Watch How War Is Revealed On Social Media Affects Your Mental Health

Kristina Shalashenko, a therapist living in Odessa, Ukraine who lives through a nightmare every day, wonders if it’s okay to Invasion of Russia will force her to run away from her house. “It was very scary. Everyone was terrified and shocked,” she said through an interpreter. [we’re] used to be, it’s not there anymore. ”

Thousands of miles away, Kero Lubkova, who was born in Odessa and now lives in Colorado, spends her days checking news sites and social media for updates. Lubkova didn’t do that because updates could affect their next move, but because they “couldn’t focus on anything else”.
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Disturbing photos and videos flood the screens of people searching for updates around the world: damage to buildings and bodies after shelling in cities like Kyiv and Kharkiv, who and pets gather in shelters, and Ukrainian citizens tearfully call their loved ones to say goodbye, just in case.

That’s a lot to handle. “I certainly don’t think anyone should see something like this,” Lubkova said. “But that’s what it happens to be. If I wanted to know what was happening in my country, I unfortunately had to witness this with my own eyes.”

People in Ukraine and around the world are watching the crisis unfold not only through traditional news source, but also on social media through raw, personal TikTok videos, Instagram stories, and tweets. It’s not exactly “First social media war, ” As some have branded it; Social media has been used to document other armed conflicts, such as the Syrian war started in 2011. But the way wars are reported on social media has changed dramatically over time. In 2011, TikTok didn’t exist and Instagram was a year old. As of March 7, TikTok videos tagged with #ukrainewar have been viewed more than 600 million times, and nearly 180,000 Instagram posts have used that hashtag.

That flow of information is powerful: it forces people to pay attention and gives them an opportunity to access the experiences of the Ukrainian people. However, keeping track of what happens every minute can come at a cost. Research shows that coverage of traumatic events that can affect viewers’ mental health—And with videos and photos from Ukraine flooding social media and misinformation spreading rampant, there are public health implications.

Jason Steinhauer, author of History, Disrupted: How Social Media and the World Wide Web Have Changed in the Past. “The challenge is, it’s embedded inside [social media] Ecosystems and architecture, at the heart, are the problem. “

Roxane Cohen Silver, a media coverage and trauma researcher, shows how the amount of media a person consumes and how the image of that content affects its impact on health. mental. Compared with those who watched less, those who watched television at least four hours a day in the week after the September 11 attacks reported increased stress and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). , and are more likely to develop health risks. years later, Cohen Silver’s team discovered study published in 2013.

Read more: The battle to save lives in Ukraine’s largest children’s hospital

The experience of living through war cannot be equated with the experience of watching it unfold on screen. But research by Cohen Silver shows that reporting can have a dramatic impact on people not directly impacted by the crisis. After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, using at least six hours of relevant news a day was linked to higher acute stress than to the finish line when the bomb explodes.

It’s hard to determine how social media compared to traditional news affects mental health, says Cohen Silver, since so few people watch only one or the other. But there are some important differences. At traditional media outlets, editors decide which content is too graphic to display and often label disturbing images with warnings. But people “can take photos and videos and distribute them instantly [on social media] Cohen Silver said.

Social media is also a battleground for spreading misinformation. “Russia has waged a war on social media and disinformation for 10 to 12 years, and that only escalated during the invasion of Ukraine,” Steinhauer said. For example, Ukrainian officials have warned that Russia may spread disinformation suggesting that Ukraine has surrendered, Reuters reported.

Technology and culture website Input also recently investigated Instagram pages containing “field” posts from Ukrainian journalists, but in fact run by people thousands of miles awayincluding a 21-year-old man in the US

Social media can be used effectively in times of crisis. Ukrainians chairperson Volodymyr Zelenskyy used it to speak directly to citizens and promote strength and unity among them. Social platforms have also helped Ukrainians share their reality with the world (including those in Russia, because of misinformation, do not believe war is happening), contact family members, and find resources and support during a crisis.

Masha Mykhaylova, a licensed clinical social worker living in San Francisco, said the spread of fake news and the constant possibility that online materials have been altered or de-contextualised. important, can affect mental health by disrupting our sense of reality. and was born in Ukraine. “Keep in mind the possibility that you will encounter something that can be emotionally manipulative and untrue,” she says. A timely example is the link of misinformation to poorer mental health during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. ONE study recently published in Open JAMA Networkagency that examines mental health during the pandemic, has found a link between reporting symptoms of depression and believing that vaccine misinformation (although the researchers were unable to confirm it). determine whether one causes the other).

The Ukraine crisis comes after two years of almost non-stop bad news and fake news, about pandemicalong with countless stories about climate change, racistinequality and other emotionally charged issues. Suggested studies Cohen Silver says coverage of the pandemic has contributed to emotional distress — and adding another hard-to-mix topic could make those feelings worse, Cohen Silver said. She Research has also shown that those who are susceptible worry are more likely to seek crisis coverage, potentially “fuel.”[ing] a cycle of suffering … from which it is very difficult to free oneself. “

It can be helpful for anxious people — and really anyone — to turn off their screens and walk away. Based on her research, Cohen Silver said she chose to read about the conflict in Ukraine over viewing potentially damaging images or videos.

But for people like Mykhaylova with personal ties to Ukraine, “abstaining from news and social media is not an option,” despite its limitations, she said. “I feel calmer and less disoriented when I participate in what’s going on, especially if it’s Ukrainian-made content. It can certainly cause anxiety and indignation… but my response sounds like the right one. ”

Lubkova agrees, noting that — while viewing war photos and videos is a pain — sometimes it’s even harder to get the idea that other people don’t seem to care.

However, Mykhaylova says it’s important to set limits on the amount of time spent watching news and checking social media. That limit will vary from person to person, and possibly even from day to day, but staying up-to-date shouldn’t cost sleep, food or time outside, she says. Seeking therapy may also be helpful.

Social media author Steinhauer says to keep in mind that the compulsion to constantly refresh social media is partly a “by-product of platforms and devices that are purposefully created to be addictive.” More important than getting up-to-the-minute information, he said, is continuing to respond to the crisis, whether that means raising money for organizations that are supporting Ukrainians, write to representatives or support people in your community with ties to Ukraine. Those positive actions “can be substituted for doom-roll that devices and platforms draw us into, especially when there are dire moments that require us all to stand up and take notice. “

Shalashenko, a therapist in Odessa, echoes that message. “I want the whole world to help us survive this,” she said through a translator, “and put an end to this nightmare.”

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