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Behind the #InstaLife: Balancing Social Media and Emotional Well-being

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Anshu Bahanda: Welcome to Wellness Curated. This is your host, Anshu Bahanda. And as you know, we try to help you lead a healthier, happier, and more hopeful life. And we do so by getting you ideas, tips, tools, trends, and techniques from experts from all over the world. So today we’re going to explore the multifaceted impact of social media platforms on individual psychology and emotional health, both positive and negative. And for that, we’ve got leading expert Dr Pervin Dadachanji, who’s a renowned psychiatrist and [has an] extensive experience in child and adolescent psychiatry. We also have Khushnaz Turner, who’s known in the digital world as Kat Diaries. She’s an influencer with a significant amount of followers on Instagram and other platforms, thanks to her relatable and authentic personality, I would say. And Khushnaz also brings a unique perspective on mental health in the digital space. So welcome to the chat, ladies, and thank you for being here with us. 

We want to start on this note: social media isn’t all bad. Every generation sees some element of pop culture [that] is villainized. Whether in the 70s or 80s, it was rock music that was bad… In the [past], it was video games, and now it’s social media. I wonder whether these things are a bit unfair because they overlook the individual’s responsibility. And research done [at] the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in 2020 has [shown] that social media support, sort of strong support on social media platforms, has a positive impact on mental well-being. So what would you say, Dr Dadachanji? What is your view? Is social media bad? Is it all dangerous, or does it depend on how it’s used?

Dr Pervin Dadachanji: Yeah, when I also heard about this study, it was quite interesting to see that they do talk about the positive impact. And I think I saw this in COVID because everyone was at home and there was very little interaction in terms of physical meetings, et cetera. So social media definitely impacted people in a positive way because it increased your interactions with others. [It also helped you] form communities. You wanted a cylinder somewhere, [and] someone on social media was able to get it for you. So I think that it was really very positive in my case. I also found it very useful for children, adolescents, and perhaps even adults who had social anxiety. I really found that my children, the kids who I see who have social anxiety, did very well in this lockdown period because their interactions were very much based on the written word or the media. The problem is balance. If you are using gadgets at the expense of hobbies, at the expense of meeting people, [or] at the expense of not doing your— studies for children or work as an adult, that is the problem with social media. So when you say it is an individual’s responsibility, yes, it is. Unfortunately, when you look at children and adolescents, it also becomes a little bit of parental responsibility.

AB: Thank you for that. Khushnaz, I have the same question to you: are we to be blamed for feeling overwhelmed by social media? And also talk to me a little bit about your journey because as an influencer, you’re used to seeing likes and shares and comments. How do you stop yourself from being overtaken by that? How does that not become an obsession and how do you find a balance in your life?

Khushnaz Turner: Of course, I’d be lying if I [said] that the shares and likes are not important because I work towards [them]. [That’s] my work. It’s like saying that you put up a video on your podcast, and of course you’d be motivated to see whether people received it well, whether it was accepted well, and whether they liked it. So that is important because it is a showcase of your work. So for me, it’s: do I care if I put up a picture of my face socially? How many people viewed it? How many people liked it? How good did I look? I don’t think so. Like we rightly said: it’s about finding the balance. For most people, it’s very difficult to find balance, not only on social media but in other aspects of their lives. It’s got to do with an individual. Because for me, social media is work. And when I’m away from work, I literally put down my phone. At a party, a dinner, a restaurant, or even with family I will be the last person with a phone in their hand. I don’t want to take a picture. I will never go on to browse the net for social media—Facebook, Instagram, whatever. Because for me, that is my medium of work, and I want to cut away from that so that [I can spend quality time] with people I love and want to be around. I think the reason people get on social media when they are in a social gathering is because they’re bored. So probably they’re not interacting with the right people. Because I feel like if I’m engaged and happy with the company I have, then I never want to pick up my phone. I think social media has actually made me so confident and [given] me a perspective that I don’t need social media or people to validate how I look. Do I need validation for my work? Sure. Everybody needs validation at work now, whether it’s corporate life or whatever; everybody wants to be validated.

AB: Very well put. Actually, Dr Dadachanji, I want to ask you another thing. So you work with children and adolescents a lot, right? How do you deal with things like social comparisons? I mean, there’s always been comparisons in life. It’s keeping up with the Joneses and things like that. But hasn’t social media exacerbated it all? Can you give us some strategies on how to cope with this? I would say this culture of comparison.

