Social Media and Mental Health
There is growing evidence that social media and mental health go hand in hand. Social media use is associated with mental health problems spanning into anxiety and depression, particularly among teenage girls and young women.
However, many young people from this group have a different opinion, saying that social networking sites (SNS) are helping them find support and connection during times of stress, anxiety, or depression. So, is social media harmful or helpful to your mental health?
Social Media Fixation
It seems like social media use has its own downsides and upsides. There are deep concerns in relation to the amount of time young people spend online and the level of risk they are exposed to on social media. One study published in Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry journal suggests that adolescents (aged 11 to18 years) perceive social media as a threat to mental health.
More than one in three adults believe that social media usage has a more negative than positive influence on psychological well being, according to a 2017 poll released by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
The Downside of Social Media
We now live in a world where humans form deep attachments to their devices. The idea of disconnecting from the system is unthinkable to most people. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but excessive social media use may have dangerous mental health repercussions. Here’s why.
Less Physical Interactions
Wanting to be always online detracts from face to face social communication and relationships. Socializing has always been a constant human need, but it seems like it is only beneficial if you are actively connecting and building meaningful relationships.
With social media, you can connect with five or 500 Facebook friends instead of meeting your friends in person. It is detrimental to mental health because it provides a false sense of connection. To put it simply, being constantly connected will not stop you from feeling isolated.
Previous research has proposed that SNS addiction disorder can occur. Many addiction criteria, such as excessive checking habits, neglect of personal life and escapism appear to be present in some people who use social media excessively.
FOMO (fear of missing out) is being pinpointed as an indicator of social media addiction. The phenomenon refers to feelings of anxiety or stress that arise from the perception that other people are having satisfying experiences without you, resulting in constant checking of social media to see what your friends are doing.
Effects on Self Esteem
People who use one or more social media platforms will more likely compare themselves unfavorably to others. Lurking or checking other people’s online profiles can make someone feel inadequate and envious of others. Higher levels of envy are linked to mental health issues.
This effect frequently occurs in social media like Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, because they allow for easy access to the idealized version of another person’s life, providing high comparison standards.
Effects on Mental Wellbeing
Kraut et al. published one of the pioneering studies on the impact of internet use on social relationships. The authors found that an increased time spent online is associated with a decline in communication with family members and one’s social circle. This may lead to increased feelings of loneliness and depression.
Several studies have also made the connection between Facebook and signs and symptoms of depression. The suicide rates in the U.S. between 2010 and 2015 have increased due to social media induced depression, according to two surveys and national statistics.
The Silver Lining
Social networking is not all bad. In a 2018 national survey sponsored by Hopelab and Well Being Trust, teens and young adults reported using social media to look for information about mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. Many of the respondents said that using social media makes them feel better when they are stressed, anxious, or depressed.
About four in 10 young individuals seek peer to peer support online. Connecting to someone with the same health condition tends to give these young people hope and makes them feel less alone.
Although it is believed that Facebook can influence the development of depression symptoms, some authors suggest that it can also be used for the early detection of mental health disorders. Furthermore, healthcare professionals can use SNS to deliver helpful and supportive interventions to those who are at risk.
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How to Maintain a Healthy Relationship With Social Media
Don’t let Facebook, Twitter and Instagram drag you down and ruin your self esteem. Here’s how you can limit the negative impact of social media.
Connect With Your Friends Offline
While virtual networking can provide the connection you seek, they may fail to offer true intimacy that real life friends can give. Mute your devices or turn off social media notifications when spending time with friends.
Use Social Media as a Learning Tool
Social networking gives you the ability to get more useful information and improve your learning. Join learning groups and get useful tips and tricks from like minded people.
Unfollow Posts You Don’t Want to See
Almost all social media operators provide ways for filtering information that might be offending to some people. If you simply do not want to see your friends’ political posts, you can unfollow each person’s posts without deleting them from your friend’s list.
On Instagram, only follow hashtags or accounts that you like. If you see a post you do not like, there are ways to block and filter the content.
Be an Active User
Use social media to connect with people. Engage in conversations instead of passively scrolling through other people’s posts. Lurking may increase feelings of isolation.
Complete abstinence from social media is not necessary. Just be aware of your mood and feelings while using them. If you are experiencing depressive symptoms, try to reduce your social media use. Don’t bring your phone to bed and keep it out of the bathroom as well. Turn off your phone at certain times of the day like when you are driving, doing chores, studying, or spending time with your kids.
There’s no denying that the internet has ushered in a new era of communication and social connection. Social media platforms have changed the way we act, purchase products, consume news and most importantly, interact with each other.
Being a mindful user is an ongoing process that will help you take advantage of the positive effects of social networking. Talk to a therapist or counselor if you are experiencing any depressive symptoms with social media use.
- APA PsycNET (Social comparison, Envy, and Depression on Facebook)
- Help Guide (Social Media and Mental Health)
- PubMed Central (Online Social Networking and Mental Health)
- PubMed Central (The Use of Social Networking Sites in Mental Health Interventions for Young People: Systematic Review)
- Well Being Trust (Digital Health Practices, Social Media Use, and Mental Well-Being Among Teens and Young Adults in the U.S.)