The impact of social media on mental health
Are you someone who loves spending time on social media? Well, I do too. I mean, what’s not to love about social media? You can connect with people, share information, and get insights into different information. However, I’ve recently noticed that social media severely impacts mental health.
Social media refers to online sites or platforms that allow users to create a profile, connect with other users, and engage in various types of online communication, such as text, photos, videos, and live streams. Some popular social media apps include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, and YouTube.
However, social media is not always about sunshine and butterflies. According to a study by ‘The Cybersmile Foundation,’ 89% of social media users believe social media is damaging their mental health. This number indicates how social media can severely impact our mental health by increasing the risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.
The positive effects of social media on mental health
People find many faults in social media but forget the few things it has helped us with.
While social media does have a negative impact on our mental health, it has made our everyday life much easier. Let’s explore some positive aspects of social media on mental health:
Connection with Others
Social media platforms allow people with similar interests, values, norms, and experiences to connect with each other. Some individuals could be suffering internally, but with social media, they can join groups and communities that allow such people to express themselves openly.
For example- there are many LGBTQ+ Facebook groups where people of such communities feel heard and connected as they find similar individuals going through similar problems.
Thus, social media enhances a sense of belonging by connecting people. This, in turn, positively affects mental health by decreasing negative feelings of loneliness, isolation, and low self-esteem.
Communication and Building Relationships
Social media is a great way to make friends and engage socially. It provides built-in programs where users can message, react, and comment. By doing this, they actively communicate with other social media users.
Similarly, social media sites are a way to communicate with family members and loved ones who live far from home. Many digital platforms like Messenger, Whatsapp, and Skype offer voice and video calls, making online communication much easier.
Along with communicating with your loved ones, social media allows you to form new relationships with other users. Building friendships, finding jobs, and forming all kinds of networks is part of the social media experience.
Access to Information and Resources
As we’ve all heard, social media is a growing cloud of information and resources. Social media is an excellent platform for gaining and sharing information, news, or stories. With such digital sites, one can also share personal ideas and opinions.
According to social media statistics, 40% of internet users gain information and resources from social media for various purposes, such as work. This data explains how useful social media can be in our day-to-day lives.
Additionally, social media sites help raise awareness about mental health, reducing the stigma surrounding a mental disorder or illness. It also guides users through websites offering psychological help. Such informative resources benefit mental health by providing emotional support and awareness to individuals struggling with mental health issues.
Opportunities for Self-expression and Creativity
As it is known that social media is encompassed by all sorts of creativity, from dance, music, and art to writing, theatre, and skits. Consuming such fun creativity adds a bit of happiness to your day, doesn’t it?
Moreover, social media is considered an excellent tool for positive self-expression. It allows individuals to showcase their talents by posting photos and videos or promoting their products and blogs.
Displaying one’s creativity helps to boost their self-esteem and confidence, making one feel a sense of accomplishment.
The negative effects of social media on mental health
While it is crucial to recognize and admire the benefits of social media, it is twice as important to be conscious of the potential side effects of social media on mental health.
Loneliness and Self-isolation
Social media can become a substitute for face-to-face social interaction. Studies have shown that excessive social media consumption is linked with increased feelings of loneliness and self-isolation.
Have you noticed that you feel more lonely after you’ve spent significantly more time on social media, even after chatting with your friends and connecting with random strangers? Well, that’s because you’re engaging with people online and not in a physical presence.
After you’ve been on social media, you find your surroundings empty, making you feel alone and isolated. Thus, excessive social media use leads to depression and anxiety disorders as people become more detached from their physical environment.
Comparison and Validation
Social media can be toxic and pressurizing, especially for teenagers and young adults. Research has found that 90% of women and 65% of men compare themselves to others on social media.
Being on social media makes us feel inferior and self-conscious about our body, face, dress up, and other insignificant things. Constantly comparing what we have with what others have leads us to seek validation through likes, comments, and social media engagement.
Even though psychology says that comparison is a natural human tendency, it widely affects our self-esteem and confidence. It is important to be aware of how comparison and seeking online validation will have a negative effect on the perception of how we view ourselves.
Unrealistic Beauty Standards
We often hear people going through major surgeries and botox just to look appealing, as most influencers on the internet do. However, those people fail to realize that the images of “perfect” bodies and faces shown on social media are often heavily edited and filtered.
It’s no doubt that social media is filled with beauty standards that are unrealistic and unattainable. Most social media users feel obligated to conform to improbable beauty standards to satisfy their audience.
Unrealistic beauty standards build up insecurities in young individuals, which can contribute to the development of body dysmorphic disorder or eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Also, unrealistic beauty standards can cause a distorted self-image because of the pressure to present a perfect image of themselves.
Fear Of Missing Out(FOMO)
Have you ever experienced anxiety when scrolling through Instagram and seeing your friend having fun at a party? That’s called ‘FOMO.’
Fear of missing out is a widely-used phenomenon that describes feelings of anxiety, tension, or depression related to the perception of other people having a more fulfilling and happy time than you are.
FOMO can cause an extreme distraction to an individual’s daily schedule by promoting habits like obsessively checking social media to see what others are up to. It can also cause individuals to go beyond their limits just to post something fun on social media.
Distraction and Decline in Productivity
One of the main disadvantages of social media is that it causes a lack of focus and concentration.
