How does social media affect mental health?
Updated: Oct 3, 2020
By Jessica Wu; Contributing Writer
Social media is widely used around the world. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more have rapidly gained attention in the past few years. They prove to be a great way to connect with others, but some consequences come with these platforms. Not all these consequences are negative; social media can support one’s wellbeing in some ways. For example, it allows its users to stay up to date with friends and family around the world, which enables people to seek or offer emotional support. Additionally, social media is a great outlet for self-expression, creativity. It provides sources for information and news at everyone’s disposal. Not only that, but it is a place filled with information and sources at anyone’s disposal. Social media can positively contribute to a person’s wellbeing, with that said, there are negative effects of it as well.
Social media can increase one’s chances of developing depression and anxiety. To be mentally healthy, humans need face-to-face contact. With social media becoming so prevalent, it is easy to prioritize being on social media over interacting with someone in real life. The usage of social media can also disrupt sleep which damages sleeping patterns. Loss of sleep due to night time social media use can lead to poorer mental health as not being well rested can lead to irritability and the inability to focus. Furthermore, cyberbullying is a huge problem on social media. According to the National Center for Health Research, “As many as 72% of teens say that they have been cyberbullied at some point.” Since bullies can hide behind a screen, it is easy to send ill-intended messages to anyone on the internet. Mean messages can scar someone emotionally and lead them to depressing thoughts. In addition, social media can harm one’s body image. According to center4research.org, research shows that the more one uses social media, the more they begin to look at their body and judge it. With all the photoshopped pictures posted on platforms such as Instagram, people begin to compare themselves with these images and think negatively of their own bodies. This is harmful to one’s self-esteem/image. Social Media has also been linked to Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), which is social anxiety felt when one feels like they are missing out on an important event. Apps like Instagram and Facebook allow people to post about what is going on in their lives. These platforms seem to intensify the feeling that others are having more fun or living their life to a fuller extent. FOMO has been linked with lower mood and life satisfaction; it can negatively impact one’s self-esteem and trigger anxiety.
If you’re not sure if social media is adversely affecting your mental health, think about if you have experienced any of the points below.
Spending more time on social media than with friends and family in person. You prioritize being on social media rather than spending quality time with friends and family in real life. Even when you are out with friends and family, you find yourself checking social media very frequently.
Comparing yourself with others on social media in a negative way. You experience low-self-esteem and/or think negatively of your body and lifestyle.
Engaging in risky behavior for “likes”. You do things that you wouldn’t typically do in order to gain attention on social media. This can include playing inappropriate pranks, posting embarrassing photos, etc.
These are just a few points that could indicate the negative effects social media is having on your mental health. If you do feel that social media is harming your mental health, here are some tips.
Take a break. Social media is addicting and can be emotionally harmful. Take some time off and focus on what’s important to you. Try to take up a new hobby, focus on school/work more, or connect with friends more.
Evaluate who you follow. It’s important to know who you follow and why you follow them. When going through that list, ask yourself if the account brings you joy or if it adds value to your life.
Evaluate the different social media platforms you use. Every social media app or website is different. They have different purposes and are used in different ways. It’s important to go through them and identify whether they’re ultimately making a positive or negative impact on your life and health.