The Impact of Social Media in our Emotions, Choices, Perspectives and Social Relationships [Interview][Transcript]

Dr_Sanam_Hafeez_Social_Media_Impact_HealthGuest: Dr. Sanam Hafeez
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Dr. Sanam Hafeez PsyD is a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens. Dr. Hafeez works with individuals who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, attention and memory problems, and abuse.

Segment overview: In this segment, Dr. Sanam Hafeez, PsyD. Discusses some of the psychological aspects of women and friendships, when to cut people loose, and the kind of friends women need.

Health Professional Radio – The Impact of Social Media


Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to the program. I’m your host Neal Howard here on Health Professional Radio, thank you so much for joining us today. Our guest in studio today is Dr. Sanam Hafeez, she’s here with us to talk about some of the psychological aspects of relationships between women, when to cut people lose and when to evaluate your current relationships. Welcome to the program Dr. Hafeez.

Dr. Sanam Hafeez: Thank you for having me.

N: Thank you. Tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and your role as a Clinical Director.

R: I’m a neuropsychologist, I’m based out of New York City, I’m faculty at Columbia University and I deal with a range, a myriad of psychological and neuropsychological disorders from learning disabilities and autism, to depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar, and everything in between. And I do a lot of work with the media and I feel it’s very helpful to get the word out there about what I know clinically and from a research perspective because there always new studies being done and so that’s helping the average person learn how to live their life better without necessarily having to go see a psychologist.

N: In recent years there seems to have been, just in my observation, kind of an upsurge in people seeking mental health treatment for a variety of reasons. It seems that there’s some new condition almost daily. How do you keep up and do you focus specifically on issues dealing with women?

R: I don’t specifically focus on really just one particular thing anyway, it’s just impossible to do that because of the population, the client range that I have and the patient range that I have but I do do a lot of work with women. The way to keep up is that you just pay attention to the new societal changes that you have very little control of like for instance the social media has become a daily part of our vernacular and the psychological process whether we like or not, when we read about this sort of stuff … or people are addicted to posting on Instagram or Facebook … and it does impact people. People can spend hours getting lost in social media. We have to start paying attention to these things because whether we like it or not, it’s impacting the community at large.

N: As you said, social media is a part of our daily lives. Many of us have to use social media for our employment. Employers to seek social media information when deciding when to hire and sometimes when to fire. What advice do you have for folks who are dealing with the stress of their information being readily available and it having such an impact on their control?

R: ; Well if you’re the kind of person who has to worry about what’s out there then you should control what you’re putting on social media. There are a lot of people who put things out there but they’re strategically out there. The stuff that they’re putting online on social media sites has a purpose for them. They’re trying to portray themselves in a certain light because they’re hoping that someone who’s in the industry will find them appealing or attractive. But if you’re going to post undesirable, unattractive pictures on a site and then you’re expecting employers to overlook them because people are humans, they’re going to make judgments so my advice to all the folks, not even just professionals, even teenagers and young adults is to be watchful because we don’t know how those pictures can come across or at least assume we’re going to run for public office someday and worry that these pictures will come to life and then we won’t do it. There’s no reason for someone to see you in that way, so don’t do it.

N: We recently went through the election here in the United States and worldwide implications, everything from computer hacking from Russia, all of these things. When it comes to social media and we’re getting our news from social media, why do you think that it is we tend to equate what we do on a social media platform with what we do when what we say with people who we’re actually friends with and acquaintances with? Why do you think that there’s such a connection there when we’re not actually talking with people intimately? Why do we assume that what we say on Facebook or some of these other social media platforms is just as safe as when we’re talking to someone one-on-one?

R: Your social media account has a way of making you feel intimate. It has a way of making you feel that this is your safe space, you can say whatever you want. And in a way, it also makes you feel heard because you feel like once it’s set out there, all these different people are going to read it and it’s a way for everyone to express their thoughts. Everyone wants to be heard, it’s a natural phenomenon. We like to be felt important and heard so we don’t realize is that there a lot of people reading what we might put out there, who don’t know us, it could be friends, of friends, of friends, of fiends, of friends, like a hundred degrees. So it’s really not that intimate, which again, if you’re making a statement that you truly strongly believe in, that’s one thing. But if you’re making a statement that could be taken in a different way that could offend people, just be careful about that.