Dr PD: I think, as you said, that we are [all compared]; all of us, whether you’re a child or an adult, there is some comparison somewhere [that] is happening, and we just need to be able to handle it. Now, with social media, it goes into a very different realm. I mean, I see so many kids who see that. Beautiful young, gorgeous girl comes into my clinic, and then she talks about how inferior she feels, how awful she feels, how she feels. It would be better if she were dead. Why? Because there was a party. I mean, that could not be the only reason. But she would see on social media something where everyone’s having a great time and she is sitting at home because she hasn’t been invited [to] the party. And she knows that tomorrow when [she goes] to school, they are all going to talk about this, and [she] is not going to be a part of it. I am worthless; I’m useless; nobody loves me. This is the kind of thing that it can do to you. Forget the child—as an adult also when you see this, you want to be there, and you feel, “What a life do I have? I’m sitting at home on a Saturday evening, and everyone is having the best time of their lives.” But because we have some others, we are not identified only by this; we are able to deal with it, but some kids are not. So I read this really lovely meme years ago, and I use it all the time. You know, Facebook is like Monopoly money. What you see on Facebook is not real. Just like Monopoly money. And I have this thing to share. I remember that I had a couple who had come to see me for their child, and they were some friends of mine. So I was obviously connected in some way on Facebook with them. And they were fighting in my clinic. They were really fighting. And then in the night, I see the lady putting up a post saying, “For my darling husband and the greatest person in the world,” kind of thing. So these are not real. And as parents, I think we can convey to the child that what you see there [creates a phone-like structure with her hand]… 

KT: is never real. 

Dr PD: Yeah. So that is something you have to be careful about. And I think if parents continue to talk to their kids about it and take the necessary steps, whatever it may be, whether it’s restricting Facebook or any social media thing or talking to the child, I personally believe that as parents, if we can always communicate with our children about things and not have clear things that you cannot go on social media— because that never works. We are living in a world where you have to be a part of it. But talking to your child and explaining to them about the ebbs and flows in our life: we will have fun times, we will have bad times. So what you see here [points towards her hand like it’s a phone] is not real all the time.

KT: It’s a curated version of somebody’s life. That’s it. To understand that, I’ve curated that 5% of my life through my seven stories in the day. And it is…

Dr PD: That’s right.

KT: It’s not only kids. I see this with adults who feel like somebody is leading the ‘it’ life, and this is socially. We’re not even talking about social media stars, but people get impressed by regular people’s social lives and feel like they should want to party like that on a Saturday or they should have been invited. So it’s not kids it’s as much as it is adults…

AB: But, ladies, you both hit upon a very important topic today. Everyone is a content creator. Anybody who gets onto social media is a content creator. So, Khushnaz, do you think that they should take on some responsibility?

KT: I think today’s content creators [are] definitely authentic, and being perfect is a myth. Nobody’s perfect. Nobody’s relationships are perfect, and there is no such thing as perfect. You have to make things work. And this is what I constantly tell [everyone], even my kids: that everything is a work in progress. Yourself, your relationship. In the last two years, I have made it a point that once in a while, I will come on and say: this happened. I don’t like to talk about any negatives on my page, and hence, just because I don’t say it doesn’t mean it’s not happening to me. It’s just something that I don’t want to magnify. And hence, this is my belief, because I believe in the power of manifestation and the power of positivity. So I don’t want to give that any more power than it already has. And hence, I don’t talk about it. But from time to time, I will come by and say that this is also reality.

AB: Okay and Dr Dadachanji in terms of the negative symptoms or effects of excessive social media use, irresponsible social media use, have you seen it take a toll on different age groups?

Dr PD: So there isn’t, because this is still a new phenomenon, we haven’t had real evidence-based studies in terms of that because that would be a long-term study, which would give us an idea. But excessive social media use has led to [mental health issues], and I’m going to talk about them from my perspective because that’s really what I am dealing with. So there is depression; there is low self-worth; there is anxiety—social anxiety and anxiety about oneself; there is, unfortunately, self-harm; there [are] risk-taking behaviors, because that may mean that I need to wear these kinds of clothes to appear on social media to attract this guy— and that can lead to stalking, which can lead to cyberbullying. I mean, it’s crazy how many things are also negative about social media when they’ve not been used responsibly. I’m talking a little more about kids with adults. I still recall that I had done some talk for 6th grade kids in school, and we were talking about social media, and I had to talk about gadgets, et cetera. And I was just talking to the kids, and one girl [raised] her hand, and she said, “Doctor, what happens when our father, my father, is all the time on his phone and he is laughing and he is sending messages?” And there were at least seven other little girls who put up their hands and said, “Yes, this happens in my house too.” So you’re obviously looking at connections being broken because you are not spending that time with family. In the earlier days, dads or moms would also say that we spend time with our kids [and] watch TV together. Now, that is not spending time. I think what has happened is that this has become. I’m sure all of you have seen, when you go to a restaurant… I find it horrible, there are four people on a table, all of them with their phones. There are these two kids with their phones; these parents are on their phones. And it really breaks my heart. I want to go there and say, “Please, can you talk?

