Mindful Use of Facebook as a Self-Help Therapeutic Tool in Psychological Settings

Mindful Use of Facebook as a Self-Help Therapeutic Tool in Psychological Settings

Hemamali Tennakoon
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8630-3.ch008
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Social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook have gained popularity over the years, acquiring billions of active users worldwide. There is much debate about the potential harm and benefits of using SNS. While some studies show that SNS such as Facebook can adversely affect the mental wellbeing of individuals, others show that Facebook use in therapeutic interventions can bring about positive results. According to past literature, ‘seeking gratification', particularly searching for positive emotions, is a key reason for using SNS. In this chapter, it is argued that SNS can be used mindfully to seek content that triggers positive emotions. The practical application of Facebook as a self-help tool to promote psychological well-being is explained through a hypothetical scenario. Further, a framework to educate individual users about the therapeutic potential of SNS is proposed. Practitioners in the fields of counselling and psychology may find the ideas presented in this chapter useful to their work with their clients/patients.
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Social Networking Sites (SNS) have become omnipresent in people’s lives, with one in three people across the world using social media platforms (Roser et al., 2015). Facebook remains the biggest SNS worldwide with over ‘2.7 billion monthly active users as of the second quarter of 2020’ (Clement, 2020). With the increase in popularity and usage of such sites, it is unsurprising that researchers have taken an interest in the impact of social media on individuals’ wellbeing. There have been numerous studies conducted on the adverse effects of SNS on mental health, with mixed results. For instance, Labrague (2014) found that the intensity of Facebook usage in adolescents is not directly related to negative emotional states but that spending more time on Facebook could increase anxiety and depression. Contrary to this, Jelenchick et al. (2013) found no risk of ‘Facebook depression’ in adolescents, arguing that the evidence does not support a relationship between Facebook use and clinical depression. Further, Facebook use by study participants has varying degrees of impact depending on the psychological disorders considered (e.g., mood disorders versus personality disorders) (Rosen et al., 2013).

Despite these mixed findings, the evidence supporting the view that SNS are detrimental to mental health cannot be ignored. In one of the first studies published by Kraut et al. (1998) on Internet use and its effects on social relationships, it was found that time spent online is negatively related to social interactions with family and friends, leading to feelings of depression and loneliness. Since the launch of Facebook in 2004, many studies have been conducted on the negative impact of SNS on mental health. For example, Pantic et al. (2012) found that a statistically significant positive correlation between depressive symptoms and time spent on SNS. In a more recent study, Matthes et al. (2020) found that the use of certain types of SNS (e.g., YouTube, WhatsApp, and Snapchat) increased perceived information overload, which is significantly related to depressive symptoms over time. Undoubtedly, SNS can have adverse effects on individuals’ wellbeing under certain conditions such as social media addiction and problematic Facebook use (Cudo et al., 2020; Ruggieri et al., 2020). For example, Rajesh and Rangaiah (2020) found that loneliness was positively related to Facebook addiction. SNS addiction was also found to be positively associated with perceived stress (Balcerowska et al., 2020). Hawes et al. (2020) argue that social media use can lead to social comparison, resulting in emotional problems such as depression and social anxiety. In their study involving 763 adolescents and young adults, it was found that social media use was positively associated with symptoms of depression, social anxiety, appearance anxiety, etc. Other studies show that addiction to SNS can affect sleep quality, lead to emotional illness, and affect mental health (Andreassen, 2015; Augner & Hacker, 2012; Kraut et al., 2002; Panda & Jain, 2018) and that reducing the time spent on Facebook leads to better well-being and a healthier lifestyle (Brailovskaia et al., 2020).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Psychological Safety Online: An individual’s perception that their psychological wellbeing will not be negatively affected by other individuals and/or content available online.

Self-Help: Being resourceful and using one’s own efforts to achieve something without external help.

Social Networking Sites (SNS): Virtual communities of individuals/groups who interact with other like-minded individuals/groups.

Mindfulness: Being fully present and aware of one’s feelings, actions, and emotions.

Positive Emotions: Experiencing feelings such as joy, peacefulness, contentment, inspiration, etc.

Passive Social Media Use: Minimum or no interaction with content/individuals/groups on social networking sites. Simply viewing content available on such sites.

User Empowerment: Giving individuals the power and control over their environments.

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