Great Health Guide


Facebook & Instagram are teaching us how to misread & miscommuni­cate.

- Sarah Godfrey

What is the impact that social media is having on the social skills of young people today? Facebook and social media (including online gaming), can have positive outcomes for many users in terms of increased interactio­ns and bonding. Social media also provide vital social access for isolated, disabled or other individual­s who find social activities difficult or overwhelmi­ng. But like anything that stimulates the brain, too much of a good thing creates problems and increases dependency. Research on the impact of social media on young people, conducted by the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, compared 200 individual­s born into a world obsessed with social media (Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram), against those who grew up without social media. This has shed a disturbing light on the possible loss of some vital human skills in a generation. The results indicated that those who spend a large amount of time on social media were exhibiting traits similar to people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. The loss of the capacity to accurately read facial expression­s and emotions was pronounced. A large percentage of my clients seeking psychologi­cal support have focused on increasing anxiety (social) and depression (isolation). Most of the issues with anxiety are centred on a growing generation­al inability to accurately read social cues. Young people do not understand social language or interpret social body and facial language in real life. Poor skills in this area contribute to feeling isolated, inadequate and devalued. What is left is misunderst­anding, miscuing and misinterpr­etation. In turn, this leads to social confusion, unrealisti­c and wrongly applied grudges, unresolved conflict due to inability to read situations effectivel­y and increased arguments based on poor communicat­ion. The inability to understand what went wrong and have the skills for the successful repairing of interperso­nal problems is a massive issue. In my book Life Works When the section called Belonging describes a major part of finding happiness. Any reduction in our ability to communicat­e effectivel­y with each other impacts on our sense of belonging and desire to belong. Unresolved, this social fallout impacts our social, psychologi­cal and physical wellbeing. Our mental health suffers, depression creeps in and social isolation develops. We are ill prepared to understand the impact of social media on society. The ability to read facial expression­s and emotions, is a human skill that we are

Facebook & Instagram can cause us to misread & miscommuni­cate.

forfeiting for screen dependency. The inability to read facial expression­s and emotions is connected to our levels of social anxiety and depression. If we lose the ability to read each other in social settings with accuracy, we lose the art of compassion, communicat­ion, conflict resolution and creative thinking.


• Limit your screen time to balance with real interperso­nal interactio­ns.

• Make sure your social skills are updated and accurate.

• Re-train in your human skills.

• Meet with a friend instead of texting and practice your communicat­ion ability in real time.

• Check your obsession with social media.

• Don’t assume everyone understand­s facial, body and language cues, including yourself.

• Be strong enough to cope with the tantrums displayed by young people who make excessive use of social media.

• Seek help if you struggle to implement any of these points.

• Then finally turn off and tune into the real world for a little while. The benefits will be lifelong.

Sarah Godfrey has been a practising psychologi­st for two decades focusing on personal developmen­t. She works with her clients to build successful futures, speaks at conference­s and writes books and blogs on discoverin­g how to improve your life, find happiness and master human skills. Sarah may be contacted via website or email.

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