Technology has helped make the world feel more connected, making resources, stories, and information much more accessible. This impact is significant for those who are physically isolated and may feel like they’re in the middle of nowhere. In the past, news and entertainment was extremely limited to things such as televisions, magazines and newspapers, and going out to explore was difficult because there were very few things close by.
Sometimes, it can feel like living in small towns or rural areas can be kind of lonely. The Internet has changed that.
One way that rural adolescents take advantage of social media is through education and connecting with others like them. A project in Australia wanted to do this with rural adolescents with disabilities, giving them the opportunity to learn not just how to take advantage of the Internet and gain skills, but specifically through the social aspect. One goal of the project, for example, was to set up rural adolescents with disabilities with mentors to help them navigate social spaces online.
Although rural adolescents say they learn more from print compared to adolescents who live in urban environments, they have also been reported to say that they learn significantly more from social media too. Using social media as a tool for education can be tricky, but having this option for rural adolescents can help them not just learn as a whole, but specifically look up health information. Living in places with a smaller population may make adolescents feel self-conscious or nervous about who to confide in if something is happening to their mental health. One major trait for those with depression is keeping what they’re going through to themselves because they don’t know who to trust, and living in places with a smaller population may make some afraid that once one person knows, then everyone knows. Social media can help adolescents research safely and privately and even help them read stories by or meet peers who are going through similar experiences.
Health services, mental health ones in particular, can also be harder to come by in rural communities. Social media and communicating with experts online make it easier for adolescents to get the treatment that they need if items such as transportation or even having a place to can be impossible to come by.
Social media has already allowed us to connect and learn more, but the benefits and advantages of it can differ greatly; living in rural communities with access to the Internet and social media is just one example of that.
Do you live in a rural community? Where have you gotten information about mental health from? Where do you prefer getting information: in print or online?