrators,” she said.

Gafoor said screen time should rather be limited and real social interaction needs to happen more.

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Somaya Stockenstroom

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