Nirali Bhatia is a Psychologist, Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapist & Internet Addiction Therapist, specializing in the study of "Cyber Psychology". She is a TEDx Speaker, Corporate Trainer for POSH, and the Director of V4Web Technologies Pvt. Ltd. With two decades of experience in web technology & the psychology of cyberspace. She has been quoted in various articles in leading newspapers and news channels. She has been invited as a guest speaker & panelist by various prestigious organizations such as UN Women, UNICEF, National Commission for Women, NASSCOM, and has also been on panel of debate/s on Times Mirror Now, CNBC Zee News as well as in numerous Cyber Security conferences. She was appointed as the psychologist & digital behavioral analyst for the television show "MTV Troll Police which was aired on MTV. She is also the founder of an anti-cyberbullying organization Cyber BAAP (Cyber Bullying Awareness, Action and Prevention). She actively conducts workshops & training programs for adult children, parents, teachers, and organizations and also has counseled & helped many individuals who have been victims of crimes, online psychological damages, and addictions. She is a Certified Usability Analyst from Human Factors International, USA, and has also served as the Vice-Chairman of Women Safety of India's premier and non-profit organization, FSAI (Fire Safety Association of India), which is committed to enhancing the safety & security of women in India Very recently she has been awarded as "India's top Women influencer in Cyber Security.
Human beings are social creatures. We need the companionship of others to thrive in life, and the strength of our connections has a huge impact on our mental health and happiness. Being socially connected to others can ease stress, anxiety, and depression. boost self-worth, provide comfort and joy, prevent loneliness, and even add years to your life. On the flip side, lacking strong social connections can pose a serious risk to your mental and emotional health.
- What is the impact of social media on our psychology?
- How do we get influenced by social media?
- Understand cyber effect
- Prevention is easier than investigation
Psychological Implications of Social Media
A lot of Researches specifically of the last 2 years shows that we spend almost 60% of our time on social media and in cyberspace. Social media is not only Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn, it is any space where you interact or talk with another person, whether it’s a dating chat room, game chat room and even Pinterest and YouTube where we share our interests, all of these accounts as cyberspace or social media. Therefore, we must know where are we spending 60% of our time.
The reality of social media
A platform or a medium can never be wrong and similarly nor social media is. It is the way we use it that makes it good or bad. Whatever we see on social media is not always true. Now a days people try to make up things look good, organized, and perfect, which is not so in real life. And knowingly and unknowingly we all are falling for it. Perfect pictures with makeup, daily posting, and updating stories have become our routine.
Main Stressors of this Platform-
In the last 2 to 2.5 years, it has been recorded that 80% of people have been the victim of social media fraud or social media harassment and only 20% are job fraud or loan app scams. And 85% of people who fall for this are from the age group of 13 – 25 years, these are the age group who spends maximum time on social media.
The four main stressors are –
- Highlight Reel
- Social currency
- Fomo &
- Competition and compulsion.
1. Highlight Reel
What we see on people’s timeline or whatever people posts on social media are only and only the best memories and best moments of their life. No one is going to put something which is bad or awful. But life is not always about the best moments, it’s always about flow - ups and downs, However, what we end up doing is looking at someone’s highlight reel we gauge where are we standing, we compare ourselves to that and constantly have thus the pressure of having that perfect moment to share online, and its put a lot of pressure not all on themselves but also on the person who is presenting because now that you have set a virtual image of yourself with the perfect filter and now you constantly have to live up to that and that’s what put stress.
2. Social Currency
Social currency is the currency that we spend on social spaces in form of our likes, our comments, our shares, forwards, content creation, content endorsement, this is all that accounts for your social currency. There is an unsaid pressure of being part of spending your currency, example – if your professor puts up a post, there’s an inherent and unsaid pressure on you to like it whether you like it or not or agree with it or not, etc., same as with your family group, with your friends and peers. The important aspect here is that if you spend your social currency without being aware and without understanding the responsibility that comes with it is where you are actually supporting the fake news and fake information and it can lead to an incident such as lynching, lynching where false news or information becomes so so significant due to X number of likes and endorsement that it has got. We must understand the power lies in our hand to spend your social currency extremely wisely and also remember that whatever goes on the internet stay there forever do your todays entertainment should not cost you tomorrow’s embarrassment.
3. FOMO – Fear of missing out
The way this entire platform is designed and the amount of information that comes over here if you don’t immediately pay attention, it's lost. For example – Right now if you are attending a webinar and, on your Twitter, there comes some tweet, and if you don’t see it right away or you click and don’t be able to read, so by the time later when you go back to it, it's lost because there’ll be 25-30 more new tweets or posts. So that is one aspect that makes you instead of responding react, immediately have to pay attention to it or like, share or save. What it does is it does not allow you time to think, time to validate, time to analyze. Sometimes it happens that we do not know about what is happening on news or what’s trending and when we sit in a group or with our friends we feel left out. Remember one thing its only and only you who must choose what you want to be part of and also not everything requires your immediate attention and reaction.
