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Jun 14, 2022

The South African media and social media landscape was abuzz recently with the news of Hip-Hop star Rikhado "Riky Rick" Makhado’s suicide. At the peak of his career, a tragedy of this nature was unexpected.

Happy pictures, sad generation is the phrase that springs to mind when one thinks of this. It has become a common façade amongst the youth to conceal their depression or other mental health issues with good news stories and picture-perfect moments on their social media timelines.

The rise of social media

It is evident that social media generates thousands of users each day with most of its demographic stemming from the youth. Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen a rapid change in how social media has developed and its increased impact, which has ultimately afflicted the youth.  Social media has shaped and influenced how we perceive people through the content they share. Such content can have a lasting impact on one’s life, whether positive or negative, depending on the activities, content, and trends that one consumes.

Of recent, we also witnessed in many ways how social media impacted our lives during the lockdown. It became an indispensable form of entertainment that stemmed from virtual interactions and a primary source of information for others.

The negative impact of social media on our mental health

Social media has become a powerful tool in modern society, in which we can extract positive and useful knowledge. However, the negative aspect of it is just as powerful. How we consume social media differs from one individual to another, and in many unfortunate cases, some users may be oblivious to the dangers which lurk in the virtual space. The extreme restriction of in-person social interactions has greatly triggered a wave of social anxiety among the youth, which is fostered and morphed behind their keyboards. Although social media has provided an appreciable platform for the youth to engage, debate and even express themselves, it has also distorted their ability to be socially active in the real world.

  • The general sentiment is that social media can have a negative impact on an individual which can lead to the categoric depreciation of their mental health state.
  • Social media affects your entire being because as you scroll through your feed, you may see something which your subconscious may pick up. This can greatly test your self-awareness as an individual because you may come to realise that you tend to behave in a certain manner as a result of what your subconscious consumes. These changes can be seen in the smallest things such as the way you talk, eat and interests.
  • The impact that social media has on mental health is silently spoken about amongst active social media users.
  • The positivity which they have received through social media engagement as a result of them being able to control who they follow and the type of content they consume.
  • Youth find importance within the existence of social media but, the difficulty that faces some of the youth lie in determining what is real and what is not. This very issue plays an integral role in instilling peer pressure amongst individuals.
  • Social media enables individuals to put up a façade in the virtual world to feign certain perception. This very perception has the power to place unnecessary pressure on the youth through the portrayed lifestyle and ever-changing trends which are perpetuated to its audience.
  • It is easy to get influenced and fall victim to this pressure. As a result, this may lead to comparisons, which in turn provide the breeding ground for a change in lifestyle and physical appearance; sometimes unhealthily so.

Healthy consumption of social media content

In light of the above, it is crucial to practice healthy consumption of social media content. Here are a few tips on how to consume content responsibly:

  • Do not misuse social media, be intentional. 
    For example: Try to limit the number of hours you spend on social media 
  • Focus on following the people who are in proximity to you because you have more chances of seeing how they live.
    For example: you know how people close to you live therefore, you’re more likely to understand their content. 
  • Follow pages that will boost your confidence and self-esteem. 
    For example: healthy lifestyle pages.
  • Socialise when you’re within physical company. 
    For example: live in the moment, engage with people around you. 
  • Trust your gut. 
    For example: when you feel it’s necessary, take a break. 

Bestmed strives to help you improve not only your physical but also mental health. The Bestmed Tempo wellness programme offers screening and health assessments with dedicated and professional dieticians, biokinetics and occupational therapists for its members and dependants free of charge.

Members on the Beat4, Pace1, Pace2, Pace3, Pace4 and Rhythm2 plans can get covered for chronic medication for serious depression. Bestmed has also teamed up with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) to provide a free 24-hour mental health helpline to its members.



Nguse, S. and Wassenaar, D., 2021. Mental health and COVID-19 in South Africa. South African Journal of Psychology, [online] 51(2), pp.304-313. Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/00812463211001543 [Accessed 29 April 2022]. 

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