Is Facebook Messing With Your Mind? Beware the Digital Delusion Trap!

Ever felt a little too attached to social media platforms like Facebook, especially during moments when you’re feeling lonely or vulnerable? If your answer is yes, beware: you could be at risk of developing psychotic symptoms such as anxiety, delusions, confusion, and an unhealthy reliance on your computer.

Social media can have life-altering consequences on some individuals, who get sucked into virtual relationships and, when things go awry, feel betrayed, hurt, and an invasion of privacy. Mental health professionals have found a possible connection between excessive internet use and the development of psychosis-related issues.

A Look at the Research

One study, conducted by Uri Nitzan of Tel Aviv University, examined three patients who had developed a range of psychotic symptoms in direct relation to their internet usage. Nitzan discovered that all of them “developed psychotic symptoms related to the situation, including delusions regarding the person behind the screen and their connection through the computer.” Furthermore, two of these patients started feeling vulnerable after they shared private information online, and another even experienced tactile hallucinations, believing that their virtual companion was physically touching her.

According to Nitzan’s research, internet use relates to several problematic traits, including the distortion of geographical and spatial perceptions, a lack of non-verbal cues, and the tendency to idealize online connections, leading to deep, intimate connections without ever meeting in person. These factors ultimately contribute to the individual losing touch with reality and eventually entering a psychotic state.

Going Deeper into the Dangers of Facebook

Based on the findings from his initial research, Nitzan is now further investigating the specific features and applications on Facebook that have the potential to harm the emotional well-being of his subjects. More alarmingly, he has also identified instances where psychotic individuals have taken to Facebook and other social media platforms to disturb or emotionally hurt others, using anonymity as a cover.

It is estimated that around 26% of internet users have experienced various forms of harassment, ranging from offensive name-calling and online stalking to physical threats and sexual harassment. In some cases, this harassment can even escalate to severe psychological trauma.

Similar to how other forms of addiction are treated, recognizing the potential dangers of social media is vital in order to raise awareness and educate users on how to navigate social media platforms safely. Mental health professionals are suggesting the implementation of monitoring features to track internet usage, ensuring that the time spent using social media platforms does not lead to dangerous levels.

Balancing Social Media Use

The risks of social media-induced psychosis highlight the importance of using these platforms in moderation. While the dangers might not be present for everyone, developing healthy habits for social media use can help everyone keep a good balance in their life. Here are some simple tips to keep your online activity in check:

  1. Set boundaries: Limit the time you spend on social media platforms by setting a specific time of the day dedicated to checking your accounts and setting a time limit for yourself.

  2. Use technology for good: Smartphone apps like AppDetox or Offtime can help you track and, if need be, lock certain applications during specific hours, enabling you to bring the focus back to what’s essential.

  3. Focus on quality over quantity: Instead of spending hours mindlessly scrolling through feeds, try to engage with a few meaningful posts per session, fostering genuine connections.

  4. Find alternative ways to connect:_ Instead of relying solely on Facebook or other social media platforms to establish connections, allocate time for in-person interactions with friends and family.

  5. Notice the warning signs: If you find yourself becoming too reliant on social media, continuously seeking validation through likes and comments or experiencing feelings of anxiety and low self-esteem when offline, consult a mental health professional for guidance.

By practicing moderation and being mindful of our social media usage, we can continue to enjoy the benefits of these platforms without the risk of losing our connection to reality and developing serious mental health issues.