Whether or not you admit it, we all present ourselves in a particular light on the Web. From witty tweets to heavily edited Instagram photos, the pressure to be “Liked” on the Web is constant – and it’s an issue that’s fast becoming a pandemic to every type of social media users, young and old.
To help provide some therapeutic relief, Talkspace, the Web service that allows you to chat with an on-call counselor, now offers a Social Media Dependency program. The three-month therapy plan aims to help those afflicted by bad self-perception, depression and body image issues brought on by social media, providing ways to ease off the obsession and build confidence.
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The plan will first walk users through their personal concerns, helping them realize the dangers of an unhealthy use of social media. Then, therapists will focus on helping users realize patterns and how to cognitively fight off feelings of negativity.
To promote the launch, Talkspace has installed an interactive booth at Flatiron Square in New York City with various captions and a distorted mirror to represent how some may feel when they constantly compare themselves to others on the Web.
Christy Paul, Talkspace’s Director of Recruitment and Personnel and Licensed Mental Health Counselor, says the goal of the program is not to say social media is bad, but to help people realize that the addiction may promote poor mental health.
“If we’re on our phones all the time, that becomes destructive to our relationships,” she says.
In a study with 1,000 college students, Talkspace asked participants to quit social media for a day. Some students reported anxiety, while one even dreamed about chatting with peers on social media or adding friends on Facebook.
From Paul’s experience, she says mostly teens and college-aged users are afflicted with self-value issues on the Web. “When you see people with beautiful vacation photos, it’s hard not to say ‘Wow, my life sucks,’ – or feel like you need to take [risqué] selfies to get Likes.”
“If you look at these extreme selfies, most of the comments are about how cool or great the photo is,” Paul says. “Hardly do you see people asking if the poster is okay. In comparison to the amount of likes, it reenforces this kind of reckless behavior.”
Talkspace’s Social Media Dependency program uses licensed therapists who specialized in depression, body image and self image issues. The three-month program costs $399 and allows users to chat 24/7 to their therapists, with an option to continue on a weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual basis.
While it’s not the cheapest program out there, Paul believes it’s an affordable and accessible way for those who need help to get the counseling they seek without schedules or fear of revealing personal issues face-to-face.
“Recently, I had a client who told me a deeply personal story and it was the first time she’s ever told anyone,” she says. The kicker? “After we spoke about her concerns, she asked me if she should also tell this to her in-person therapist.”