Social media and mental health are two worlds that collide in negative and positive ways. Not only can our favorite platforms bring on feelings of anxiety, isolation, and depression, but they also help connect us. Learning how to adapt your social media use can help you better handle any social medium with a stronger mental health perspective.
How Does Social Media Affect Mental Health?
There’s no doubt that social networks can affect mental health in various ways. From encouraging FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) to making users feel lesser than their peers, its impact on mental health is considerable. Nowadays, we find people spending their hard-earned cash to buy Instagram likes, followers, and all of those things all in the name of clout. That is a testament to the impact of social media on people’s reasoning. On the other end of the spectrum, it can also be an outlet for the mentally ill, providing a venue to vent frustrations and connect with others.
Social media can become dangerous in regards to how often it’s used and the purpose for its use. For example, more and more users flock to platforms like Twitter and Instagram to establish connections with friends and family. However, as convenient as the platforms are, they are never replacements for genuine human connection.
With increased social media use, it can be easy to get lost in the feeling of connection when, in reality, it’s a simulated connection. Millions of people use it as an alternative to in-person meetings, depriving the mind of its desire for authentic, physical relationships. In these instances, any social medium can become disastrous for its user.
If you are in a position where your feelings of isolation worsen with increased social media use, it’s time to change your habits. Also, keep an eye out for feelings of dissatisfaction or sadness after browsing a specific platform. Your favorite social networking site could be affecting your mental health, whether consciously or subconsciously.
Does Social Media Have Any Benefits?
Undoubtedly, social media has a significant impact on mentally ill users, often causing negative emotions and feelings of loneliness. However, it can also be a safe haven for individuals with a psychological disorder as well as help prevent mental illness. Let’s consider some of the most remarkable benefits that social media use can bring to the table.
Even though social media should never be used to replace physical connections, it is a great way to stay in touch. When it comes to friends and family worldwide, it can be challenging, if not impossible, to meet in person. In these instances, social media could be the only platform available to talk and see those closest to us.
There are multiple ways social networking platforms and apps keep us connected. They allow us to send short messages to check in, host video conferences with family members, and more. It is also a great way to check your friend’s feeds to see what they are up to so that you feel closer.
Finding New Communities
Millions of people use social networks daily, creating their own groups and niches. By using social media, you can find different groups of people interested in the same things as you. Joining these communities can offer a sense of belonging and help you find new friends to add to your list.
This benefit is significant for people who find it challenging to make friends in their immediate area. You might be able to network and make friends in a different state or country. Alternatively, you might find others in your area that you never knew existed before.
Obtaining Emotional Support
When dealing with a challenging situation, reaching out to people for in-person help can often be challenging. Having a social medium at your disposal can make it much easier to get the help you need, whether interpersonally or professionally. Many mentally ill individuals seek online therapy for their psychological disorders rather than talking to friends.
Social media can be a fantastic place to air out your frustrations on a less serious note. Whether through an online blog or Twitter, you can put your thoughts and feelings out online. This process can often be healing, similar to keeping a journal.
Having a Creative Outlet
As a creative-minded individual, finding the perfect social networking platform to share your talents can be incredible. Not only does it help you find a community of like-minded creatives, but it can also help you generate income. By sharing your art online, you can begin building a community that can eventually develop into a small business.
There are multiple ways to use social media creatively, whether to share animations, create music, or write stories. It’s a highly adaptable social medium that allows for more self-expression than you would have offline.
Finding Valuable Information
In the past, the only way to get important information about topics was through word-of-mouth or the library. With the emergence of the internet, you can now find in-depth information about absolutely anything. With a quick search and checking several sources, you can educate yourself about cooking, world events, sewing, skateboarding, and more.
The scale of social networks is often underestimated, but they are inherently valuable from a social and business perspective. Companies can use social media marketing to push critical information to customers. Meanwhile, customers can learn more about products and services that can help them in their daily lives.
Earlier, we pointed out that people go out of their way to buy followers on Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms for the sake of clout. It should be noted that not everyone buys followers for clout. Many do so because they hope to get some financial rewards in return. The potential to monetize social media is well-documented, with lots of people already earning handsomely from the platform.
What Are the Adverse Effects of Social Media?
Now that you have a good idea of the benefits of social networking platforms, let’s explore some disadvantages. Any forum has the opportunity to exacerbate a psychological disorder or make you feel generally inadequate. It’s important to be aware of social media’s dangers to better prepare yourself.
