Over half of Brits say social media updates mean they don’t need to talk to friends ‘in real life’

New figures released on Time to Talk Day (7 February) reveal the impact of social media on conversation. A survey of over 5,000 UK adults, commissioned by mental health anti-stigma campaign Time to Change, highlights the need for us to make better use of the connective power of social media.

Over half (51%) of us say we do not need to talk to friends ‘in real life’ because we are kept up to date via social media. The average person has 770 friends on social media, yet nearly a fifth (18%) of us say we wouldn’t feel able to call upon any of those friends if we were struggling with our mental health; 70% of us say group chats and social media lead to more ‘surface level’ conversation, such as sending funny videos, banter and gossip.

Time to Change is urging everyone to use Time to Talk Day as a chance to engage with friends and family in a real and meaningful way – by having a conversation about mental health. The campaign says conversations have the power to change lives, however they take place – face to face, over the phone, or on social media.

While social media allows people to connect with those around them and can be a helpful source of support for the one in four who experience mental health problems in any given year, new data suggests ‘surface level’ engagement, such as liking photos or checking friends’ profiles is replacing more meaningful conversation, both on and offline.

Masses of people across the nation are set to host their own Time to Talk Day activities, from ‘run and chat’ hosted by England Athletics, ‘bat and chat’ by Table Tennis England, and ‘laughing yoga’ in London. Nearly 4,000 more workplaces and thousands of schools and community groups will take part. PG tips and McVitie’s will help facilitate chats through the donation of thousands of vouchers for tea bags and chocolate digestives made available as part of a ‘chatter box’ full of resources for supporters.

As part of the day’s activities celebrity supporter Frankie Bridge is hosting a brunch event at an exclusive London venue, where she will meet her followers to talk about mental health. Frankie has shared her own experiences of anxiety and depression on her Instagram account and decided to host the brunch to spend some quality time with her followers and encourage them to also be open about their mental health.

Discussing why she wanted to support Time to Talk Day Frankie Bridge said “I love social media but it’s easy to only share the ‘fun parts’ when there’s often a lot more going on behind the scenes. Last year I decided to be really honest with my followers and talk candidly about struggling with depression on Instagram. The support I received and the messages people sent meant the world. For Time to Talk Day I want to be there for my followers so I’m inviting them to come and meet me for an honest conversation about mental health – where we can all open up and talk about how we really are.”

Further to the event, Frankie Bridge has joined other celebrity supporters such as Dame Kelly Holmes, Dr Ranj Singh and Matt Johnson in kick starting a social media campaign whereby supporters are asked to share their ‘key ingredient’ for a meaningful conversation about mental health.

Marium Zulfiqar, 22 has bipolar disorder “Social media can be an amazing, connective place but a ‘like’, or even hundreds of ‘likes’, can’t replace conversation. When I was at my lowest, I had a lot of people reach out on social media which I definitely appreciated, but the few friends that called me or met up with me made a world of a difference in my recovery. To know that they were there not just online but also offline was so comforting and healing. To literally have a shoulder to cry on is one of the best gifts I’ve received from my friends.”

Clive Buckenham, 50, has experienced depression “I decided to share my experiences of depression with my friends and family by posting my story on social media. I wasn’t sure they’d understand why I shared something so personal as social media can be a very superficial place – full of memes! However, sharing something real and meaningful connected me with an amazing community of people I’d never met who became great friends and a great support.”

Jo Loughran, Director of Time to Change, said: “We might think we know how our friends are doing because we’ve seen their latest post on social media. However, in a world where many of us only share our ‘best bits’ online we’re urging everyone to use Time to Talk Day as an opportunity to break down barriers and have real and meaningful conversations about their mental health.”

Time to Talk Day was established six years ago. Each year it asks the nation to have a conversation about mental health to help break the stigma that can surround mental health problems. Once again the event is UK-wide as Time to Change partners with See Me Scotland, Change Your Mind Northern Ireland and Time to Change Wales.

Join in the conversation online using the hashtag #timetotalk