The future of therapy or a real threat to mental health – virtual reality
More and more teenagers are suffering from depressive disorders. The task is not made easier by social media, which through filters create a distorted image of the body. Adults who bring their “tweaked” selfies to plastic surgeons as a model for changes are not free from problems either. But technology can also help people who are struggling with mental health problems.
It started innocently enough. Adding rabbit ears, magnified eyes, devil horns or light skin smoothing. But what used to amuse and entertain or slightly improve the image online has changed its face at a dizzying pace. – Filters and augmented reality have especially captured younger users. What is more, we can talk about the fact that today’s teenagers not only live in the cult of the selfie and sharing photos at every opportunity, but they also do not know any other body than those enhanced by technology. Suddenly they find that when standing in front of a mirror, they don’t recognize themselves and are even disgusted with themselves. From here it’s only one step to depression or other mental problems – says Karolina Borek, psychotherapist from Risify.pl – a startup that allows Internet users to have individual psychotherapy without leaving home. – Children are often left alone with this baggage. Parents either don’t understand social media or downplay online life. However, it is “on the web” that most of the most important issues and problems of today’s teenagers are played out – adds Borek.
It is estimated that in Poland between 20% and even 40% of teenagers under the age of 18 have to deal with depression. Especially during the pandemic, the percentage has definitely increased and counseling centers have been bursting at the seams.
Facebook knows, but isn’t telling
The information is intimidating. The U.S. Wall Street Journal in a series of articles described how Facebook and Instagram, which is also in the stable of Mark Zuckerberg, ignore the dangers of using filters in social media. Internal Facebook documents point to a number of analyses proving the negative impact of technology, but also show the passivity of the Silicon Valley company. One of the studies shows, for example, that more than 30% of teenagers have reservations about their body and, in their opinion, presence on Instagram exacerbates these problems. – However, they cannot disconnect from the application, because it would mean – in their opinion – a poorer social life or a sense of alienation. The problem of addiction to social networking apps is one of the most common in recent times. Teenagers in particular fall into this trap easily – points out Karolina Borek from Risify.en.
According to Media Blaze, a US media group, 63% of teens aged 13-17 use Instagram daily and 54% use Snapchat. 62% of TikTok users are between 10 and 29 years old and it is the most downloaded application in the world. While already 64% of internet users have tried face filters or lenses.
Selfie with filters a model for surgeons
However, the problem does not only affect adolescents, as older people also have a growing problem with showing up without filters. The example comes somewhat from the top. Kim Kardashian cares about her image so much that even publishing a video of a procedure that was supposed to restore her skin’s naturalness, she put a filter on her face, because otherwise she would have to show up without makeup. According to Media Blaze, in 2017, 55% of plastic surgeons said they talked to patients who argued that they wanted to look like the selfie with filters or even better. In 2013, that number was only 13%. Probably this percentage is not smaller today than it was even four years ago.
Technology also helps with depression
– However, we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater. Social media can be an interesting addition to the lives of both young and old. Like technological solutions that can improve quality of life and even temporarily replace basic needs. This was the case during the lockdowns, because if it wasn’t for the apps we wouldn’t be able to see each other or play together. Also health care, including care by psychiatrists or psychotherapists, was for some time possible almost only online – emphasizes Karolina Borek from Risify.en.
Virtual reality can also help in other, rather unconventional ways. Thanks to it we can even try on clothes. Although the technology that would scan our body with a camera is not yet available, we can already dress a mannequin in our own measurements and check how we will look in particular clothes and what size we should order. It is enough to enter your height, weight or waist and chest circumference. – People with depression very often also have an impaired perception of their own value. It’s not uncommon for people in a clothing store to be afraid to ask for a different size than what’s on display. The fear of being judged is so great that they refuse to buy, even when they like something but it’s a different size. 3D technology in moments like this can give them a breather and allow them to satisfy their own needs without restraint – describes a psychotherapist at Risify.