Social Media and Mental Health

Read on in this article to learn about how social media impacts your mental health.

Social Media and Mental Health

Article Contents

An Overview of Social Media’s Impact

It should be no secret that human beings are social creatures. From the beginning of existence, we have lived in tribes and had designated roles in our communities. Social isolation was a punishment reserved for only the most heinous acts, and an emphasis has long been placed on being neighborly and helpful to your community. In this digital era, social media and mental health are directly related and are impacting people on a larger scale.

positive effects of social media
In recent years, this focus on community has shifted dramatically. As a society, there is no longer a need to meet new people or interact with your neighbors physically. Instead, through social media and the widespread existence of the internet, people can talk to others across the world, regardless of distance.
While in many ways, this has been revolutionary in how we communicate and conduct business, society has lost touch with the way that we interact with our peers, our family members, and how we make friends.

It’s important to remember that while social media and the internet can be useful tools to stay connected, they can never truly replace actual human interaction.

A Discussion on Social Media and Teens

Why Social Media Is Growing in Popularity

Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have rapidly gained popularity worldwide, particularly among younger people. There are several reasons for this, but one of the most important is that it mimics the feeling of interaction and connection with others.
With social media sites, people have access to others around the globe. There is no longer a need to travel or go out in public to meet new people. The prevalence of dating sites allows people to meet without the lengthy courting rituals that were once involved and without the awkwardness of approaching a stranger in public.

At first glance, these all seem like positive things, and they can be in moderation. When a person solely uses social media sites to meet and interact with new people, recent studies have shown that excessive usage leads to feelings of loneliness and depression.2

Social Media Supports Connections

A positive effect of social media is that social media has been an invaluable tool for staying connected to friends and family members during the pandemic. Without the prevalence of social media, many people would have faced complete isolation, and mental health conditions would likely have skyrocketed even further than they did.

It’s easy to find old friends and family members that you haven’t spoken to in years on social media, making it a great way to reconnect with people you may not have been able to otherwise connect with.

Social Media Makes People Feel Good

One significant way social media and mental health are linked is that constant social media use activates reward centers and temporarily increases dopamine production.

In many ways, this is very similar to drug use in that once a person begins using social media regularly, they become addicted to it. This manifests as frequently checking statuses at all hours of the day, obsessively checking to see if posts have gained reactions, and being reluctant to stop using social media sites. This practice may cause you to undergo addiction treatment

The temporary dopamine hit that these positive statuses and likes give consumers causes users to unconsciously seek out these triggering events to continue receiving dopamine.

Social Media Boosts Self-Esteem

The impact of social media on mental health is extreme, both the good and the bad. Some people experience a boost to their self-esteem when viewed in a favorable light online. This is often the case of social media influencers who regularly post to social media platforms and go viral. 

Social media can also provide a more comfortable outlet for people who have social anxiety and aren’t comfortable speaking to people in public. In many cases, a chat forum or comment section can enable people to be more confident in their words because they can think about what they’re going to say before replying and perfect their statement before posting it. 

Unfortunately, this can also mean that people can develop a false sense of importance or believe that they’re better than their not-as-popular peers. Additionally, the relative anonymity of the internet allows people to say things that they likely would not say in public, leading to the rise of internet trolls.

Role Social Media Plays in Mental Health

Does social media affect mental health? Research is showing that yes, it does. The extent to which it impacts an individual is different for everyone, and there is no set amount of time spent on social media that causes a decline in mental health.
Not all social media experiences are negative, however, as social media can have some interesting benefits when used in moderation.

Positive Effects of Social Media

Social media, when used properly, can help people of all ages communicate and stay connected with their friends and family around the world. It can also help people find new friends, hobbies, and interests, and can help people learn about other parts of the world.

Social media can help raise awareness for a cause or organization and can be used to help collect money for a fundraiser or a person in need.
Finally, social media can help people share their talents and skills with the world when they would otherwise be unwilling or uncertain. This is particularly useful for artists, writers, and other creative individuals seeking to gain exposure for their work.

Negative Aspects of Social Media

There are just as many social media problems for as many benefits as social media offers us. One of the biggest concerns with social media is the presence of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can cause long-lasting emotional and mental scars, particularly in young children, leading to mental health conditions later in life.

Another negative aspect of social media is that it can make people feel like they’re not enough and compare themselves to others. While this isn’t new, there is now a prevalence of filters and effects that can alter and distort the way a person appears online.

These filters cause people to feel inadequate or look better if some fundamental part is changed. This can also lead to self-absorption and obsession as people take selfies repeatedly until they capture one that they believe is perfect.

Issues to Watch Out For

Finally, there are certain signs of depression and anxiety that may be associated with social media use that you should watch for, including:

  • Spending more time on social media than with your real-life friends and family.
  • Constantly comparing yourself to others that you see online.
  • Engaging in cyberbullying or being on the receiving end of cyberbullying.
  • Finding yourself constantly distracted and reaching for your phone to check social media sites when you should be engaged in something else.
  • Engaging in risky and thoughtless behavior to gain favor online or only committing acts of kindness to show your followers.
  • Experiencing insomnia or finding that you’re not getting restful sleep.
  • Your existing mental health conditions worsen the more you spend time on social media.

Social Media on Adolescents’ Brains

How Social Media Impacts Mental Health

Is social media bad for mental health? The psychological effects of social media cannot be denied, although the impact can be either bad or good depending on your interactions. When used in moderation, social media can be an excellent tool in today’s technological world.
Impacts of social media on mental health

Too much of anything, however, can be bad and can lead to negative consequences and experiences. In such case, there are some addiction counseling available to get rid of the habit of using Social Media. 

