Pandemic mental health: The role of social media (2023)

Pandemic mental health: The role of social media (1)Share on Pinterest

On a global scale, social media can be a way for people to gather information, share ideas, and reach out to others facing similar challenges. It can also be an effective platform to relay information quickly during a national or worldwide crisis.

This global reach is what has made social media a critical communication platform during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As government health organizations used it to relay recent findings on prevention and treatment, social media became more than a place to post the latest vacation photos — it became a hub of pandemic-related information.

New Normal Health

For more advice on COVID-19 prevention and treatment, visit our coronavirus hub.

But has the use of social media during the pandemic negatively impacted mental health and well-being? Or has it had the opposite effect?

In this Special Feature, Medical News Today looks at what research says about social media use and the COVID-19 pandemic to reveal how it has affected mental health. We also spoke with two experts about this complex topic.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health conditions are on the rise. Data show that around 20% of children and adolescents worldwide live with a mental health condition.

Moreover, suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15–29-year-olds.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that of the adults surveyed in the United States:

  • 31% reported symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • 13% reported having started or increased substance use
  • 26% reported experiencing stress-related symptoms
  • 11% reported having suicidal thoughts

Further research suggests that pandemic-related mental health challenges have impacted people differently, with some racial and ethnic groups disproportionately affected by pandemic stress.

In particular, Hispanic adults reported experiencing the highest level of psychosocial stress in relation to food shortages and insecure housing at the start of the pandemic.

(Video) Can Social Media Affect Your Mental Health During This Pandemic?

A research report published in Frontiers in Psychology suggests that there is an association between pandemic threats and extensive anxiety and concern among the public.

Scientists explain that some anxiety about personal safety and health during a widespread disease outbreak can help promote healthy behavior, including hand-washing and social distancing.

However, in some people, anxiety can become overwhelming and cause harm.

Social media use has been on the rise since its debut in 1995. As it has grown, more people have started using it as a news source. According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted between August 31 and September 7, 2020, about 53% of adults in the U.S. get their news from social media.

Research indicates that social media can help effectively communicate health information to a global audience during a public health crisis. However, the information shared on these platforms can sometimes be inaccurate or misleading.

For example, one research review published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research looked at social media posts before March 2019 and found that Twitter contained the most health misinformation — mostly about smoking products and drugs.

This health misinformation may lead to an increase in fear, anxiety, and poor health choices.

According to one study, attempts to reduce the spread of misinformation by fact-checking and flagging posts with inaccuracies may help reduce the influence of false information for some people.

Still, there is ongoing debate on whether social media content regulation may increase mistrust and promote more social media posts reflecting inaccurate information.

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Because the COVID-19 pandemic emerged recently, scientists are only beginning to understand the role of social media on users’ mental health.

For instance, using questionnaires, researchers in China interviewed 512 college students from March 24 to April 1, 2020, to determine whether social media harmed mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Video) Using Social Media to Cope With Mental Health During the Pandemic | NBC10 Philadelphia

Results indicate a link between higher use of social media and an increased risk of depression. Furthermore, the authors suggest that exposure to negative reports and posts may contribute to the risk of depression in some people.

Additionally, according to a study that appears in the journal Globalization and Health, there is increasing evidence that endless news feeds reporting SARS-CoV-2 infection rates and COVID-19 death rates could influence the mental health of some individuals.

MNT spoke with Lee Chambers, M.Sc., M.B.Ps.S., founder of Essentialise, about the impact of social media on mental health during the pandemic.

Chambers said:

“While we are all impacted in differing ways by social media consumption, the continual flow of negative and misinformation during the past 18 months have spread fear; the highlighting of social and political issues has reduced optimism; and edited photos and toxically positive content leave no space to feel secure or express negative emotions healthily. Alongside the increased desire for metrics such as likes and comments in these challenging times, it’s likely that social media has exacerbated mental health challenges.”

He also explained that social media keeps people connected to friends and family, especially during social distancing with limited physical interactions. Yet, this increased use may have amplified social anxiety and challenges with perfectionism and comparison for some people.