4. Competition and Compulsion.
Now a days everyone directly or indirectly is under the pressure of creating content. For example – Recently there was Ganesh Festival, if you have not put up a post regarding it does it mean that you are not celebrating it. It’s not about judging people, it only makes them realize that you are blindly following or entering a rat race or compulsively you have to post it to be part of it but this is without knowing where will this shallow approach will take you and it’s how we call it that you know when we are following masses sometimes M is silent and this is what we end up becoming.
What is it doing to us
What does it do to us? The way it is designed of course it is designed to be addictive. Nothing in this world comes for free, neither is birth free nor is death. By now we all know that what we are spending is our data that’s what we are paying. And it is so addictive that we mindlessly go on scrolling for minutes and hours, what it lands up Sleep Deprivation. Sleep and food are the two most important pillars of our physical and mental health. Any kind of deprivation or imbalance whether it is in sleep or in food is going to impact on various aspects of our life. So never deprive your sleep for the thing which permanently available on a platform.
Second what it does to you is makes you very Impulsive, like I said there is a fomo of constantly if I do not react its lost, it does not allow you that time think and evaluate but to react impulsively. Unfortunately, once the word goes out taking them back is very difficult. So, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
As mentioned, it makes you very reactive and also very Envious all the time and this envy not only disconnects you from having good healthy relationships with people around you but it also keeps you unhappy. You are all the time envious about someone and do comparison and that’s what becomes the source of unhappiness. If you are not happy with your own self then you are never gonna be happy with anything else.
So be mindful that any of this factor is prevailing within you.
One should be aware of
Why are we falling pray?
- Online Disinhibition effect:
A lack of restraining manifested in disregard of social convention.
It is the effect that makes you believe or act differently due to lack of restraints, lack of boundaries or lack of frameworks. We humans are social animals. In our real world we have the framework, that this how on should behave at home, at school, at office and when it comes to cyberspace it is very open space. Here there is no distinction, no framework or codes of behaving and because of this disinhibition effect how it impacts us is either it makes us Benign or Toxic.
Benign – It means we end up over trusting and drop our guards of being cautious. Since we are interacting with screen, we sometimes miss out on important cues (voice, language, tone, smell, auditory, visibility) that are part of any communication. When all these cues are absent in online communication, we drop our guards and becomes over friendly and over trusting which end up falling prey or get cyber bullied.
Toxic – Trolling the classic example of toxic disinhibition effect. The entire social media space is giving us the freedom to express our thought and share our views. What it fails to do is inculcate is values and terms of responsibility that comes with us. Since we aren’t able to see people online so our reactions are becoming much more toxic and harsher.
- Perceptive Medium
Perception is the process of recognizing and interpreting sensory stimuli.
Cyberspace, this medium is very perceptive, it allows you to interpret the information in a way you perceive it. It does not affect others but affects our state of mind. Status messages and stories are the classic examples, where every person who looks at the status message thinks – “Yeh to mere liye he dala hai” [it’s for me]. Here we need to understand whenever we are going to react to certain information on a digital format because it’s a text not talk, we first need to understand and change perceptive before react it. So be mindful of what you are perceiving that information.
- Sensory dimension
The sensory dimension of the online environment involves how much it activates five senses: Hearing, Seeing, Feeling, Smelling and Tasting.
Every communication for us to interpret has to trigger certain senses but in cyberspace how and when it is triggered, is very different from interaction in personal space. For example – look at any trending game or any trending movie or series, most of them have violence, sex, drugs, and because of that the way our senses are triggered it makes us desensitizing, extremely emotionally reactive. We instantly come very emotional or very aggressive which ends up being harsh or doing something nasty.
- Temporal Dimension
The use and experience of time in cyberspace is different than in real world.
It is said that, we rise with the sun and settle when the moon rises, similarly that’s how the human body is programmed and wired. During the sun time we are more charged and physically and mentally active and when the moon rises, we calm down, and this is the time when people are emotional, they are more in touch with their emotions. So, when we enter in cyberspace which challenges our emotions, we have to be very careful. Most of the grooming and stalking cases all of these perpetrators they victimize people during moon hours because at that time human mind is less cognitive and more emotional and during this time most of people fall prey for this.
Impacts on Mental Health
- Perceived loneliness impacts happiness
- Decision making is challenged
- Instant gratification induces anxiety
- Affect empathy make insensitive
- Depression – low self-worth
- Social anhedonia social disinterest
- Delusional thinking – Reality vs Virtual
- Impulse control can be lost
- Body image obsession
You know why our head or mind is at the top of our body because that’s where our control center is, if the CPU here is having any kind of malfunction its going to impact the working of all our organs. So last but not least remembering what you see or hear is not necessarily the reality. “Dikhave pe mat jao please apni akal lagao”, Don’t fall for fake or false thing. Think before you react.
The overall session was very interesting and knowledgeable. I was able to relate with everything ma’am has said. I got to learn a lot more new and valuable concepts for this session.
Nirali ma’am way of speaking and explaining was very amazing. The examples and incidents she shared were very helpful in understanding the whole session.