Social Networking Sites Offer Numerous Benefits for the Mentally Ill

The majority of young adults use some sort of social networking site. They go on Facebook or Twitter to plan activities with friends, keep in touch with family members, and maintain relationships with people near and far. Research on the pros and cons of social networking sites has provided conflicting results. Some evidence suggests that these virtual relationships limit social skills and virtual friendships take the place of in-person interactions. Isolation, depression, and anxiety can be exascerbated by increased social networking activity. Other research suggests the opposite, stating that this type of interaction can actually strengthen existing bonds and open up new channels of communication, broadening one’s social circle. But until now, few studies have examined how social networking sites affect young adults with mental health issues.

Kris Gowen of the Research and Training Center at Portland State University in Oregon wanted to explore this topic. In a recent study, Gowen conducted an online survey of 207 young people with psychological issues and asked them what type of sites they visit, what they would want in a site devoted to people with mental health concerns, and how social networking sites enhanced or detracted from their quality of life. Gowen found that almost all of the participants did use social networking venues. “Our findings also indicate that the vast majority of young adults in this sample believe that social networking reduces social isolation,” said Gowen. In fact, they stated that use of these sites helped them plan activities with people and provided resources that allowed them to become more engaged with others.

The participants also reported that ideal social networking sites would give them information about how to live independently and how to address issues that they face as a result of their mental health issues. Surprisingly, the people with mental illness more often requested sites that would allow them to help other individuals, rather than sites that would only benefit themselves. Clinicians working with people who have mental health concerns should be aware of what sites are most common and which ones could be most useful for their clients. They should also help their clients understand the risks associated with social media, such as being exposed to cyber-bullying and violent content. This study demonstrated that not only are young people, with and without mental health issues, actively using a broad range of social media; but also that social networking sites, especially those tailored to meet specific social and psychological needs, can be very beneficial to young adults with mental health conditions.

Gowen, Kris, Matthew Deschaine, Darcy Gruttadara, and Dana Markey. Young adults with mental health conditions and social networking websites: Seeking tools to build community. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 35.3 (2012): 245-50. Print.

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  • ron c

    December 21st, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    As social networking is so pervasive in ntoday’s culture, to know that young people with mental illness have finally found an outlet that allows thewm a modicum of healing is encouraging. Yes, it may not be what many of us would use as our go to method for healing and comfort, but this is what works for them and at least they are seeking out something. This has to be far healthier than choosing to bottle thee feelings on the in side. I think that recent events highlight the need for more young people to feel a connection with others who care for them and in a sense give them a reason for being that they may not have otherwise.

  • Edgar

    December 22nd, 2012 at 8:06 AM

    I guess my fear about some of these sites is exactly what kind of info is circulating out there that someone intending to do harm could get ahold of. I mean, what if they are thinking of doing something and don’t know what, but get on one of these sites to learn about oh making a bomb or something like that. We juat have to remember that even though we have little control over it, these kinds of sites may not always be the best think for some people to have at their disposal.

  • jase roman

    December 23rd, 2012 at 5:19 AM

    But the benefits have to outweigh the negatives that there could be.
    We have to view this as a place where someone with real mental issues could find acceptance and understanding, something that many of them have most likely gne without their entire lives.

  • maggie

    December 23rd, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    Seriously, I don’t see any good from this study or survey.

    “Our findings also indicate that the vast majority of young adults in this sample believe that social networking reduces social isolation,” said Gowen.

    Social networking reduces social isolation compared to a situation wherein there was no internet and such sites and you were sitting at home doing nothing. Not compared to not using such sites and going out in the real world and meeting real people. Seems like this study was tweaked to get the intended results.

    Sitting in your room in front of the screen talking to even hundreds of people is not going to get you anywhere in terms of driving away the loneliness on a true level, nor is it going to afford you one true friend.

  • r hick

    December 24th, 2012 at 8:59 AM

    I fail to understand how someone with mental illnesses can benefit by only accessing resources online or by talking to friends on social networking sites.aren’t mental illnesses better overcome with actual interaction and care IRL? *confused*

  • Erinn

    December 24th, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    Maybe this is the way of the furure, but wouldn’t it be better for those who suffer to have real interaction with other people instead of always only trying to find their answers online? They might be a way to engage, but can you really develop relationships that are real and are true by only talking with someone online? Obviously, I don’t think so. I think that there has to be, needs to be more than that for anyone. I am not saying that online support isn’t critical, because for a lot of people it is. But it can’t be the end all and be all. There has to be more support out there than this.

  • hema k

    June 26th, 2020 at 12:30 AM

    I’m on the fence about this, while more customization is good, I have a feeling this is a “in-progress” update, it just feels incomplete and half-way there.
    We use badge layout for apps on design approvals (visual projects), so the image being displayed is important. Old layout “feels like” it had larger images,
    maybe because the images were cropped more loosely so it’s easier to tell which project it was at quick glance. Now the image is cropped closer, making it
    harder to scan thru at quick glance. I find myself needing to click into the project more often than usual. Which makes the whole user experience less
    I have a couple suggestions that might make it work better:
    1. Increase the height of the window the cover image is being displayed.
    2. Let us to choose which image to be displayed as “cover” (like how Pinterest handles cover images of each board, was hoping for this for a long time)
    3. Let us adjust which part of the image to show and how tight or loose the crop is (with a fixed window, let us move the image around and maybe enlarge or
    shrink it to control what shows thru the window. Pinterest does a limited form of this, which is very useful in making the cover image relevant)
    4. Allow Cover Image to be ordered in different hierarchy (currently every element can be ordered differently except the Cover Image, it seems to be stuck
    in the 2nd spot, would like the option to set it on another spot in the layout. This one seems like an easy fix, since you guys allow that for every other
    element already)

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