AB: That’s exactly what Khushnaz also was saying, right, earlier about the connection that our connection is with the phone, with the device… 

Dr PD: You are just not able to. So you talk about this as connecting people, but this is also isolating people. There is so much of this happening. But again… 

KT: I feel like the responsibility of that on the dinner table had to be the parents because I have a clear policy. Phones down everybody.

Dr PD: I totally agree with you, Khushnaz, that one needs to, but the thing is that we are not even aware of this, right? And I think adults are the main culprits. I always tell them that monkeys do what monkeys see. You are the role models, so your children are going to get affected. So the breakdown of the family system is what really concerns me. Besides all the mental health hazards, which I mentioned earlier.

KT: I have kids. One is 21, [one] is 16, and I am constantly telling them the DOs and DON’Ts of social media. Definitely do not put up a picture that you don’t want your future employer to see. For my older and younger ones, do not get on with these lives. Don’t say nasty things to people, even as a joke. These are just things [of which], as parents, we need to be aware and constantly educate [these kids about]. Because I don’t know whether everybody knows, but their kids get onto these [Instagram] Lives at night when they are drunk, and then on that ‘Live’ they might start dissing one third child, and then it becomes like the whole class has joined this ‘Live’, and then that ‘Live’ gets deleted. But I have been part of this ‘Live’ because I’m just so involved, and I was shocked [at] what is happening. So I’m saying that as parents, are we connected? Do we know that the kids tend to block us: you can’t see what they’re posting, you can’t see their stories. And should we not? With this whole new thing of privacy— I feel that as parents, there should be no privacy. They have no privacy; they have no right to privacy as long as they’re living under your roof…

AB: … The problem is the rules [about] no privacy.

Dr PD: No, I think it has to be given slowly. So yeah, as you say, there are no rules. So when you set rules from the beginning, you give your child a phone without setting any boundaries, and then you realise that, oh yeah, my child is using the phone till one in the night. And then you say, “Okay, now you give it back to me.” It doesn’t work, but “I’m giving you the phone. And these are the rules…” [might work]

AB: But also, there [are] no legal rules from the government because, think about it, you’re not allowed to drive a car because you can have an accident on the road without going through this whole process of getting a learner’s license rather than a normal license. People can harm people here. And on that note, Khushnaz, I want to ask you: What can influencers do [to] promote a healthier, more responsible, [and] safer environment for people? Can they actively help combat issues like cyberbullying?

KT: So when you’re influencing, it’s not only about fashion, beauty, [or] lifestyle, right? It can [also] be influencing people to do the right thing, which is exactly what we did in the two lockdowns and in COVID. We connected resources. If there is bullying, I take that very seriously on my page, and I don’t allow it at all. And actually, when people say don’t engage with the bullies, I’m like, “It’s my page.” And if somebody has the right to come and say anything, [that] I don’t agree with and think is not right, then I will definitely go and comment on that because there is no way I’m going to let you come and be nasty and unkind on my page— I won’t allow it at all. And if I see it happening on somebody else’s page, I won’t even allow it there because that’s the person I am. So I think in a very large place, I also feel that it’s very important for us to do this, and I think lots of people do. I have a best friend who’s also a content creator. She talks about mental health, and she’s somebody who’s battled mental health, and she talks about it openly. There’s another girl who also openly talks about it. And once in a while, I will share that on my story. So somebody who isn’t aware will go and look at that if it helps them. It’s important to do these things.

AB: That’s fantastic. Thank you. And Dr Dadachanji, how can one curtail the negative or the adverse effects of social media? I know you say that with kids and even with adults, give them healthy boundaries, limit the use of screens, but we use screens for everything today. How realistic is that?