Prof. Steven C. Hayes, Foundation Professor of Psychology at the University of Nevada, Reno, who developed the Relational Frame Theory and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, told MNT: “We know that there are toxic processes that produce particular challenges for people: exposure to physical and psychological pain; a comparison with others and judgment; entanglement with self-judgment.”

He further explained that “[t]hose predict pathological outcomes if you’re not able to step back to notice the process of feeling and thinking, to orient to what’s present and what is really important to you and line up your behavior behind that.”

“And social media,” he added, “because of its exposure to pain comparison and judgment, enormously challenges us all in ways that are orders of magnitude more severe than ever in the history of humanity. Those processes have been toxic from the beginning, but exposure to those processes as a daily diet is new. [However], there are features inside social media that have expanded human consciousness. And it gives us great opportunities.”

As Prof. Hayes mentioned, these opportunities may include a heightened awareness of mental health and reduced stigma surrounding mental health conditions.

Research published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research suggests that psychosocial expressions have significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This means that more people are expressing their emotions, both positive and negative, and garnering support from others. As a result, the stigma surrounding mental health conditions may be decreasing.

Prof. Hayes noted that the COVID-19 pandemic exploded the idea that mental health conditions only affect certain individuals.

“Everybody realizes that mental strength and mental flexibility — that is, mental and behavioral health and social wellness — applies to all of us. It’s not a one-out-of-five issue; it’s a five-out-of-five issue, and that is the permanent result of this year and a half of [COVID-19].”

– Prof. Steven C. Hayes

With emerging research suggesting social media may impact the mental health of some users, some platforms have begun to initiate positive changes.

For example, on September 14, 2021, the social media platform TikTok announced new features for its users to help provide resources for suicide prevention.

But can they do more?

According to Chambers: “Social media platforms have a key role to play in how their products impact on the mental health and well-being of their users. There are many aspects where this can be achieved. However, the challenge is that [using] most of these will decrease addictiveness, engagement, and time spent. This often goes against the aims of the platform itself.”

He suggests that social media platforms could consider improvements to build in mental well-being protection, including:

  • limiting news feed length
  • changing the way notifications are triggered
  • labeling altered images
  • introducing stronger regulation and monitoring of content designed to harm
  • implementing suggestions that users take a break
  • signposting to evidence-based resources and support on posts that may be triggering
  • ensuring clearer guidelines and more ability for users to easily control sensitive content
(Video) Mental Health and Social Media

According to Chambers, “when it comes to [using] social media, both moderation of time and content consumed and intentionality play a significant part in garnering the benefits and reducing the downsides.”

He suggests that having a “digital sunset” before retiring for the night can help ensure anxiety will not impact sleep. In addition, having a social media-free day can positively affect mental well-being.

“The ultimate intention is for us to become the masters of social media, rather than social media become the masters of us.”

– Lee Chambers

Prof. Hayes noted that although mental health impacts everyone to some degree, that does not mean all people should be in therapy.

Instead, he suggested that “[w]e all need to learn how to be responsible for our mental and behavioral strength and flexibility. And to seek out the resources, just as we do with strengthening our physical health and flexibility.”

“That will empower us to face a changing world that, yes, will include regular exposure to pain, comparison, and judgment,” he added.

He noted that this exposure will also include the overwhelming reality of worldwide events as they are happening.

“We need to step up to that. And I see very hopeful signs that by using social media and technology and accessing the best that behavioral mental science can bring to us, we can speed up the natural process that happens of acquiring wisdom. That will allow you to be more open to your thoughts and feelings, more centered consciously in the present moment and connected to others, and more focused on your deepest human values. [It will also allow you] to create habits around those instead of creating habits around fear and judgment and comparison.”

(Video) How the pandemic affects the mental health of young people | DW News

– Prof. Steven C. Hayes

For live updates on the latest developments regarding the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, click here.

FAQs

How mental health is affected by social media? ›

However, multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts. Social media may promote negative experiences such as: Inadequacy about your life or appearance.

