Photo by Amanda Woodrow.

Social media is a central force in most people’s daily lives, whipping up constant discussion about its efficacy and volatility and the long-lasting effects it has on users.

With competing studies linking social media to depression and anxiety while others connect it to resiliency and emotional intelligence, is social media good or bad?

“For me, it was a great form of communication. It helped me in my long-distance relationship,” said master’s student Amanda Desmit.

Moziah Taylor said for him, social media provides invaluable connections. “I play basketball, so for me, it builds relationships so that coaches notice me,” he said.  

At an event hosted on Friday by Ryerson’s Mental Health Committee, three panellists offered diverse perspectives on the impacts of social media and how media and technology can impact mental health and well-being today.

The three panellists were Farrah Khan, a social activist and co-ordinator of Ryerson’s office of sexual violence support and education, Alexandra Fiocco, an associate professor of psychology at Ryerson, and Amiga Taylor, Faculty of Communication and Design (FCAD) navigator of student health and wellness.

All three panellists said they agree that the impact of social media varies from person to person.

Fiocco said that individuals active on social media by contributing to a conversation, for example, fare better than individuals who are passive and compare their lives to others to feel self-validation and the approval of others.

Khan said she believes that posting online is “the only opportunity for marginalized folks to be seen.”

Ryerson has a number of marginalized groups on campus who want to be seen and heard, Khan said. “It’s the best form of communication at times,” she said.

But while social media may have advantages such as faster communication, a better sense of self and a feeling of belonging, there can be disadvantages.

Fiocco said that there are consequences to comparing your life to another’s life for validation. People want to be part of a group, and the fear of missing out sparks anxiety.

“This heightens stress responses, hormone levels, blood pressures and cognitive impairment long-term,” said Fiocco. These symptoms result in cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and mental stress and anxiety in the future for those affected.

Cyberbullying is also a major downfall to social platforms, and it comes in many forms: internet trolling, stalking and a new form of violence known as public dragging, or shaming.

While people are sure to keep posting their lives on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and many other public cyberspaces, it can be self-regulated more.

Khan said she remembers a time where her ex shared an intimate screenshot of her to everyone she knew. She felt ashamed and threatened. “It’s modern-day entertainment for folks, and it’s very punitive-based,” said Khan.

Khan said this debate presents an impasse in determining the viability of social media nowadays. According to Khan, it’s all about setting boundaries.

Khan said that she has clear boundaries and loves the mute, block and unfollow buttons on her social media feeds. “If I’m obsessive about someone else, it’s not a good relationship,” she said.

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