Increased Personal Criticism
If there’s one thing to be definitively said about social media, it is that it has the potential to skyrocket personal criticism. Like magazines, every influencer and brand wants to put their best foot forward, selling an unattainable life for many. In fact, it’s easy to assume that 95% of the things you see online are edited in order to sell a story rather than to be authentic.
As a result, social media users often compare their physical appearance and lifestyle to others. The main issue is that the lives they are comparing themselves to are not realistic. Unfortunately, this can lead to feelings of inadequacy and insecurities.
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
FOMO or fear of missing out is something that people have been experiencing well beyond the creation of social media. Still, with social networking being as popular as it is, it’s exacerbated the issue ten-fold. All it takes is to log into your platform of choice, scroll past a friend’s feed, and feel left out about an event that you missed out on.
Although FOMO may seem simple on the outside, it can lead to significant psychological concerns over time. In some instances, it could be seeing that a friend went to a music festival you couldn’t afford. Or, it could be seeing group photos of your friends getting together on the weekend and not extending you an invite.
As a result, social media users can have their self-esteem immediately diminished. Another massive issue with FOMO is anxiety. Over time, continual social media use can lead to unhealthy attachments. Users may find themselves needing to refresh their feed every few minutes. Doing so helps them stay in the know and feel like they are a part of everything.
Worsened Feelings of Isolation
It’s easy to assume that using a social medium is a great way to prevent feelings of isolation. However, it can lead to worsened feelings of loneliness and isolation. Based on a study by the University of Pennsylvania, social media users often report increased feelings of loneliness and depression.
To further prove this point, the same study found that lessened social media use translates to decreased feelings of loneliness. It’s likely that the same emotions involved with FOMO also contribute to feelings of isolation, especially for people with small social circles. Continually comparing your follower count to others can make you feel inadequate and alone.
Exposure to Cyberbullying
Just two decades ago, cyberbullying was a new term that law enforcement and mental health professionals struggled to understand. Today, it can lead to disastrous life events, such as substantial social withdrawal, depression, and, in severe instances, suicide. Cyberbullying has also been known to cause numerous safety issues, such as school shootings.
Children and teens are exposed to increased criticism from peers with increased social networking use. They deal with peer pressure on an increased scale and fall victim to targeted bullying efforts. Cyberbullying is one of the primary reasons why social media use among teens can be dangerous.
The anonymity of the internet has caused bullying to explode over recent years. Approximately 33.8% of teens have reported bullying on social media through various means. They might experience threats via direct messages, mean comments, and more.
Increased Anxiety and Depression
Two common themes explored when discussing the harmful effects of social networking on mental health are anxiety and depression. Face-to-face contact is needed for mental health across species, especially in humans. Being around friends and family offers a sense of belonging while reducing stress and boosting your mood.
With the prevalence of social media, it has become an alternative to face-to-face interactions. As a result, our brains don’t receive as much stimulation as in-person contact offers. Prioritizing your online conversations over being around loved ones can lead to increased anxiety and depression.
How To Manage Social Media Use for Mental Health
Having a clear idea of the negative and positive effects of a social medium on mental health can help you effectively use these platforms. However, it can also be incredibly beneficial to adapt your browsing habits so that you can use social networking for your benefit. Let’s look at some great tips to help you manage your usage.
Before we get into the specific tips for managing social media use for mental health, ask yourself these important questions:
What am I using social media for?
Understanding your purpose for social media use can give you better awareness of whether it’s necessary or not. If you’re using Facebook to check in on a sick family member, it can be worth the time investment. However, if you’re scrolling Instagram to find new outfits, it’s surely not as necessary.
Create a list of the reasons why you reach for your phone throughout the day. Do you need social media to feel like you’re a part of something? Does it help activate the reward center in your brain when you check your follower totals?
Using this information, determine whether your social networking use is healthy or not. If these platforms provide you with a sense of self-worth, introspective reflection is needed.
Do I use social media actively or passively?
Another important thing to consider is how you use social media platforms. Are you the type of person who uses it for meaningful connections, or do you simply scroll through for entertainment?
Actively using social media can be beneficial, as you have a purpose and end goal in mind. However, if you’re browsing through an app to simply keep yourself entertained, it can be dangerous.
You might find yourself more influenced by posts, feeling like your life is inadequate compared to others. It’s also easier to fall into rabbit holes of content, inadvertently spending hours and hours on your phone.
When do I use social media the most?
It can be challenging for people to realize they have a social media addiction. This point is especially true if you’ve been using these platforms since their emergence. By thinking about when you use social media the most, you can work towards curbing your habits.