How social media affects the mental health of students? ›

Social media use can lead to low quality sleep and harm mental health. It has associations with depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Many people in today's world live with their smartphones as virtual companions.

How does social media help you in your studies in this time of pandemic? ›

Other social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, are linked to higher levels of student involvement and information sharing [53]. In addition to supporting student education, Web 2.0 tools can also help individuals overcome communication and writing difficulties. Social media can be used beyond education.

How do you deal with stress in a pandemic essay? ›

Many health centers provide or give access to online mental health services.
...
Interview With a Mental Health Professional
  1. Self-care, not school work, should be your No. 1 priority. ...
  2. Set healthy boundaries with your loved ones. ...
  3. Set boundaries with yourself. ...
  4. Create a happy workspace. ...
  5. Follow a daily routine.

How can you protect your mental health from social media dangers essay? ›

How To Protect Your Mental Health From Social Media
  1. Limit When and Where You Use Social Media. ...
  2. Pay Attention To What You Do And How You Feel. ...
  3. Use Other People's Posts As Inspiration Rather Than Comparison. ...
  4. Approach Social Media Mindfully; Ask 'Why? ...
  5. Cut Your Followers and The People You're Following.

How social media affects our everyday life? ›

Social Media is relatively a newer technology, hence, it is a little difficult to establish its long-term good and bad consequences. However, multiple researchers have concluded a strong relationship between heavy use of social media platforms with an increase in risk of depression, self-harm, anxiety, and loneliness.

How does social media affect body image and mental health? ›

Social media can negatively affect body image by over-exposing you to "idealized" body types. While posting selfies may help body image, trying to edit out perceived flaws can be harmful. To reduce harm on social media, unfollow accounts, find a healthy community, and take breaks.

How social media affects our life essay? ›

If the use of social media is not monitored, it can lead to grave consequences. It is harmful because it invades your privacy like never before. The oversharing happening on social media makes children a target for predators and hackers. It also leads to cyberbullying which affects any person significantly.

How do social media change the everyday life of a student? ›

It is easy to become addicted, and research shows that students who spend too much time on social media can suffer from poor sleep, eye fatigue, negative body image, depression, anxiety, cyberbullying, and more.

Is social media an effective platform of online distance learning? ›

It allows learners and instructors to connect outside the formal learning environment, share ideas, create peer groups to share their opinions regarding the course, or discuss content and activities.

What is the impact of social media on the academic performance of the students? ›

Past studies have found that students who spend more time on social media sites are likely to demonstrate poor academic performance. This is because they spend time chatting online and making friends on social media sites instead of reading books.

What are benefits of social media? ›

Here are five benefits of using social media:
  • Build relationships. Social media is not just about brands connecting with their customers. ...
  • Share your expertise. Social media gives you an opportunity to talk about what you know and what you want to be known for. ...
  • Increase your visibility. ...
  • Educate yourself. ...
  • Connect anytime.
22 Apr 2014

Why is mental health important for students during this pandemic? ›

Children already coping with mental health conditions have been especially vulnerable to the changes, and now we are learning about the broad impacts on students as a result of schools being closed, physically distancing guidelines and isolation, and other unexpected changes to their lives.

How has the pandemic personally affected your life? ›

Information overload, rumors and misinformation can make your life feel out of control and make it unclear what to do. During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may experience stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. And mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, can worsen.

How does the pandemic affect your thoughts and feelings about yourself? ›

Even if you're at home with family, the reality of social isolation can still trigger loneliness, sadness, and anxiety. You may also find that spending all day, every day with your family is stressful and creates challenges, no matter how much you love them.

How can we protect our mental health from social media? ›

Ways to Protect your Mental Health on Social Media
  1. Set Time Limits and Breaks. Most phones offer time limits and reminders. Go to Settings and view your screen time. ...
  2. Who do you follow on social media? Go through your follow list. Now think about why you are following these accounts. ...
  3. Filters.

