As the coronavirus has spread worldwide, many countries are enforcing quarantine, the United States included. While some areas have begun to lessen these restrictions and open up again, many cities and states are still enforcing stay-at-home measures. Some individuals have used this time to reflect upon themselves and make changes in their day to day lives. Many, however, are experiencing high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression during these trying times.
We live in the dawn of social media, and many individuals who are suffering the negative side effects of quarantine are expressing these negative feelings and using social media as an outlet. In fact, research by a variety of psychologists has determined that certain age groups are experiencing worse side effects than others – all based on the way they post and communicate on social media.
How Can You Identify Stress on Social Media?
Many individuals don’t intentionally post their stresses and anxieties on social media. Researchers, however, are seeing patterns evolve in analyzing the tweets and Facebook posts of various age groups, however. Individuals are more frequently posting comments that indirectly indicate issues with a variety of mental health struggles, including anxiety, depression, and addiction.
Those who read the posts on social media might feel that this is an extreme measure, as posts are often made without much thought. Professionals in the psychological world, however, have stated that many posts are indicative of triggers to stress and trauma that’s occurring as a direct response to the coronavirus and the lengthening of stay-at-home orders.
Statements that top psychologists have suggested are symptomatic of these issues include statements that:
- identify boredom, discontent, or sadness from being stuck at home (such as “I’m so sad I haven’t gotten to see my friends in two months!” or “Everything I wanted to do this summer has been canceled.”)
- hint at consistent and frequent drinking and using substances, presenting a potential addiction issue that will later need to be treated
- imply apathy or exhaustion, a lack of motivation to do things amid the outbreak
- express fear or anxiety over losing loved ones, stability in the form of food, shelter, necessary supplies, and income, or developing agoraphobia
- state feelings of loneliness, lack of importance, and hopelessness
We may not consider it when giving it a cursory glance, but looking at the bigger picture there are very serious mental health issues developing across the nation. What was once our normal, everyday life has been disrupted, and measures put in place for the safety of the general populace has caused significant distress for many.
Who Is Most Negatively Impacted?
Research into the most negatively impacted age groups has been shown to vary by age. For instance, in some regions of the states, teenagers have been most negatively impacted. Professionals believe this is largely in part due to isolation and other social factors, such as the cancelation of graduation, proms, and other special events. In other regions, working-class adults have been most negatively impacted due to the loss or threat of job loss and financial insecurity.
Ultimately, every age group has been impacted to some extent, and psychologists are seeing the effects of developing mental illnesses in all age groups. Generationally speaking, older age groups are less likely to post potentially revealing messages, whether consciously or subconsciously, to their social media. This may be in part due to the fact they are often more private and less likely to engage in social media posts.
To parallel that, many young individuals post on social media frequently and are more than willing to share their struggles intentionally. Researchers have been able to pull more potential data from younger generations than older generations due to these posting habits. Generations older than millennials are often excluded from research like this that is conducted strictly through social media, as many rarely post online or provide personal statements on their pages.
Each age group is suffering, in some ways. Younger millennials feel a push right now to “start their side hustle” and are facing an economic crisis. Older millennials are trying to find a way to maintain their status quo, keep their credit score steady, and ensure their own financial security. And, teenagers are struggling with isolation and change amid a world that thrives on social interactions.
What Are the Long Term Impacts?
Psychologists have found that some groups of Americans are rapidly adjusting and recovering from these bouts of depression and anxiety. This is not consistent for all groups of Americans, however. Nationwide, we are facing what may be a severe need for improvement in mental healthcare services and treatment centers.
In the long term, research has shown an increase in potential addiction and dependency issues, anxiety and depression cases, and agoraphobia. Treatment of these conditions that have developed as a result of the coronavirus is likely to be treated in a similar manner to PTSD cases. It’s hard, at the moment, to tell what the long term effects of the virus will be, but social media posts have been a strong indicator of a growing mental health issue as a direct result of stay-at-home orders put in place by the virus.
Ultimately, it’s hard to say for certain what the long-term impacts of the virus will be on the mental health of Americans. All the same, research has shown that thousands of individuals worldwide are beginning to develop potential mental health issues. If you see someone posting online in a way that suggests one of the issues listed above, you should consider what the underlying implications of their posts may be.
Moving forward, we will need to develop a stronger care system for mental health issues. Ensuring that, once the threat of the virus has passed, the mental health needs of our populace are addressed is going to be a difficult but necessary battle we will have to face as a nation.