Community outlook: MA, LMHC Erin Gumm

Erin Gumm

Engaging in healthy ways with social media

By Erin Gumm, MA, LMHC

Licensed Mental Health Counselor

How many of us have scrolled mindlessly on our phones for a few minutes, which then leads to an hour or more, in order to avoid some of the tasks that need attention at work or at home? (Sheepishly raising my own hand.) We all do it and it’s okay.. sometimes!

Americans currently spend 6.5-12 hours/day in front of a screen, often more for those that work or do schooling on a computer. Studies show that for 7 out of 10 Americans, the first thing we do when we wake up is reach for our phone. Excess time on screens can wreak havoc on mental health, including worsening stress or mood issues, contributing to feelings of low-self worth, increasing anxiety, and the tendency to compare oneself to others.

These are already increasingly difficult to manage with day-to-day stress in these intense times politically and during a global pandemic affecting everyone’s lives. When under stress we tend to focus on the negative, which leads us to fixate further on feelings of anger, frustration, and resentment if we’re scrolling through social media. Because we tend to compare ourselves to others, this can negatively feed feelings of unrealistic inferiority (“I’m not good enough”) or superiority (“I’m so much better than THOSE people”).

Additional research on social media points out that we often turn toward social media for specific reasons: for validation and belonging, to present ourselves in certain ways to others (or manage perceptions of others), and to regulate emotions or calm ourselves with distraction. We often use social media to avoid some of the tasks that need attention at work or at home, and this can really make things worse if we’re already struggling to manage day-to-day.

I will be sharing some tips for managing our one well-being with social media. If you have additional ideas, share them with family and friends! If you feel that you or someone close to you has a serious addiction to social media or related mental health issues, do reach out for support through trusted friends, family, or online.

Column sources:

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) nami.org

Pew Research Center Internet and Technology

Additional Resources

Online tests for screening for addiction issues: The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction https://virtual-addiction.com/

3 Ways to Build your Mental Strength With Your Smartphone by Amy Morin, LCSW

Social Media Breaks and Why They Are Necessary by Kristen Fuller, M.D.

Erin owns Spero Counseling Services, a private practice in Toledo serving locally and surrounding communities. She provides in-person and virtual mental health services, and has provided online mental health counseling through Talkspace since 2017.