Social Media Use May Contribute to Depression

Social media has led to many signs of social health concerns. One of the many problems with social media is that it has contributed to the steadily rising number of diagnosed with depression.
It’s increasingly used as a distraction from the real world and is often used to distance oneself from the emotions that one may be feeling. By not allowing yourself to feel emotions as they happen, they can become repressed, leading to mental health concerns.

Social media has become an unhealthy coping mechanism for the realities of life. In turn, it’s hindering our ability to understand how to handle and heal from trauma properly. Iris Healing has effective TMS for Depression Treatment to offer. 

Hurt Your Self-Esteem

One of the most significant problems with social media is that constantly comparing yourself to others, whether intentionally or not, is bound to make you start to think about your flaws. Often, people on social media only show the world things going well in their lives.
It’s rare to see influencers and celebrities talking about the mundane aspects of their day-to-day lives or their disagreements with loved ones, etc. This can cause people to believe that the people they admire have perfect lives, which causes unfavorable comparisons.

Fear of Missing Out

Another problem with social media is that it has significantly increased the age-old fear of FOMO or missing out. With so many people worldwide using social media sites, currently 3.78 billion people, it’s difficult for people to justify why they don’t want to use social media.
While this problem can be more easily avoided by older people who aren’t as interested in technology or adults who have developed a solid sense of self, it’s much harder to ignore for younger people.
For teenagers and young adults, the peer pressure to join social media sites is intense, and it can be difficult to resist that fear of missing out.

Signs That Social Media Is Impacting Your Mental Health

While no studies directly state that social media causes mental illness, there remains a significant correlation between social media and mental health. It’s essential to use social media in moderation and watch for any signs of depression that overuse may present.

Spending More Time on Social Media

If you find that you’re spending a significant portion of your day on social media sites or refreshing your feed to ensure that you’re constantly seeing only the newest content, then you may have a problem.
Social media can be used as an unhealthy coping mechanism when things aren’t going well in a person’s life. It’s often used as a distraction during work, school, or virtually any other circumstance when a person doesn’t want to be fully engaged with their surroundings.

Unfortunately, this constant social media use becomes addicting and can cause the formation of addictive behaviors. This is caused mainly by the instant and repetitive surges of dopamine that flood through a person’s brain when interacting with others on social media.

This dopamine surge is difficult to replicate reliably and regularly, short of pursuing other risky behaviors. As with other behaviors, it’s common to start building resistance to dopamine. This, in turn, causes people to spend more time on social media to achieve the same effect.5

Comparing Yourself with Others on Social Media

As stated above, it’s difficult not to compare yourself to your peers regularly when you’re privy to what seems like every aspect of their lives on social media. This constant comparison game takes a toll on your mental health and can rapidly lead to feelings of jealousy, inadequacy, and a lack of self-satisfaction.

A person may begin to question why they can’t have that kind of life and may start to feel resentment toward themselves or others.

Having No Time for Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is an essential part of life that allows individuals to understand themselves better and lead to greater self-awareness. It allows us to dig deep and look at our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and how we interact with others and ourselves.

With the prevalence of social media, people no longer utilize the downtime to rest, relax, and self-reflect. Rather than focusing on healthy development and soul-searching, we increasingly search for ways to effectively “shut our brains off” for a while.  

This lack of self-reflection directly correlates to:
  • A lack of responsibility for our thoughts and actions 
  • A lack of an ability to see patterns in our behavior 
  • More negative emotions because we don’t stop to think about how our thoughts, behaviors, and actions are impacting the way that we interact with the world
Most significantly, a lack of self-reflection leads to an increase in a lack of impulse control and an increase in poor decision-making.

Suffering from Sleep Problems

A significant sign of depression is insomnia, which can be directly caused by an increase in blue light that your body is exposed to before bedtime. When a person continues to look at their phone until they try to go to bed or opens their phone as soon as they wake up in the morning, they’re assaulting their brains with blue light.
Blue light causes your brain to become out of sync from its natural sleeping rhythm. This issue causes your brain to block the production of melatonin, which is a chemical that directly enables your body to fall asleep. In addition, blue light leads to blurry vision, eyestrain, headaches, and more.
It’s recommended to stop using your phone at least an hour before bedtime to help mitigate this effect on your brain.

The Impact of Screens on Sleep

Managing the Effects of Social Media

problems with social media
Not all social media is bad, and it can be used safely in moderation to help you stay connected with friends and family members in an increasingly digital world. Here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Reduce time online: Try to limit the amount of time you spend online at any one time. Take breaks every 15 minutes to rest your eyes, and if possible, go outside and take a walk a few times a day. 
  • Change your focus: Eye strain is a real possibility when you’re staring at your phone or computer screen for long periods. Take breaks every hour and frequently move your eyes away from the screen to focus on something in the distance. 
  • Spend more time with offline friends: Rather than solely connecting with your friends on online mediums, try to meet up with them once or twice a week in person. Physical human interaction cannot be replaced through any medium. 
  • If you believe that you are beginning to experience some signs of depression, then it may be time to take a break from social media: Seek the help of a mental health professional if you believe that social media may be impacting the way that you view the world or in the way that you interact with others. 
  • Express gratitude: Keep a gratitude journal that you write in every day to remember the things you’re thankful for in your life. This can help people stay focused on the good things rather than fixating on what they think they’re missing out on.

Tips for Teens and Children to Use Social Media

The impact of social media on youth is significant. It’s important to watch children and teenagers for signs of depression. Here are some things that you can do to help make sure that their experience with social media is positive.
  • Set limits on time spent on social media
  • Talk to your child about underlying issues
  • Encourage exercise and offline interests

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