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SOCIAL MEDIA, MENTAL HEALTH AND LUNG CANCER


Lisa Zarov

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Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have provided many valuable tools to lung cancer survivors. They provide arenas for us to connect and communicate with other survivors, share our stories with a wider audience, and advocate on a grand scale. And they connect us to life-saving information about our specific lung cancers, research, clinical trials, and experts in the field.

During the pandemic, social media became especially important. Many were experiencing increases in anxiety, depression and isolation. Social media facilitated daily support in our lung cancer community, and made it possible for us to attend lung cancer conferences virtually.

In so many ways, social media has been a lifeline to lung cancer survivors, and has been a true boost to our mental health. However, there are times where connecting on social media can actually do just the opposite – fueling feelings of anxiety, depression or isolation, rather than improving them.

There are times when our news feeds seem filled with news of survivors who are not doing well or who have died. Additionally, advocacy on social media means “putting ourselves out there” and opening ourselves up to feedback that can sometimes be hurtful. Outside of lung cancer, our feeds can also be filled with negative messages or misinformation. And sometimes, even happy posts of others’ lives can make us feel isolated in our experiences with lung cancer.

How do we reap the benefits of social media, without becoming mentally weighed down? Mindfulness and balance are key.

Here are some tips:

  • -Pay attention to how much time you spend on social media and make sure it is not cutting in to time spent with loved ones, self-care activities or enjoyable hobbies.
  • -Skip quickly over negative messaging and don’t engage in “online arguing”, which is seldom productive.
  • -Be targeted in your scrolling, checking support group posts or focusing only on those who you enjoy connecting with.
  • -Remove social media apps from your phone and only check them once or twice daily on your computer.

Lastly, know when to go on a “social media diet” and spend some time away from social media. It will always be there for you when you feel mentally ready to return.

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