Dr PD: So, again, I think there [are] screens and there is social media, right? I think there is a little difference in that because you may have to be on screen to do your homework, for example, but you don’t need to be on social media. So there was this very interesting study done by, again, a small study by the American Psychological Association, where they had these two groups of kids, and they told this one group to curtail their social media to 60 minutes or less per day, while the others were doing 3 hours plus whatever. And then they had these questionnaires [before and after]. So when they did this study, it was, of course, a small, non double-blind study of six or eight weeks. They did find that the kids who were using social media less had better body image and had fewer depressive symptoms as a whole. They were in a better mental space. So clearly, there is something that needs to be addressed in terms of time. So usually around 30 to 60 minutes of time per day, if one can do a detox one day of the week where you don’t use social media, or, I mean, anything that makes you feel that you are in control of this; so if you can let that one day go without social media, it gives you that feeling that, well, I can, right? I don’t need to be on social media all the time. You can also use it to your advantage. So I was a part of a group [that] used to provide support for people who had lost loved ones to suicide. So that made us form a group for that and for other mental health issues. So if you can use social media to your advantage, that is another thing to look at. And of course, as I said earlier also— get out and meet friends, play a sport, do something, [and] pursue a hobby. So do things that are not online. Another thing I find is that we don’t look at the experience we are having. Like Khushnaz was saying, you’re going out for dinner, and you’re taking pictures instead of enjoying that dinner. I mean, you go on a safari, and you’re only looking at it through the lens instead of really looking at that tiger coming. So I think we all have to sort of weigh this and be a little more aware.

AB: And on that note, tell us, Khushnaz, what is your gadget and social media policy and how do you handle it in the Turner household?

KT: So I don’t really have a clear answer to this, but one rule that always stays is that if we are together, every meal and every dinner is together as a family. That’s not negotiable. And on the table, there are absolutely no phones, gadgets, or anything else. Whether we are traveling, whether we are out, or whether we are home. So that’s something I’m very particular about.

AB: So during meal times, you say no social media?

KT: Absolutely. And the kids have to come onto the table and they have to talk. And I will ask them 50 questions and they have to answer…

Dr PD: I wish all families would have that.

KT: I bombard my kids, and everybody laughs. In our friend circle [they say], “oh my God, she asks too many questions to the kids.” But I do, and I feel like the only way to get them to talk is to make that little extra effort; [like] with my boy as opposed to my girl, who overshares. So that could also be a personality thing. It doesn’t need to be a boy’s or girl’s thing. But I feel like asking questions and making sure that you are trying to kind of start a conversation, because it is not necessarily that they will come to the table and even want to talk to you. Like, mine comes with his headphones on because he’s listening to music and trying to be on the table, and I’m like: “No, headphones are a thing. You cannot get anything on the table.”

AB: And do you give them timings? Like at this point?

KT: No, I’m being honest, absolutely honest. Nothing. There are no timings, but there are clear boundaries when it comes to their exams. Other than that, there are no rules as such.

AB: Thank you for that. And I like the fact that you’re empowering them to make their own decisions. You know, last week I was in the offices of Meta and we talked a lot about AI and AR and VR all the way. The world is going to change and everything as we know is digital today, or it’s becoming digital. Education is becoming more and more digital; with Zoom, lots of people are working from home, shopping, healthcare, you name it… Entertainment, everything is becoming digital. And in the book ‘Outliers’, which you might have read, Malcolm Gladwell has said that one of the reasons Bill Gates was so good with computers is because he had access to them and he spent all these hours, I think he talked about 10,000 hours on the computer and that’s what made him so good. Using that logic Dr Dadachanji, do you think we should let our kids be as digital as possible.

Dr PD: So again, I would say what I said earlier, that in terms of being digital and in terms of social media there is a difference. Also, do we want all our children to be Bill Gates? No. We want some of our children to be Sachin Tendulkar or we want someone to be an Alia Bhatt, we want someone to be an Ambani or whatever. The point here is again, that when your whole life is only based on how many likes you got or shares you made or what someone else thought of you, or someone else having a good time, these are things which are not. You can spend as much time on your computer doing other things, doing a course, learning something else, as long as it is not at the expense of real encounters. Real life encounters. So I don’t think it’s about not using your gadget, it’s about again how you use it. That is the important thing.

AB: And Khushnaz, would you like to comment on that? Is it a necessary evil: gadgets and social media?

KT: So I also think this 10,000-hour rule is actually a thing. They say that 10,000 hours is what you need to put in to be successful in anything that you do. So not necessary. And this is another conversation that I’ve had with my kids, saying that that is non-negotiable. The 10,000 hours that you put into anything, whether you put into the gym to look a certain way [or] into going to work, are non-negotiable. You’re not going to get successful; you’re not going to reach what that other successful person has reached by not doing the due diligence. That is 10,000 hours for him; it was his computers. For you, it is your podcast. So it’s 10,000 hours put into what you want to do with your life. It’s not 10,000 hours of you scrolling reels, because that is just going to make you an expert of the reels. I don’t know what else it will do for you or give you. So when you consume too much content, and this happens to us all the time because I consume content as a reference point for research, I get burnt out. And people fall down this rabbit hole, I like to say, browsing reels and going through reels, [which] leads to one reel leading to 500 reels, and then before you know it, it’s been 1 hour and you are just scrolling reels. If you’re going to do it for the hour you travel, it’s fine. But like she said, it’s about it taking over and consuming you, and you not being able to go to the gym, maybe go down for a walk, or maybe even go and meet somebody for dinner. And of course, with kids, it’s important for the parents to definitely step in.

