Social media can be a positive force: it has the ability to connect people across immense distances, to digitally reunite long lost friends, and it allows people to keep their loved ones updated on their lives without needing to share words and photos with them individually. People look to others for engagement, support, and inspiration, and social media expands the circle of peers available.
With this kind of enhanced communication, though, comes an onslaught of caveats. Social media users are more inclined to share the highlights of their lives instead of the downsides, which means they present over-hyped facades that their friends feel like they are not living up to. If all of your friends were posting pictures of their adventures while you struggle with the natural valleys of life that everyone experiences, isn’t it understandable that you would feel depressed?
An abundance of research finds that social media usage (especially when excessive) can induce poor mental health. Children and teenagers in their formative years are particularly vulnerable. The Independent reports that out of 1,000 members of Generation Z surveyed for one study, 41 percent noted that social media made them feel depressed or anxious, and over a third stated that they were planning to quit social media entirely.
People Compare Themselves To One Another
Social media can negatively impact users’ self-esteem. People tend to derive what they perceive as their self-worth relative to how others are doing, so it makes sense that individuals feel sad or depressed if they compare the entirety of their lives to the tailored, picture-perfect glimpses they get of everyone else’s.
Constant comparison can also invoke feelings of competition. Individuals might develop eating disorders if they feel like their bodies are not as idealized as those they see online, they might spend hours editing photos and resort to buying followers to appear more popular, and some may participate in dangerous activities or buy unnecessary products for the sake of feeling included.
Social Media Is Ironically Isolating
One would think that having friends and family members at your fingertips would make you feel less lonely, but studies find that the opposite is true. One study surveyed 1,787 19 to 32 year-olds and asked questions regarding their usage of the platforms Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Vine, Tumblr, Reddit, and Snapchat. Respondents who visited any of the listed channels fewer than nine times per week were three times less likely to feel socially isolated than those who visited them at least 58 times per week.
Researchers noted that young adults viewed themselves as isolated from their peers, even if it wasn’t necessarily true. Social media-induced loneliness is related to how people cannot help but compare themselves to their peers—Melissa G. Hunt from the University of Pennsylvania published research in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology and notes:
“It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely. Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens. When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.”
The phenomenon is known as “Facebook envy” now applies to multiple platforms. Because the internet allows people to tailor their images, presenting only what they want people to see, this increased accessibility can result in people encountering a multitude of opportunities to compare themselves.
Screen Time Is Addicting
Social media can also be addicting. Feeling compelled to spend a high amount of time online browsing others’ feeds can lead to sleep problems, weight loss, a lack of motivation, and other health problems. You might be addicted to social media if you feel uneasy when your phone is not near you if you experience feelings of guilt and low-self esteem if you feel the urge to share everything you do at any given time or a wide variety of other symptoms. If you are feeling depressed or addicted and need to talk to someone, it is urgent that you see a therapist as soon as possible.
What Can You Do To Improve Mental Health?
If social media is impacting your mental health, it is essential to reduce your time spent online and talk to a professional if need be. Start by turning off your notifications and deleting apps that are causing you to feel unhappy. This is especially important during troubles in a relationship or breakups, seeing pictures and the activities of your ex can make it harder to move on from the relationship. It’s also helpful to take entire days off from social media and keep your phone reachable but far enough away that you are not compelled to check it too often. Putting your phone in grayscale mode also makes it less enticing to look at. Adults can take CBD for anxiety in the meanwhile, and everyone can set aside limited amounts of time for social media so that the rest is devoted to other tasks.
Social media can take a toll on users’ mental health, so it is imperative to acknowledge the links between them and how to better ensure people’s well-being. How will you prioritize your mental health if social media is affecting you?