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Experts advise 'unplugging' for stress relief amid ongoing protest
Central News Agency
2014-03-27 12:16 PM
Taipei, March 27 (CNA) With the March 18 student movement against a service trade pact with China in its second week, events of the past several days have taken a psychological toll on those involved. The Taiwan Counseling Psychologists Union (TCPU) has recommended that stress-prone individuals take a break from the Internet, and in particular social media website Facebook, in order to avoid some of the psychological burden surrounding the protests. The TCPU has set up a stress relief aid station at the Legislative Yuan for those in need of counseling. It also called on all educational institutions to continue to provide care and guidance for students on campuses. Hundreds of student-led protesters have occupied the main chamber of the Legislative Yuan since March 18 and many more have staged a sit-in in the building's compound to demand that the administration withdraw the pact that would liberalize the service industries on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. According to TCPU spokeswoman Lin Tsui-fen, the demonstrations reflect the apprehension and insecurity felt by this generation of young men and women toward the future. She said that the students in and around the Legislative Yuan, as well as law enforcement personnel deployed at the scene, are suffering from sleep deprivation, which, if not carefully managed, could lead to a physical and mental breaking point. The TCPU is appealing to the administration to listen to the students' thoughts and wishes. The union believes it is crucial that the administration takes the students' demands seriously and that talks continue in order to build mutual trust. As for those prone to stress, the TCPU said there is no harm in leaving the scene for a short while, avoiding newspapers, television and Facebook -- or the Internet as a whole. The union also suggested that such individuals should practice stress management techniques. The TCPU action came as some negative effects of the use of Facebook during the student movement began to surface, as reported by the United Daily News. The heated debate over the trade-in-services agreement with China has taken over the majority of local chatter on Facebook, and some students are afraid to express their opinions as they fear a backlash of abuse and social isolation, the paper said Wednesday. "Protesting against the service trade pact has become the rule," one mother was quoted as saying. Many Facebook users have taken to changing their profile pictures to black as a sign of protest against the agreement. This also acts as a form of peer pressure, forcing the silent bystanders to choose a side and "unfriend" those with opposing opinions, according to the paper. Facebook has played an important role in mobilizing support for the protest and now in polarizing opinions because of its popularity in Taiwan. Statistics from Czech-based social media network analysts Socialbakers indicates that in Taiwan, 67 percent of the population has access to the Internet, and 59 percent of Taiwanese Internet users -- more than 9 million individuals -- are on Facebook, making Taiwan one of the leading Facebook-using nations in the world. Socialbakers attributed Facebook's popularity in Taiwan to a lack of social media network competitors, as well as the popularity of social gaming in Taiwan. (By Chen Ching-fang and John Scot Feng)
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