How can we improve your mental health from social media? ›

Protecting your mental wellness on social media
  1. Take stock of how your feeds make you feel. ...
  2. Understand what's happening in your brain. ...
  3. Try not to compare. ...
  4. Put some usage boundaries in place. ...
  5. Get strict about curation. ...
  6. Start over (or step away entirely)
2 Dec 2021

How can we reduce the impact of social media on mental health? ›

Practise meditation: Meditation can help to calm your mind and train them to be at the present, rather than wandering around. Seek professional help: If the situation gets out of control or you are not able to cut down your screen time, seek professional help.

What are the positive and negative effects of media? ›

While it can provide a platform for your teenagers to express themselves, develop social skills, etc., it can also have some negative effects–instilling false messages, false beliefs, violent behavior, spending too much time in front of a screen may cause health and development issues.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using social media? ›

Top 10 Advantages and Disadvantages of Social Media
Pros of Social MediaCons of Social Media
Social Media Can Reach Large AudiencesSocial Media Causes Sleep Issues
Government Benefits from Social MediaSocial Media Cause Depression and Loneliness
Entertainment with Social MediaSocial Media Causes Distraction
7 more rows
14 Jun 2022

How does social media affect teenagers mental health? ›

Social media harms

However, social media use can also negatively affect teens, distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people's lives and peer pressure. The risks might be related to how much social media teens use.

Is social media good or bad? ›

Although there are important benefits, social media can also provide platforms for bullying and exclusion, unrealistic expectations about body image and sources of popularity, normalization of risk-taking behaviors, and can be detrimental to mental health.

How social media affects your view of your physical self? ›

Studies also show that 65% of men compare themselves to images they observe on social media, with 37% of them indicating that the comparison is unfavourable. This is extremely problematic as this can lead to lower self-esteem, an unbalanced diet, deficiencies of vitamins and minerals and possibly eating disorders.

In what way does media affect your life? ›

When it affects personal life, there is damage in both professional and academic. Many studies have shown that social media has negative impacts on mental health causing signs of stress, depression, anxiety, etc. There are many cases registered in the cyber for misusing information and for cyberbullying.

Is social media helpful or harmful essay? ›

With social networks we are able to communicate our thoughts and perceptions over different topics with a large number of audiences, and raise our voice. The sharing feature available on the social networks makes your opinion about any topic reach huge number of people (even to those who are not on your friends list).

How social media makes our life better or worse? ›

Some people get confident by Social Media, sharing their life and positivity influence people better way. Some people find a new friend on Social Media and have fun in communication. Social Media gave us the freedom of speech, sharing our own thoughts, or emotions, sometimes give a big impact on individuals.

Has social media been a positive or negative influence on society? ›

Social media can often harm one's mental health. It can cause depression and anxiety and can lower self-esteem. In teens alone, depression rates range from 13-66% with increased social networking usage. With over three billion users, social media is likely to continue to play a huge role in our society.

What are the positive and negative effects of social media on students? ›

Positive and Negative Impact of Social Media on Education
  • Encourage Online Learning:
  • Enhances Academic Performance:
  • Enhances Creative Element:
  • Causes Distraction:
  • Impact on Health:
  • Reduces learning and research capability:

What are the positive impact of social media on youth? ›

Positive inspiration: Social networks can create peer motivation, inspiring young people to develop healthy habits, try something new, follow their dreams, and speak up about things that matter to them. Teens can also find positive role models online.

What is the role of social media in students life? ›

Social media has gained credibility as a trusted source of information. Apart from that it also provides a great platform for teachers and students to interact. The students can also expand their horizons by getting in touch with teachers around the world and gain more knowledge.

How can social media be used to benefit students like you? ›

Social media promotes self-directed learning, which prepares students to search for answers and make decisions independently. When reinforced in a classroom setting, these social media skills can be guided and refined to produce better learning outcomes and critical awareness.

What are the benefits of social media for students? ›

Social media plays an important role in every student's life. It is often easier and more convenient to access information, provide information and communicate via social media. Tutors and students can be connected to each other and can make good use of these platforms for the benefit of their learning and teaching.