Some find themselves on their phones the most before bed or after a long day of work as a way of escape. Others might check their socials first thing in the morning to read world news and get other updates. If you find your social media use affects your daily routine, try switching when you consume content the most.
Self-awareness is the key to kicking a habit. So, if you know when you’re browsing platforms the most, you can supplement this time with an activity. For example, if you read Twitter in the mornings, you can choose to go for a walk instead.
Is social media my safety blanket?
When in social situations, do you find yourself reaching for your phone to help alleviate feelings of anxiety? Social media is often used as a safety blanket, allowing you to lose yourself in an online world rather than interact with those around you. In some instances, this can help eliminate feelings of uneasiness, but it also leads to unhealthy habits.
Using social media as a safety blanket could be masking other underlying problems that you’re suffering from. For example, using socials instead of engaging in face-to-face conversations is common for those with social anxiety.
In most instances, using your phone instead of engaging in person is much more than general boredom. If you think you’re using social media as a source of comfort in situations, it’s something to consider. Instead of increasing screen time use, it’s better to develop other coping mechanisms to establish comfortable, communicative skills.
Tips To Avoid Overusing Social Media
These tips are ideal once you’ve answered the above questions and are ready to adapt your social media usage. From tracking how often you use apps to picking up new hobbies, there are many ways to reduce social media use for your mental health. Let’s look at some of the most popular options.
Tip 1: Track your app use.
The best thing any social media user can do is track their app use. Spending under one hour of your time on socials each day can help you feel connected without overwhelming your senses. Remember, the less time you spend online, the less likely you’ll be affected by doom scrolling and feelings of loneliness.
Interestingly, there are dozens of apps you can download to help you manage your screen time. Some devices, such as iPhones, have built-in managers that keep track of app usage and send alerts when needed.
Tip 2: Turn your phone off.
Using social media can often turn into an addiction, primarily if you use it for your job and personal use. Making a concerted effort to turn your phone off at certain times during the day can help to break your addiction. If you’re meeting with a friend, turn your phone off to better connect to the conversation.
Another fantastic time to consider turning your phone off is before bed. Allow your brain to have time to decompress from the day with in-person activities, such as reading or exercising. The less your phone is on, the less you’ll be tempted to check your Twitter or Instagram.
Tip 3: Get rid of notifications.
Notifications are essential for social media marketing for a big reason: they draw attention. If you’re having a fantastic phone-free afternoon and hear an alert go off, you’ll automatically check your phone. Next thing you know, you’re spending the next hour scrolling through your feed to find engaging content.
By choosing to turn your notifications completely off, you’ll only check your socials when it’s necessary. Also, you won’t start to trigger feelings of missing out on important content, as you’ll be controlling how you use your device.
Tip 4: Remove the apps from your phone.
Once you’ve noticed you are spending too much time on social media, it could be time for complete deletion. Getting rid of all of the apps from your phone will eliminate your need to check your feed entirely. After a couple of days, you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything. In turn, you can focus more on genuine interactions with people.
If you find the concept of removing social media apps is too much, consider regular breaks. Turn your phone off for a few hours each day, allowing your brain to destress and focus on your interests. Or, you can delete the apps for a week at a time to experience what it’s like to not be chained to social networking sites.
Tip 5: Spend more time with friends.
It’s common for social media users to rely on these platforms as an alternative for friends. However, it can be far more beneficial to focus on building a stable friend group outside of the internet. By ensuring you spend more time with friends, you can all benefit from your offline interactions.
As mentioned, in-person meetings help better stimulate the reward centers of our brains. You’ll feel more included, loved, and cared for. Whether it’s with friends or family, it’s best to prioritize offline interactions to help reduce your social media use.
Tip 6: Begin practicing mindfulness.
Scrolling through social media can bring feelings of unworthiness, isolation, and the fear of missing out. A better alternative is to consider practicing the art of mindfulness. The more aware and appreciative you are of the things around you, the happier you’ll be.
Everyone must learn how to focus on the here and now rather than the “what ifs” in their lives. Sure, checking in on celebrities can be entertaining, but how does it affect your day-to-day life? The more mindfulness you have, the more satisfied you’ll be with your offline life compared to your online persona.
A straightforward way to see how mindfulness can help is to look at your favorite influencer. They’ve likely taken an offline vacation due to burnout at one point or another. As a casual user, if professionals need time off the internet, so do you.
Awareness Is Just the First Step
When using a social medium or popular social networking site, being aware of its effects on your mental health is essential. For some, social media is an escape from reality; for others, it’s a way to build a false reality. With the help of the tips and questions in this guide, you’ll be on your way to healthier social media use overnight.