Social Media and Mental Health
Twitter. Facebook. TikTok. Instagram. Pinterest. Snapchat. Reddit.
Chances are you use at least one of these social media platforms in your day to day life. Social media has been a big part of the digital revolution. These websites and apps help us to stay connected to others in our circle as well as current events and trends. Human beings were biological designed to be social creatures. We need others in our lives. Social media has streamlined this need so that we can access others no matter where we are or what time of day it is.
It’s a great thing, right?
Well… Maybe not.
Here’s the thing, social media is not a replacement for real, in person contact. Face to face time with another person triggers hormones that help us feel happier and more positive. However, the more time we spend on social media, the less time we spend actually interacting with our friends and loved ones. Oddly. for something that is designed to bring people closer together, spending too much time on social media can actually cause you to feel more lonely and isolated.
That’s because social media has become an addiction. There is a lot of pressure to appear to have it all “together” – to post the most flattering photo of yourself, to seem like your life is fun and exciting. It leads you to being in a constant competition with others (whether you realize it or not!) People tend to obsess over these things and get addicted to trying to maintain a certain image. It can cause you to resent and envy those you follow and create divides that cross over into “real life” all due to a little thing called FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
The time spent on this addiction also takes away from other important functions. A 2018 research study linked social media use to decreased sleep, which in turn correlated with depression, memory loss, and declined academic performance.
Social media can be a dangerous thing if not used carefully. So, what can you do to prevent it from weighing you down?
- Cut back on how many accounts you have. Do you really need to post the same photos to Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook? Think about which platform helps connect you the most to the people in your life and consider deleting the others.
- Cut back on time spend browsing. Have you ever sat down and started scrolling through posts, only to realize that over an hour has passed? That’s precious time that you can’t get back! The next time you sit down to comb through your social media feeds, try setting a timer on your phone to remind you when to shut it off. Apps like Offtime and Moment help you set limits on the time you want to spend on social media each week, and will actually block you from going over that time!
- Get more connected in real life. The more engaged you feel with real people and tangible things, the less likely you are to rely on social media to fill you.
Stop and ask yourself this: Is social media a relaxing break for me, or does it cause me stress? If the answer is that it causes you stress, do you really have space in your life for that?
I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Adjunct Professor, and Certified Field Instructor committed to working with diverse groups of individuals, families, and communities.