A common practice in the Monday group is to find out what people did on the weekend: what was fun, what was difficult, what helped you feel better, what made you feel worse. Also, most people can become engaged in this conversation and the topic lends itself to discussing behavioural activation which is one of two practices that really combats depression. Keeping this in mind, you never know what people are going to say.
“Dr. Beck, I follow you on Twitter. You sound just like you.”
“Who else might I sound like?”
“Well, some people get all extreme on Twitter. I read your blog too. All the patients are totally made up, aren’t they?”
“Well, all the patient stories are composed of situations that happen a lot and that help me to illustrate a concept that I think is really important. What do you really want to get from Twitter?”
That is the question that youth need to answer: What do you want to get from social media? As a psychiatrist, my worry is that people are using social media for social contact, instead of closer relationships and face-to-face relationships. I share the concern that social media can foster negativity and cyberbullying, but it’s hard to expect youth to learn differently if we don’t have conversations with them.
These are the things that I do personally to foster positivity on social media and I encourage youth to do the same:
1. I thank people for comments and follow them back when they provide their own information and opinions. I don’t follow people without a proper picture or who don’t say anything about themselves because I worry about the motives of someone who doesn’t do that. Some people always thank people for following them, but I am terrible at this. I think it’s a great thing to do, though.
2. I stay positive myself. I put out positive and humourous tweets. I will wish people a good day or a good weekend or a happy holiday and will retweet posts that do the same.
3. I always make sure that articles I am retweeting are accurate and fact check if I need to. If someone who understands a topic better than me corrects something I’ve sent out, I thank them. I really want to be accurate. However, if they’re nasty when they do it, or name call, I will check more carefully what they’re saying and if they seem to be correct, I will correct my own statement, but I may not credit them. No one negative needs a bigger platform, in my opinion.
During the most recent election period in Canada, there was a lot of negativity from politicians toward others and I would truly like the discourse on the internet to be more affirming in general. Rates of depression and anxiety are too high already without people on the internet contributing to the zeitgeist.
After all, young people are watching and listening and I don’t want them to be negatively influenced.