January 29, 2024

Exploring The Impact Of Social Media On Mental Health

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Social media can be a place where you connect with friends and share your life with your inner circle. But it can also be a place of online comparison, time-wasting, and addiction. Social media and mental health continue to be a hot topic for several reasons. In this article, we look at the impact of social media on mental health and how to promote healthier online behaviors.

Social Media In 2023 And Its Influence On Mental Health

Social media use is complex, but there is growing evidence that it can be harmful to mental health, especially for young people. There are concerns that heavy social media use can increase the risk of anxiety and depression.

Heavy social media may contribute to the following: 

  • Body image dissatisfaction 
  • Higher risk of social media addiction and cyberbullying 
  • Negative mood 
  • Fear of missing out 
  • Lower life satisfaction 

One 2023 survey found that one in ten respondents said social media had a positive effect on their mental health, while the same amount of people also reported a negative effect. Over half of US adults report feeling very concerned about the effects of social media on children’s mental health

Ultimately, there isn’t a consensus that points to social media being inherently good or bad. Instead, increasing awareness about the potential risks and how the media you consume affects you is important. 

There’s also an argument that higher use of social media means less time for activties that can improve your well-being. The more time you spend on social media, the less you might sleep, exercise, or socialize, which are all known to increase well-being and quality of life. 

The Pros And Cons Of Social Media On Mental Health

On average, Americans spend two hours and three minutes on social media each day. On one end of the spectrum, social media users report better access to information, freedom of expression, and ease of communication. At the same time, the downsides include concerns about privacy and an increase in distractions. A one-minute scroll can easily turn into 30 minutes. 

Pros: Social Media And Mental Health 

Social media isn’t going anywhere and serves a purpose in today’s modern world. You can access information, connect with friends, find professional opportunities, and join an online community. Think of how mental health awareness campaigns spread through social media platforms and the benefit of finding social support online. 

When used in the right way, social media can have a positive impact. One study found that routine social media use is positively associated with three outcomes: social well-being, positive mental health, and self-rated health. This can include using social media daily or replying to content friends share with you as part of your routine. 

Unsurprisingly, excessively checking apps out of fear of missing out (FOMO) and feeling disconnected from friends when you’re not online are associated negatively with the same three outcomes. 

The impact of social media varies massively between individuals. Thinking about your own use and being mindful is key to enjoying the benefits while minimizing the potential drawbacks. We already know that a solid social network supports positive mental health and well-being. Social media use can help individuals overcome time, lifestyle, and distance constraints, meaning they can still find a connection even on days when it feels like they have no time to meet a friend for coffee. 

What Are The Negative Effects Of Social Media On Mental Health? 

While social media does have many positive aspects, it comes with a warning. If you’ve ever been scrolling through Instagram on a Monday morning to see someone in a far distant place having the best time, it’s normal to feel a little jealous, disappointed, and some FOMO that you’re not there. 

Unfortunately, social media often shows a picture-perfect glimpse of someone’s life that’s curated. Comparing your typical day to someone’s perfect moment can hit your self-esteem and leave you feeling inadequate. While social comparison is entirely normal and has a place, it can unravel, causing more harm than good. 

Other negative impacts of social media include: 

  • Cyberbullying and harassment – the anonymity that can come from social media can contribute to online harassment and bullying, with little thinking about the consequences. 
  • Addiction and distraction – excessive use can mean you spend a ton of time on social media, which can lower productivity, increase distraction, and impact relationships. 
  • Impact on body image – exposure to idealized body types can contribute to body image issues. 
  • Constant connectivity – being constantly connected can feel overwhelming, which can contribute to stress, burnout, and anxiety when there’s so much pressure to respond quickly or deal with notifications. 

4 Tips: Maintaining a Healthy Relationship with Social Media

Virtually anyone can be affected by social media use. Here are a few ways to create healthy online behaviors. 

  1. Set Boundaries With Social Media Usage

Establishing boundaries in any area of your life helps to protect your mental and emotional well-being. Setting boundaries on your time, capacity to help others, and work-life balance can foster self-care, reduce stress, and promote overall well-being. When it comes to social media usage, setting a boundary can look like the following: 

  • Set a specific time limit (daily or weekly) 
  • Have a curfew for when you can use social media 
  • Think about turning off notifications at certain times 
  • Set areas in your home that are device-free
  1. Curate Positive Online Experiences 

Consider following accounts that inspire, educate, and uplift you. Ideally, your feed should align with your values and interests. Avoid or limit accounts that contribute to a negative or stressful experience. If you engage in an online community, be thoughtful and respectful to limit negative or angry responses. 

Try to pay attention to how you feel after using social media if you feel that you’re in a bad mood or anxious after an interaction online. Take a step back so that you can prioritize your mental health.

  1. Try A Digital Detox 

Whether you’re after a full digital detox or looking to take a break from social media, it can offer numerous benefits. Taking a screen break and disconnecting from the digital world may give you more opportunities for meaningful face-to-face interactions. 

A full digital switch-off isn’t always achievable between family, work, and other commitments. But there are things you can do to unplug without ditching technology altogether: 

  • Pencil in time away from screens (reading a book, going for a walk) 
  • Turn off your phone at certain times (in the evening before bed)
  • Leave phones outside of the bedroom 
  • Limit notifications for specific apps and times 
  1. Ask For Help 

Some research suggests that people with pre-existing vulnerabilities like low self-esteem or mental health issues may be more prone to the negative effects of social media

Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. Therapists can help you to navigate your mental health in several ways:

  • Assess social media habits and help you to understand the mental and emotional impact it has on you. 
  • Address mental health concerns you may have and formulate a treatment plan to reduce and manage symptoms. 
  • Teach you mindfulness practices to help you manage emotional reactions and lower stress. 
  • Help you set healthy boundaries with social media and other areas of your life. 
  • Encourage the development of relationships offline and help increase self-esteem and confidence if necessary. 

Finding Balance In The Age Of Social Media 

Social media can impact people differently, both positively and negatively. While technology has made many of our lives easier, it brings increased screen time with less face-to-face interaction. 
It’s essential to be mindful of your social media use as it can contribute to stress and anxiety, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you’re struggling with excessive social media use, self-esteem issues, or just want to talk to someone, book an appointment with one of our caring therapists today.

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