How Is Social Media Affecting Your Mental Health?

a phone with social media icons popping out

Humans naturally desire to connect with each other and build relationships. Social media thrives from this desire as we’re able to connect with people from different parts of the world. It also comes with a bunch of other perks which may include work opportunities and education. That’s great, right? But, let’s consider the negative effects social media may have on our mental health. That’s what this entire article is about, so let’s get right into it.

Social media and mental health issues

The use of social media has become really popular so it’s natural to be curious about the effect it has on one’s mental health. Some studies suggest that social media may influence the level of anxiety and depression in individuals. When it comes to human behaviour, it’s not possible to define how we may all act or react to different circumstances. However, taking some time to observe how you interact with social media may give you an insight on how it affects your mental health.

How does social media affect one’s mental health?

Here are some ways the frequent use of social media may affect one’s mental health:

Comparison

Yes, social media allows us to network with people from different parts of the world. This also provides us with a large range of people to compare ourselves with. We may compare our looks, achievements and relationships with the perfect looking version we find on social media. Sometimes, I come across pictures of people and wonder, ‘how can someone look so good?’ I also stumble on videos of young people talking about their earnings and wonder ‘how??????’

It’s worth considering that people hardly share the difficult or miserable part of their lives. If you woke up with swollen eyes and messy hair, you probably wouldn’t post that. But, if you took a shower, dressed your hair and put on nice clothes, you’ll feel comfortable sharing pictures of yourself. Let’s not forget about the use of filters or photo editors and how that accentuates physical appearance on social media.

Feeling left out

It’s easy to feel left out on social media. All you need to do is check what your friends are up to on their social media pages and you may feel everyone is leaving you behind. Maybe a lot of people you know are starting an online business or identifying as an entrepreneur.

Perhaps some of your acquaintances post pictures or videos of themselves living their best lives at different fun locations. Let’s not forget your favourite influencers, creators or celebrities. It could look like everyone is having so much fun except you and that may cause a strain on your mind.

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Information overload

Sometimes, the hoard of information your brain receives in a few hours is just too much and even unnecessary. Have you ever scrolled on a social media app and landed on a post you wish you didn’t see? It may be a cringe video on TikTok or a disheartening twitter thread. Exposing yourself to a varying amount of information from multiple sources may cause you to feel mentally overwhelmed.

For example, you may find yourself trying to analyse people’s opinions or views or wonder why they’re so many creepy stories on twitter. Whatever the case, absorbing so much information can stress you mentally and make you feel a variety of not-so-great emotions.

Addiction

Excessive use of social media can make you addicted. There’s always something new, fun and exciting to find online and people may find it difficult to break free from the constant triggers. You may constantly want to experience the feeling of excitement that comes with an increase in dopamine levels. Spending an unhealthy amount of time on social media may cause you to rely on posts, videos, likes and comments from strangers to feel good which isn’t so great for your mental health.

How to manage social media use

Here are a few tips I believe may limit the negative impact of social media on your mental health:

Social media break

Taking time off from social media can be a refreshing experience especially when you feel overwhelmed from the never ending stream of information. You can take a break for a couple of hours, days or weeks, depending on how you feel. Sometimes, I decide to stay off social media, especially Whatsapp for at least a day. It feels good when I’m able to focus on other things without checking the app.

Screen time limit

How many hours do you spend passively scrolling on social media platforms? Think about it and try to answer. Is it three, six or ten hours? If you think you spend an unhealthy amount of time on social media, you can actively try to limit your screen time. Some devices come with features like digital wellbeing that allows you to limit the time you spend on certain applications. Freezing an app for some hours can also help you avoid mindless scrolling and improve your focus on other beneficial activities.

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Strengthen your relationships

How’s your relationship with people in real life? Do you spend a lot of time scrolling on your phone and you still feel lonely? Social media gives the illusion that we can have hundreds of friends, but in reality people can’t keep up with everyone they follow or like online and they shouldn't try to. However, we can connect with our loved ones using social media platforms especially when they’re not with us physically.

You can make a conscious effort to bond with your family and close friends. When you’re in the same space, resist the temptation to keep scrolling on your phone. Try to enjoy the moments you share with your folks and make your space a comfortable one.

Consider limiting social media applications

Do you think it’s necessary to be active on every existing social media platform there is? I don’t think so. It may feel as if you can’t do without any of them, but you can. I decided to delete my Instagram account a few months ago when I felt the only thing I did there was to scroll mindlessly and consume too much information.

It’s the same reason why I’ve never downloaded TikTok, especially since I find similar content on YouTube shorts. I figured I don’t have to be on all platforms as it’s already a struggle to manage the ones I do use already. I recommend limiting the social applications you use, if possible. Is it possible? You can try it out.

Active use

A study suggests that people who passively consume social media are more likely to be depressed than those who actively use it. You may possess an interest or hobby that allows you to engage on social media. In such cases, using these platforms allows you to be an active contributor rather than a passive absorber of information. Sharing your thoughts and experience on specific topics may help you to develop a more positive relationship with social media.

Parting words

It’s fair to say that most people struggle with social media in some way. Take some time to evaluate how you interact with social media and try to ensure your mental health is always in the best possible state. It’s a lot of work, right? I know, it never ends.

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