How social media can influence students learning and promote positive change? ›

Social Media helps boost creative skills in students by permitting them to learn and later execute the same by doing it themselves. Quite frequently, a student's hidden talent is revealed when he/she starts to take pictures and use online editing skills to make it took aesthetically appealing.

How can we use social media responsibly? ›

Managing your digital identity
  1. use settings that determine who sees your posts.
  2. set your timeline so only friends can see it.
  3. avoid making individual posts visible to 'friends of friends' and 'public'
  4. don't share any personal details.
  5. remember, everyone may see which pages you like, so take care, and if in doubt – unlike.

Is social media a major source of distraction for learning students? ›

Social media is a major source of distraction and thus can hinder users from successfully fulfilling certain tasks by tempting them to use social media instead. However, an understanding of why users get distracted by social media is still lacking.

What is the main importance of social media? ›

Billions of people around the world use social media to share information and make connections. On a personal level, social media allows you to communicate with friends and family, learn new things, develop your interests, and be entertained.

Is it important to be on social media? ›

Social media - if used intelligently - can bring in loads of success. Since it is the best form of direct contact with the target audience, these platforms have what it takes to make anyone's life better. To understand this better, here are ten aspects that reflect the importance of social media in today's world.

Is social media good for society? ›

The truth is that social media can also be beneficial for society. It can help individuals connect and deepen their relationships. Social media also encourages students to learn and grow. And it can empower businesses to build their audiences and boost their bottom line.

How does the pandemic affect the mental health of students in the Philippines? ›

They may also be more vulnerable to developing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Together with these circumstances and the weakened health care system, children's vulnerability towards mental health problems may be worsened by the pandemic, leading to more new cases and exacerbating existing ones.

How the pandemic affect the students? ›

The pandemic had also caused psychological stress among the students, making it difficult for them to focus on studying. They expressed feelings of anxiety, burnout, loneliness, homesickness, grief, and hopelessness.

Is it important to be mentally healthy nowadays? ›

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.

What are the feelings during pandemic? ›

It's natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are ways that you can help yourself, others, and your community manage stress.

How can we take care of your mental health amidst the pandemic? ›

Eat a balanced and healthy diet.
...
Follow along with the video below or simply take three slow deep breaths, feel your feet grounded on the floor and ask yourself:
  1. What are five things I can see?
  2. What are four things I can hear?
  3. What can I smell?
  4. What does it feel like to touch my knees or a something else I can reach?
7 Oct 2021

How has the pandemic affected communication? ›

Communication in general deteriorated during the pandemic, especially during the initial waves. Non-verbal communication was more affected due to the use of Personal Protective Equipment and the initial fear of infection, with this finding strongly observed in departments such as emergencies or critical care.

How do you overcome pandemic challenges? ›

Steps to effective problem solving
  1. Define the problem.
  2. Think of as many solutions as possible, no matter how silly they may seem.
  3. Consider the pros and cons of each solution.
  4. Choose a solution to try.
  5. Plan how you are going to implement the chosen solution.
  6. Carry out the solution.
  7. Review how it went.

How do you deal with stress in a pandemic essay? ›

Many health centers provide or give access to online mental health services.
...
Interview With a Mental Health Professional
  1. Self-care, not school work, should be your No. 1 priority. ...
  2. Set healthy boundaries with your loved ones. ...
  3. Set boundaries with yourself. ...
  4. Create a happy workspace. ...
  5. Follow a daily routine.

How did COVID-19 affect teenagers mental health? ›

According to the new data, in 2021, more than a third (37%) of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year.

How does social media affect mental health in teenagers? ›

However, social media use can also negatively affect teens, distracting them, disrupting their sleep, and exposing them to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people's lives and peer pressure. The risks might be related to how much social media teens use.

How does social media affect body image and mental health? ›

Social media can negatively affect body image by over-exposing you to "idealized" body types. While posting selfies may help body image, trying to edit out perceived flaws can be harmful. To reduce harm on social media, unfollow accounts, find a healthy community, and take breaks.

How does social media affect the brain? ›

Researchers believe that since social media competes for your attention with the promise of continuous new content, heavy social media users become less able to ignore distraction in general, which leads to poorer cognitive performance and shrinks parts of the brain associated with maintaining concentration.