AB: But Dr Dadachanjii, I want to touch on another very important aspect. People talk about addictions, right? And the addictions that have been associated with social media, like cyber, sex addictions and they’re actually comparing them to drug addictions: so have you come across any evidence-based interventions or therapies for these?

Dr PD: So again, there has been a lot of work going on, and I suppose internet addictions, gaming addictions, and social media addictions will become [entities] in the next few years [as] criteria for mental health issues. Just like an alcohol or substance-use addiction. I see kids like this. So when you talk about addiction, what does that mean? That you’re constantly doing something at the expense of something else. So you’re constantly on your phone, browsing different internet sites or social media. To the extent that you don’t do your work or you don’t study, similar to an alcoholic who will be just drinking at the expense of his work, your social interactions become less. The only thing you are focusing on is “Okay, I’ve had my lunch; I have to go back and browse. I have done this; I have to go and have a shot of cocaine.” It is a very similar kind of thing. So today, if 3 hours gave me that dopamine rush, 3 hours won’t give it to me tomorrow; I will need up to 4 hours or 6 hours to get that same feeling. So that makes it a dependent pattern. So it will happen. There are no evidence-based studies that give it a name, but we see this in practice, and one does get children to go and see a cognitive behavior therapist or [a] different kind of counseling therapy [that] can help the child break this cycle. Or an adult. I’m sorry, I use the word child all the time because I’m working more with them to break that cycle of addiction. Maybe there will be some medications later on, [too]; I don’t know.

AB: So basically, at the moment it’s CBT [Cognitive behavioral therapy] or seeing a therapist— is what exists currently?

Dr PD: Yes. And also sometimes maybe medication would help because it could also be that the starting point could be depression. For example, someone is feeling low and feels better when he starts with social media but then it kind of becomes [an addiction], you need to break that. So if the underlying condition is treated, then it could be even treated with medication.

AB: So, you know, the more conversations I’m having around this, the more I’m beginning to feel that with children, if we help them develop their sense of self and their self esteem that is so important in helping them navigate our digital age, so to say.

Dr PD: And also the other thing is that adolescent, the adolescent brain is a developing brain. It’s still [at the age of] 24 or 25 that the brain is developing. So if we can help them in that period till that age… It’s not like now they are 18, and because of that the frontal lobe, the part of your brain which is important for making decisions, making the right choices, has not developed. Everything else is great, but this is not developed. So that is where parent guidance and communication and all is important. 

AB: Thank you. Thank you for that very important message. So we do a rapid fire round just to summarise what we’ve chatted about. So. Khushnaz, I’ll go with you first. One important social media ground rule in the Turner household.

KT: No gadgets on the table ever.

AB: Okay. And one pet peeve being an influencer, how do you tackle it?

KT: I strangely don’t have anything that I’m not happy with, but there are aspects of my social media life— that is a full time business now for me… So, like in any other business, there are verticals that you don’t enjoy. For me, creativity is something that I immensely enjoy and why I’m here. But this page has stopped being only about being creative because there’s a team that I manage. So there’s admin, there’s accounts, there’s scripting. Those are some of the things that I’m not overly fond of.

AB: Okay. Thank you, Dr Dadachanji. Now you: one surprising way in which social media affects mental health.

Dr PD: Lack of empathy, because you can just say anything that you want, you control anyone that you want, and then you get into this cycle of— ‘I can get away with anything.’ And you get very used to not caring about how the other person feels about it. 

AB: Thank you. How much time should one spend on social media?

Dr PD: 30 to 60 minutes a day.

AB: A day?

Dr PD: Maximum. 

AB: Okay. And a mindfulness technique that can help maintain healthy relationships with social media and protect people’s mental health.

Dr PD: I think maybe asking yourself why you are using social media, what are you using it for? Maybe that would be something which we all need to be mindful of. 

AB: Wonderful. Thank you so much, ladies. I think this is going to be a hugely helpful session.

Dr PD: Thank you very much for having us. 

KT: Thank you.Thank you so much. This was fun. 

AB: To my listeners. I hope you learned something new and I hope we brought you a little closer to leading a healthier and a happier life. If you enjoyed the session, please press ‘like.’ Please encourage your friends and family to subscribe to my channel. And most of all, I would love to hear from you. So do send me an email if you have questions. If you have any suggestions for topics, my email address is:, thank you for listening in. See you next week.