N: I’m thinking in your experience as a psychologist, do you think that a bit of the anxiety or a great deal of the anxiety is a lack of understanding or realizing that social media is not private? And that’s where your bullying comes in, there are a lot of reports of people becoming involved in relationships that are based on social media. They spend sometimes months corresponding back and forth before they ever actually meet and they’ve spent these months becoming emotionally involved in this person. Now they meet them face to face and sometimes the concepts and perceptions are totally shattered and you’ve got to deal with the anxiety of that. It’s just like almost like a break-up or finding out that you’ve been cheated on.

N: Well you’re talking from a romantic perspective. There are people involved in social media relationships that are not even romantic. For instance, you follow one specific person or a website, a news outlet and you like many people, comment on a story. There might be someone on there who has commented that in a way that you didn’t like and you respond to that person. That person responds back to you and then you go back to check if that person has responded to you. Before you know it, you’ve got this sort of … online and then you end up forming a relationship with someone you’ll never meet, you have no idea who this person is, you’re in this back and forth battle with someone over nothing. So it’s very interesting the kind of relationship people end up forming on social media, not just romantic, those romantic relationships on social media are nothing new. People have been doing it since the age of the AOL IM (AOL Instant Messaging), cat fishing and all that stuff but this has become something a little bit more convoluted than that. There’s another study that just came out that’s very interesting to me. The specific study that they did focused I think more so on the younger people which they usually do because they’ve done it on university campuses. And it found out that people are a little bit scary. They’re very overwhelmingly likely believe a headline without looking at the source of the information. Whether it came from a lobbyist, whether it came from just and even when it’s made up, they often will not click on the link where the headline came from, they never delve into the real story to figure out what’s going on, so just so by the headline that sounds right and believe it. Social media, for all the good that it has done can be dangerous because if you consider it from their political climate and some of the things that have gone on in our country, I mean our president elect was so active on Twitter so social media is not … anymore. It is business, and what we do for instances and how we look at what people are doing on social media business, it’s not what teenagers do and whether they’re home from school anymore. It’s no child’s play anymore.

N: Now what about cutting the cord? When do you unfriend someone and how do you unfriend someone and not feel guilty about it because as we’ve been discussing, emotionally involved one way or another, maybe not even romantically but now, you need to unfriend them, you need to cut them lose? How do you that and still maintain some semblance of balance?

R: A lot of that comes from being self-empowered and feeling confident. If you feel that in any relationship, personal or on social media, is eating away your time in an unhealthy way. It’s taking up your mental energy and it’s not helping you grow in positive ways. Even if it’s not social media, in any form, we work to try to fix it because the fixing is always the first, I would never say, “Just cut them lose.” That’s not how things should go but if you feel like you tried to address it, you try to speak up, you try to tell this person you feel, if they can’t do it, your mental health comes first. If you find yourself brought down by something, all the negativity from a certain person or the way they talk, or even their views instigate you or make you feel bad about yourself, or they somehow offend you. You can’t tell people what to say, how to live their life, you can’t control them. The only person you can control is yourself and your action. We don’t have to make a very bold confrontational statement about it, you can just unfollow someone. It doesn’t need to be a big, ‘I no longer want to be your friend,’ that there’s no need to be dramatic. Quietly, and again, if that person ever confronts you and asks you to actions just say “Look, I see your speech says a lot. I don’t like some of the things that you say you have. I realize you say them. I just don’t like seeing it, I don’t like hearing it. It upsets me and it’s just easier if I don’t see it. That might be better because I have work, I have to pick up my kids and I don’t like this thing over me like a dark cloud.” I think most people understand that because it’s not a personal thing, you’re just protecting yourself.

N: Let’s talk about your practice, you’re a founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services. Where can we go and get information about your practice?

R: You can go to

N: You’ve been talking about several psychological aspects of social media, but briefly discuss some of the other services that you offer there at Comprehensive.

R: We do a lot of diagnostic and it has often worked, which is very, very important. To anyone listening, I would insist, that no matter where you are, before you embark on any kind of treatment – medication, or therapy – you should have or seek out someone who can do a good evaluation using a good interview, battery of standardized tests to figure out what’s really going on before they start to treat you because that yields the most effective or the most long lasting results. It’s almost like getting put on heart medication without having any blood work done or a stress test done. You wouldn’t that, you shouldn’t that with mental health either.

N: Absolutely. And can our listeners contact you via Twitter?

R: They can. It’s @comprehendmind I believe, and I’m also at Instagram as @drsanamhafeez, one word.

N: Great. It’s been a pleasure talking with you today doctor.

R: Thank you so much.

N: Thank you. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard with Dr. Sanam Hafeez, founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services. Transcripts and audio of this program are available at and also at, and you can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes.

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