How do you spend your time? If it’s scrolling social media for hours, we have a question. Do you find it peaceful or draining? 

If your response is the latter, you’re not alone. Social media can affect your mental health for the worse. 

The connection between social media and mental health is a complex topic that has been extensively researched. Plenty of studies have found that while social media platforms offer numerous benefits and opportunities for connection, they can also be detrimental to mental well-being. This article pulls together research that links social media use and aggravated mental health problems.

Here are some key points to consider as to how social media can harm your mental health

Comparison and self-esteem: 

According to experts, social media often presents an idealised version of people’s lives, highlighting the positive aspects and achievements. Upward comparison on social media can cause individuals to compare their own lives to the curated and filtered content they see on social media. This constant exposure to seemingly perfect lives can negatively impact self-esteem and generate feelings of inadequacy or dissatisfaction.

Fear of missing out (FoMO): 

Findings indicate that active users of social media platforms are known to exhibit FOMO — or Fear of Missing Out — on social events and activities. Social media users may feel excluded or alone when they see posts from others about their social experiences. This apprehension may cause users to check their notifications constantly.

Cyberbullying and harassment: 

Social networking platforms can be a consistent breeding ground for online abuse, cyberbullying, and harassment. The anonymity and distance that the internet offers can encourage people to act in harmful ways, which can have severe consequences for the mental health of the victims.

Addiction and excessive use: 

Social media platforms are designed to be engaging and habit-forming, which encourages overuse and the possibility of addiction. Excessive exposure to social media can negatively impact relationships in real life, productivity, and general well-being. It might also exacerbate depressive and anxious symptoms.

Sleep disturbances: 

For many, viewing social media, particularly before bedtime can lead to decreased, disrupted, and delayed sleep. The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. Poor sleep quality and quantity can negatively impact mental health.

Validation and self-worth: 

Research on adolescents has found that social media platforms encourage users to seek validation from other people through likes, comments, and shares. The idea that one’s value is based on the opinions of others can be reinforced by this relentless search for outside validation, which can cause anxiety and feelings of insecurity.

Disrupted social interactions: 

Overusing social media can take affect in-person relationships with others. This may lead to diminished empathy, interpersonal skills, and feelings of loneliness. Social support and relationships in real life are crucial for preserving mental health.

Filtered reality: 

Social media posts typically represent the highlights of the best moments of people’s lives, which distorts the true picture of reality. This may result in a distorted perception of what is typical or attainable, which can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction.

Impact on body image:

Social media is flooded with posts and pictures that uphold unattainable beauty standards. Overexposure to these idealised pictures can have a detrimental effect on one’s perception of their body, which can result in low self-esteem, disordered eating patterns, and body dissatisfaction.

Information overload and anxiety: 

The constant stream of information on social media can be overwhelming, causing information overload and a rise in anxiety. An ongoing sense of alertness and urgency can be generated by the fear of missing out on news, trends, or significant updates.

Social isolation paradox: 

While technology provides opportunities for connection, it ironically can have the opposite effect—especially when disagreements erupt online. Multiple studies have found that online interactions may not provide the same depth and quality as face-to-face interactions, leading to a sense of loneliness and social disconnection.

Influence on mood and emotions: 

A new study found that individuals who are actively involved in social media platforms are more likely to experience mood swings. Negative news, online conflicts, or exposure to triggering content can contribute to feelings of sadness, anger, or anxiety. Additionally, the constant exposure to edited reels of others’ lives can create a distorted sense of happiness and contentment.

To promote a healthier relationship with social media, you can:

Limit usage by digital detox:

 Taking a break from the continuous exposure to and interaction with technology by limiting the use of digital communications and online platforms.

Curate feeds:

 Taking measures to incorporate accounts that support mental health, inspiration, and positivity into social media feeds can help reduce and eliminate the detrimental effects of comparison.

Practice self-care: 

Maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle can be facilitated by partaking in self-care activities like exercising, spending time with loved ones, taking up a hobby, and practising mindfulness.

Seek support: 

It’s critical to seek assistance if social media use is having a detrimental effect on mental health. This can involve reaching out to loved ones, friends, or mental health specialists who can offer support and direction.

Closing thoughts

While occasional exposure to social media is not inherently beneficial or harmful, over time, the negative impacts add up with chronic exposure to harmful content on social media, Having said that, it is important to remember that every person’s experience with social media and mental health is unique. Some people may be more sensitive to negative aspects, but others may be stronger and less affected. 

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