Life after surgery: Are you worried about social media and your mental health?

Kara Hockey is a psychologist with over 9 years of experience in assisting patients in managing mental health concerns and improving psychological wellbeing. Kara has a keen interest in the field of trauma-related concerns, eating behaviour, Weight Loss Surgery and positive psychology.

The positive side to social media

From a psychology perspective, social media can have significant benefits in terms of providing people with a sense of belonging, inclusion, inspiration and motivation. It has also been argued that social media assists in weight loss interventions being more efficient, by enabling easier access to education materials and messages as well as providing opportunities which encourage greater participant engagement and peer support.

When looking at weight loss particularly, there is some emerging evidence that people achieve a greater amount of weight loss on average when using social media platforms when compared with those who received routine information/publicity relating to weight loss (for example handouts and just written literature). In addition, some research has found that those who are more active on social media platforms relating to weight loss tended to lose more weight than those who were less active.

Gender differences

Research shows this that level of activity is not the only factor and it does depend on whether you are a male or female, with males typically benefiting more than females when using the social media platform.

Balancing it up - is social media positive or negative for the individual?

From a clinical perspective, I have seen that a determinant of whether someone will benefit from social media for weight loss, depends upon whether their interactions on the online forum are positive or negative. As with any social media use, there are risks when using social media for weight loss purposes and it may not always be helpful as there is a large element of social comparison that goes on which can hinder someone's individual weight loss journey, particularly if they perceive that they are not doing as "well" as others. It is also helpful to keep in mind that social media posts and content provides a snapshot in time of someone's experience, not the entire picture. I always say to my client's - "If it's helpful, use it; if it's not, don't". There is also the risk that some information provided on social media platforms designed for weight loss is not entirely accurate or in line with the advice from treating health practitioners. As always, approach with caution and ask questions if you read conflicting inform

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