Conscious Citizens consider mental health in the social media age | #socialmedia | #children

The good, the bad and the uglier elements of social media were the theme for the evening at ‘It’s Okay Not To Be Okay’ held at Goethe-Institut Namibia last Thursday.

Presented by Conscious Citizens and hosted by Kirsty Watermeyer and Xuro Milton, the discussion considered mental health, particularly in the digital age, while offering advice on how best to manage your online life.

Former fitness content creator Vincentius Mughongora provided first person insight into social media’s ability to stoke body dysmorphia. Once an obsessive fitness fanatic who eventually became depressed as he sought external validation through a moving target of ‘likes’ on social media, Mughongora shared why he quit the platforms.

“I started equating likes to being loved or being appreciated by society,” said Mughongora who left social media in 2018. “I went through a heavy depression. I had to leave social media because I wanted to heal, and in order to find myself.”

Mughongora’s experience is not isolated. In a presentation by clinical psychologist and owner of Being Well Psychology Iani de Kock the positive elements of social media such as its potential for networking, influence, connection, business, publishing, as well as education and research were contrasted with more negative effects.

De Kock expounded on how social media can cause envy and how misunderstandings can arise when one can’t hear tone or see facial expressions. She also explained how teens can be vulnerable to sexting and sexual predators as well as to peer pressure and cyberbullying. Excessive usage can additionally lead to loss of sleep, lower grades and social withdrawal. These negative effects may in turn cause social media addiction, depression, loneliness and anxiety.

“We’ve always had peer pressure but it’s a lot more on social media because we’re constantly being fed images of what we should look like, what we should buy and what we should wear,” said de Kock who offered some solutions to manage one’s social media use.

“We need to learn to reintegrate ourselves into society because that’s where we meet people. Plan detoxes through the day and longer detoxes over the weekend. Use phone access as a positive reward deserved for doing chores or work,” she said.

“Remember that people tend to post only the positive things they experienced. Try and keep a balanced perspective.”

Speaking more broadly about mental health, Namibia Institute of Democracy’s Pandu Nghipandulwa zoomed in on the experience of men.

“Considering the fact that suicide is among one of the leading causes of death in Namibia, it’s quite evident that, as a society, we are in a crisis,” said Nghipandulwa.

“If you say you are not well, I’m not okay, what do they tell you? Man up!” he says.

“Men aren’t supposed to show emotion. What that does is that, as men, we bottle up this anger and we act out in different ways. We go to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain, to the detriment of ourselves.”

Though seeking mental health assistance from psychologists, in therapy or from one’s community is still a taboo, Nghipandulwa called for an end to such negative perceptions and shame.

“There is a lot of stigma around seeing mental healthcare professionals,” he said.

We need to inform, educate and sensitise people so that it’s okay not to be okay.”

‘Conscious Citizens: Mental Health and How to Manage Your Digital Footprint’ was supported by Namibia Institute for Democracy, Hanns Seidel FoundationNamibia, Free Your Mind, Goethe-Institut Namibia and the British High Commission and featured artistic interludes by Lize Ehlers, Black Soda and Sabino.

– [email protected]; Martha Mukaiwa on Twitter and Instagram;

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