Alone in a crowd
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Alone in a crowd

A cruel irony of 21st century life is that social media often leads to isolation

Obsession with social media and mobile application technology is fast creating a socially isolated society, say medical experts.

Dr Apichat Jariyavilas, a spokesperson for the department of Mental Health, Ministry of Public Health, said that like all things in life, it is imperative to strike a balance.

He said social media, especially Facebook and Instagram, has become a huge part of society’s everyday life, while mobile applications such as food delivery services, in particular, have become tools users welcome to help address the hassle of being stuck in traffic during mealtimes.

Both tools, when used appropriately, have numerous benefits, he added, but taking it to the extreme can create social isolation.

Speaking of social media, he said that when used to get validation from others, it can often consume people to the point of obsession with everything from sharing, posting, liking, commenting, selfieing and worrying how to perfectly filter photos so they appear more attractive.

Subconsciously, it is all about keeping their “following” count lower than their “followers”.

“It is all about an image,” remarked Dr Apichart. “We can accumulate hundreds of people following us, or friends, but in actuality have half the amount. Why do we feel we need this satisfaction from strangers or people we barely know liking what our lunch looked like that day?

“Experts might not all be on board with whether this is classified as addiction, but what is for certain, is that when this becomes an obsession it isolates the individual from reality. The need to go out there and converse with people is crucial.

When detachment occurs, there is a high likelihood that the person’s emotional health will be impacted.”

As for mobile apps, he said, using them is beneficial especially in urban cities, however, catching up with friends should also be important as humans are social beings. He noted part of the reason social media such as Facebook makes user feel socially isolated, even though they may not actually be, is the comparison element.

“Unconsciously, users fall into the trap of comparing themselves to others as they scroll through their feeds, and make judgements about how they measure up to others. Research tells us that in the social network world, it seems that any type of comparison is connected to depressive symptoms,” he added.

“Part of the unhealthy cycle is that users keep coming back to social media, even though it doesn’t necessarily make them feel very good always. This is probably because it works like a drug. Users perceive it as a fix to help them feel better, but it can very likely make them feel worse.”

Dr Apichart suggests keeping a healthy attitude towards the way one uses social media and technology by not allowing it to dominate how one feels.

“It is pivotal to keep a check on your emotional condition, especially when you find yourself preoccupied with social media. Find outside activities to indulge in, go out and meet people.” 

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