If you learn how and when to use it, social media is a great tool to boost your wellbeing. Our experts share the good news about going online
Traditionally, men aren’t very good at dealing with ‘stuff’, whether that’s going to the doctor, facing our emotions or coping with illness. ‘It’s important to realise you’re not alone, and social media means you don’t have to be alone,’ says psychologist Susan Short. ‘There’s a lot of support groups and positive science-based information out there – just make sure you stick to verified sites, charities and qualified practitioners. Men are suffering from increased stress, burnout and anxiety, and social media can be a powerful support network in both emotional and practical terms.’ Here are six ways to responsibly get in touch with your online personality.
Social media doesn’t just provide an opportunity to stay in touch with people – it makes talk cheap, but in a good way. ‘Skype, WhatsApp and now Zoom are free, which is great for keeping in touch with friends and relatives abroad,’ says psychologist Glyn Morris (mindhealthdevelopment.com). ‘It’s also a huge benefit for anyone who finds travelling difficult’ – which is true for many people under current circumstances.
It’s good to talk, but it’s even better to see who you’re talking to. ‘That’s the big advantage of phone apps such as FaceTime,’ says Morris. ‘Seeing who you’re talking with has massive psychological benefits because sight is the dominant sense, with up to 90% of the message we’re communicating being delivered visually.’
Create your own tribe
Social media gets bad press for dividing us, but it also brings like-minded people together. ‘Joining groups can give you a massive lift, and sharing information with others can increase your enjoyment of hobbies and interests,’ says Morris. ‘Anything that prevents people from feeling alone has big social and psychological benefits.’ And fear not, even if you have a thing for Ned’s Atomic Dustbin B-sides, there’s someone out there who shares your passion.
Take new opportunities
Bored of work? Social media can help you find a new job and potentially even a new career. ‘LinkedIn is really powerful for those over 35,’ says Scott. ‘You can promote yourself and your skills, build a professional network, ask for job suggestions and establish support mechanisms. This is good for self-esteem and it’s important because there’s no “job for life” any more. It’s never too late to change your career, and many social media sites can help you promote a new business.’
Get some Fitspiration
As long as you’re not following toxic social media accounts that make you feel bad about your body and abilities, social media can help anyone trying to get fit. ‘Being part of a community is great,’ says sports psychologist Andy Lane. ‘Apps such as Strava mean you can connect to a local group almost immediately. As soon as you download your run, you can see who else has done it and you can follow them.’ By connecting with other runners or cyclists via Strava, you can enjoy the benefits of group activities – camaraderie and support – even when you’re working out alone.
Fitness social media can be negative if you find other people’s times intimidating, but if you set it to only show your own times, you have a ready-made training diary without having to write anything down. ‘If you’re a runner, you can run the route and not look at the time – I encourage athletes to focus on the process of running smoothly,’ says Lane. ‘I’m also a great fan of analysing performance at home. We need to reflect, and your memory of a run – especially a hard run – is hazy, so looking at it on an app and seeing where you were fast, and where you slowed down, offers a way to reflect on your experience, with the help of prompts.’
Enjoy Healthy competition
Other people’s achievements can also be inspiring. ‘Social media is a way to compete, and competition can aid motivation in any form of fitness,’ says Lane – as can advice. Be wary, because there’s a lot of dodgy advice out there – but some of it is excellent. Seek out trusted sources, and approach information with an open mind, but always keep your nonsense radar highly tuned.
Construct your own bubble
Don’t forget that social media is a resource, and one way to avoid getting into arguments or being trolled is to simply use it as such – follow the writers or sites you like, and read their work, but avoid replying to comments. ‘Or at least be open-minded and constructive – think about what’s important and what isn’t,’ says psychotherapist Nikki Kemp. ‘Using social media as a reading resource can be a way of observing and recognising the idea of being kind to people. We have the ability to support others, and to tolerate difference.’
Social media can help you to help yourself – and others as well. ‘Some people who suffer from depression try to make themselves feel better by pointing out the negative things in other people’s lives, or, worse still, by actually creating those negativities,’ says Morris. ‘Their rationale is to try to create “universality”, so depression is a universally shared concept.’ But, the good news is, you can flip that on its head by spreading positive universality. You’ll be making the world a better place in the process.
Words: Michael Donlevy. Photograph: iStock by Getty Images
For more expert mental health advice, see the latest issue of Healthy For Men, on sale now at Holland & Barrett stores or online at hollandandbarrett.com