Social media sends us notifications about everything, from who commented on our posts to who followed us, which can be difficult to resist. This is a big distraction, especially when we’re trying to focus on something and our phone keeps blowing up.
Moreover, a lack of productivity affects our work ethic on many levels. It can increase time-wasting behaviors like procrastination and interference in thinking capacities. This, in turn, affects various parts of our life like grades, jobs, and hobbies.
Social Media Addiction
Behavioral psychology says that social media is a rewarding stimulus to our brains. When we use social media, our brain sends a rewarding signal by releasing dopamine, a ‘happy chemical’ associated with pleasurable activities. Thus, when we use social media, we tend to feel reinforced and get addicted to social media very quickly.
Social media addiction can lead to excessive screen time and social media fatigue, interfering with our overall well-being. This addiction can form an unhealthy reliance on social media to cope with problems and situations.
Furthermore, social media addiction contributes to issues like irritability, restlessness, and anger problems when social media usage is not fulfilled.
Research has linked cyberbullying and social media consumption, suggesting 60% of teenagers and 40% of adults have been bullied online at least once.
Cyberbullying uses technology like social media to harass, intimidate, threaten, and humiliate someone. Social media platforms have been a breeding tool for online harassment.
Although social media companies have implemented various measures to combat cyberbullying, including reporting tools, algorithms that detect and remove offensive content, and user education programs, it hasn’t been much effective.
Cyberbullying can cause negative feelings like helplessness and isolation. Additionally, online harassment causes long-lasting self-image and emotional issues like decreased self-confidence, fear, and anxiety.
Tips for Healthy Social Media Use
Social media only negatively impacts mental health if its use isn’t properly managed. Thus, adopting healthy habits surrounding social media is crucial to have a good social media experience and positive quality of life.
Let’s explore some tips and tricks for healthy social media use:
Set a time limit for social media:
Set a specific time schedule for when to use social media and when to not. Make sure you stick with your time limit and adjust your social media usage between those time frames.
Maintain only a few social media accounts:
Limit the social media accounts that you use by choosing the platforms that are valuable to you. You should delete other accounts which you don’t make much use of.
Sometimes, excessive use of social media makes you feel low and unhappy. To prevent this, ensure you’re taking regular breaks from social media. This will help you to regain a positive mood.
Engage in activities outside of the internet:
Prioritizing activities that help relax, reduce stress, and balance emotions and well-being is important. Engaging in activities outside the internet helps you keep in touch with your surroundings and people around you, like family and friends.
Avoid comparing yourself with others:
It’s crucial to remember that social media does not accurately represent people’s lives. Comparison completely drains you mentally, emotionally, and socially. Therefore, avoid meaningless comparisons and start to focus on your mind and inner peace.
Be mindful of your emotions:
Look out for yourself and your emotional well-being. Pay attention to your feelings and emotions when you’re engaging in social media. Take necessary steps if you feel distressed and overwhelmed when using social media.
Curate your feed:
It’s important to track what social media content you consume. If any content on your feed promotes negative emotions, consider unfollowing or muting those accounts.
Look for support:
It’s completely fine and normal to seek help if you suffer from mental health issues. Talk to your family members and friends about what you’re feeling. You can also seek support from psychological institutions that provide counseling, therapies, and other psychological treatments.
How to Help a Child or Teen with Unhealthy Social Media Use?
If you’re a parent of a child or a teenager, it’s important to know that the formation of good habits starts early and should be led by parents.
Communication with your child can often be rough because of dissimilarity in perceptions and opinions. Start by calmly expressing your thoughts and feelings regarding their social media use. Opt for a non-judgmental conversation with your child.
Also, as a parent, you should listen to what your children have to say. Conclude by considering their opinions and coming to an agreed solution.
Encourage healthy connections:
Help your child or teen figure out a social media time limit and encourage them to follow it. Talk to them about real-life connections and friendships and how important they are. Educate them on establishing healthy connections and relationships with family, friends, and people.
Children do what they see. Therefore, parents must model healthy social media behavior for their children to do the same. Parents should be mindful of their social media usage and the content they watch or post.
Educate them about social media issues:
As a parent, you must be able to teach them the potential harm social media can do to children and adolescents. Educate your children about different issues circulating social media, like cyberbullying, inappropriate content, and other internet threats.
Let children know that they can tell you about any issue they’re facing or if they face in the future. Gain their trust by letting them know that they’re safe with you.
Use parental controls like MobileSpy:
Every parent wants their child to be safe on their online platforms. Many parental control apps and spy software exist with today’s scientific technology. A parental control app allows a parent to monitor and track their child’s online activity.
One of the best parental control apps is MobileSpy. It is an effective spying tool from which a parent can access their child’s every social media application. Other features like GPS location tracking, app blocker, SIM tracker, and geo-fencing are also available.
With the help of MobileSpy, a parent can accurately know the online details of their child, such as what social media content they consume, who they’re talking to, and the amount of time they spend online. Such information also helps a parent to understand their child’s mental health situation.
Social media is an effective tool that makes communication and engagement easier and more fun. However, social media can potentially impact mental health if social media usage and consumption aren’t properly managed.
This article presents you with healthy tips to manage social media that help you have a quality of life and enhance peace. It also provides you with suggestions on children’s social media habits, which proves to be helpful for parents.
In a nutshell, social media and mental health go hand in hand. Every individual must practice safe and healthy social media etiquette. This will help with sound mental and emotional health by enriching one’s daily life.