Empowerment vs exploitation: balancing the benefits and risks of social media for women’s mental health in the digital age

Today, the rise of social media platforms has led to unprecedented connectivity and communication and India, being the most populous country with the second largest number of internet users globally, has a market of ‘Internet very attractive and competitive. Although only 43% of Indians have access to the Internet, a substantial number of social media users spend an average of 2.6 hours a day on these platforms.

Empowerment vs exploitation: balancing the benefits and risks of social media for women’s mental health in the digital age (Photo by Freepik)

It’s almost a norm for smartphone users to have at least one social app that they engage with briefly, but the impact of social media varies from person to person. The influence of social media on mental health is an important issue to consider as experts say that around 7.5% of Indian women suffer from serious mental health problems and almost half of adult women suffer from less serious mental health problems at least once in your life.

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In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Arushi Jain, Director, Akums Drugs and Pharmaceuticals, shared, The upside of social media is obvious. Platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Meta allow women to build communities, share experiences and nurture connections. It provides a space for diverse voices to be heard and allows women to access information and resources that would otherwise be inaccessible. However, the platforms themselves can be a breeding ground for challenges affecting mental health.

She revealed: One of the most pressing challenges is the perpetuation of harmful beauty standards and body image ideals. With the proliferation of filters, photo editing tools and influencers promoting unrealistic beauty standards, women are bombarded with unattainable images of perfection. Women often find themselves measuring their lives against the seemingly perfect images presented by others. This constant comparison can lead to feelings of inadequacy, creating a negative impact on mental health. Women often find themselves measuring their lives against the seemingly perfect images presented by others. This phenomenon also perpetuates harmful stereotypes, reinforcing the notion that beauty equals value.

Arushi Jain added: Cyberbullying is another dark side of social media that disproportionately affects women. The veil of anonymity in the digital space encourages people to engage in harmful behaviors, ranging from body shaming to targeted harassment. The repercussions extend beyond the virtual world and leave lasting emotional imprints in real life. Consequently, many women resort to self-silencing, suppressing their authentic selves to avoid judgment and condemnation. It is essential to note that the emergence of deepfake technology adds another level of concern, where images and videos can be manipulated.

Despite these challenges, there is a growing movement advocating greater awareness and digital literacy to mitigate the adverse effects of social media on women’s mental health. Arushi Jain advised that setting boundaries is vital recognizing when to step back and disconnecting from digital noise is a vital aspect of self-care. It is necessary to encourage open conversations about mental health. Normalizing discussions about the challenges women face in the digital age fosters a supportive environment. This can lead to the creation of online communities that prioritize wellness and provide a counter-narrative to toxic online spaces.

Emphasizing that critical media literacy proves to be incredibly empowering, Arushi Jain explained: By educating women to discern and challenge the unrealistic representations presented on social media, they can interact with these platforms in a more conscious way. Recognizing that online content often represents a curated view rather than an authentic portrait can cultivate mental resilience. There is a growing momentum in initiatives aimed at showcasing women in a safe manner and breaking stereotypes across various platforms. Campaigns that celebrate different body shapes, colors and sizes, along with online communities that offer solidarity and support, are actively working to establish safer and more inclusive digital environments for women.

He concluded: At the same time, there is a move towards implementing regulatory measures to hold social media platforms accountable for safeguarding the mental well-being of users. A growing consensus underscores the importance of collective efforts to address this urgent concern. By promoting awareness and critical engagement, we can reshape the narrative surrounding the impact of social media on women’s mental health in a positive way.

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