Kara Neumann recounts her experience with social media and mental health
With our phones now being an accessory in our everyday lives, social media has started to contribute to our mental health.
Social media has a different effect on everyone, positive and negative. For Kara Neumann, a former SCAD student, it was only positive at first.
“I started using Facebook when I was in high school, and it was a way to connect with my friends. It was a way to share class schedules and keep up with Farmville. I got Instagram because I loved photography and loved the idea of sharing pictures on a photo specific platform. I started using Twitter because I [loved] comedy and my brother told me I should use an outlet like Twitter to get my jokes and comments out into the world,” Neumann said.
In 2013, Kara Neumann enrolled at SCAD but left before completing her first quarter because she became severely depressed and contemplated suicide.
After dropping out, her therapist diagnosed her with major depression and an anxiety disorder.
In 2015, Neumann re-enrolled at SCAD then got hired at District as the social media manager, leading to some of the best months of her life. However, Neumann continued to struggle with her mental health, and in April of 2016, suicide became more than just a contemplation.
“I think I knew for a while that social media was having a negative effect on me, but I didn’t realize just how bad it was until the 2016 presidential election. When the presidential campaign started up, people became so nasty to each other that everything online became some form of hate,” Neumann said.
They hospitalized her four times that year.
“My brain is so easily persuaded to go negative that any level of bad news would either set me off or keep me going into a fit of hate. Hate for my country, hate for myself, hate for people in general.”
Many different aspects of social media can affect a user’s mental health. Political disagreements, self-comparison, and the fear of missing out can change someone’s mental health for the worse. Neumann believes that, in the world of smartphones and social media, everyone has become so vocal and opinionated online that hardly anyone takes into consideration the effect their words have on other people.
“I realize politics have always caused issues between people as opinions will always differ, but social media has amplified it. Instead of waiting until a holiday to hear my relative’s opinions, I became flooded every day with everyone’s opinions. Instead of seeing news about old friends starting over in another state, I [was] bombarded with actual life-threatening news,” Neumann said.
Social media can get our minds to think more negatively and enter a cycle of toxic tendencies.
“But social media doesn’t give you a chance to step back. It floods and floods and floods you with so much information that half the time I’m not even fully processing what I’m reading,” Neumann said.
While Neumann believes social media hinders students’ opportunity to engage with the world, she still advocates for people to spend less time plugged in and more time enjoying face to face interactions.
According to new data from the University of New South Wales and Macquarie University, as little as half an hour a day spent on Instagram causes women to fixate negatively on their weight and appearance, comparing themselves to contemporary yet unachievable standards. This amount of time is partly due to models starting on the platform which gives us more people with whom to begin comparing our bodies.
“I struggle with body issues, I’m sure everyone has experienced that to some degree, but surprisingly my comparison issue doesn’t come into effect so much in those regards. I tend to find my brain going negative when it comes to seeing where other people are in life and how successful they are compared to myself,” Neumann said.
SCAD is different from many schools since it doesn’t offer Greek life and pushes students toward professionalism early on in college. So, many students experience what they call, ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out) by using social media. Similarly, with being an art school, students might compare the success of their work to others based on their performances on Instagram.
“The social media problem is when [you start comparing yourself] to people you don’t know. It’s the people I don’t know that have the worst negative effects on me. Social media provides this weird alternate reality where everyone eats avocado toast bagels for breakfast, lays around in an oddly fluffy hotel robe all day and then goes dancing every night. In reality, that toast is burnt, the robe probably has bed bugs, and the dancing probably lasted 10 minutes,” Neumann said.
Social media has become a highlight reel for people to showcase their lives. We don’t always know what’s going on behind the screen.
Every social media platform can send us down a rabbit hole of self-evaluation.
“I’m at a point in life now where I’ve been able to curate my social media so that I only see positive things. When I have the most control over my mental health, my “good days,” if you will, I go through and delete or block anything and anyone that I know will have a bad impact on me,” Neumann said. By following accounts that are full of loving people, inspiring artists and humor, social media can become a more uplifting atmosphere.