What are some negative effects of social media? ›

Although there are important benefits, social media can also provide platforms for bullying and exclusion, unrealistic expectations about body image and sources of popularity, normalization of risk-taking behaviors, and can be detrimental to mental health.

What is the impact of social media essay? ›

Positive Impacts of Social Media-

It can create awareness for many social issues. There is a fast transfer of information online so that the users can stay well informed. It can also be used as a news medium. There are a few social benefits like communication with long-distance friends and relatives.

How does social media cause stress? ›

Stress might come from maintaining a large network of Facebook friends, feeling jealous of their well-documented and well-appointed lives, the demands of replying to text messages, the addictive allure of photos of fantastic crafts on Pinterest, having to keep up with status updates on Twitter, and the “fear of missing ...

Why is social media important? ›

It is a valuable communication tool with others locally and worldwide, as well as to share, create, and spread information. Social media can influence consumer's purchase decisions through reviews, marketing tactics and advertising.

How can social media be used in a healthy way? ›

7 Healthy Habits for Social Media
  1. Be intentional when you use social media. ...
  2. Focus on your real-life friends. ...
  3. Limit the time you spend scrolling each day. ...
  4. Follow people and pages that bring you joy. ...
  5. Avoid using social media before bed. ...
  6. When you're out and about, live in the moment. ...
  7. Take a break!
18 Aug 2022

How social media affects your view of your physical self? ›

Studies also show that 65% of men compare themselves to images they observe on social media, with 37% of them indicating that the comparison is unfavourable. This is extremely problematic as this can lead to lower self-esteem, an unbalanced diet, deficiencies of vitamins and minerals and possibly eating disorders.

In what way does media affect your life? ›

When it affects personal life, there is damage in both professional and academic. Many studies have shown that social media has negative impacts on mental health causing signs of stress, depression, anxiety, etc. There are many cases registered in the cyber for misusing information and for cyberbullying.

How social media affects our behavior? ›

“However, Social media has also led to negative changes in human behaviour. It has made them more self-obsessed and narcissistic. It has made them more lazy and violent, portraying a behaviour influenced by low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, mental health issues and trust issues.”

What are the positive and negative effects of media? ›

While it can provide a platform for your teenagers to express themselves, develop social skills, etc., it can also have some negative effects–instilling false messages, false beliefs, violent behavior, spending too much time in front of a screen may cause health and development issues.

Has social media been a positive or negative influence on society? ›

The truth is that social media can also be beneficial for society. It can help individuals connect and deepen their relationships. Social media also encourages students to learn and grow. And it can empower businesses to build their audiences and boost their bottom line.

How can we prevent social media from affecting mental health? ›

Protecting your mental wellness on social media
  • Take stock of how your feeds make you feel. ...
  • Understand what's happening in your brain. ...
  • Try not to compare. ...
  • Put some usage boundaries in place. ...
  • Get strict about curation. ...
  • Start over (or step away entirely)
2 Dec 2021

What is the biggest problem with social media? ›

Increased usage. The more time spent on social media can lead to cyberbullying, social anxiety, depression, and exposure to content that is not age appropriate. Social Media is addicting.

Is social media helpful or harmful essay? ›

With social networks we are able to communicate our thoughts and perceptions over different topics with a large number of audiences, and raise our voice. The sharing feature available on the social networks makes your opinion about any topic reach huge number of people (even to those who are not on your friends list).

Videos

1. How the pandemic impacts mental health | COVID-19 Special
(DW News)
2. "Monetizing Misery": Social Media and Teen Mental Health with Dr. Bryn Austin
(Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health)
3. How social media filters impact mental health
(ABC News)
4. Covid 19 and the Role of Social Media | Aadam Aslam | TEDxQESchool
(TEDx Talks)
5. Using social media healthily during lockdown | Mental Health Awareness Week - BBC
(BBC)
6. Does Social Media Actually Cause Depression? Technology & The Future of Mental Health | SELF
(SELF)
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