Can social media impact people’s mental health?

Almost everywhere you look, people have their heads down and their faces glued to a small screen in their hands. Nine times out of ten, we are busy scrolling through our social media feeds, checking likes and dislikes, and reading and making comments. What effect does all this have on our psyche? Our readers weighed in on the negatives, and positives, of our fixation with social media.
Paul Schembri

Paul Schembri

Paul Schembri, Owner, and writer at paulschembri.com.

Limit Time to Decrease Negative Effects

It’s no secret that social media has taken over the world. We’ve all become obsessed with posting, liking, and commenting on every little thing in our lives. But what many people don’t realize is that all of this social media activity can harm our mental health.

A study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh found that people who use social media more often are more likely to report symptoms of depression. The study surveyed 1,787 adults and found that those who used social media for more than two hours a day were twice as likely to report symptoms of depression than those who only used it for a half-hour each day.

So why does social media have such a negative effect on our mental health? There are a few reasons.

First, social media can lead to feelings of jealousy and envy. When we see our friends posting about their perfect lives, it’s only natural to compare ourselves to them. We start to question why our lives aren’t as good as theirs and feel bad about ourselves.

Second, social media can also be a breeding ground for negative thoughts and emotions. When we’re constantly exposed to negativity, it’s only natural that we start to feel negative ourselves.

And finally, social media can make us feel isolated and alone. Even though we’re constantly connected to others online, we can still feel lonely and disconnected from the world around us.

So what can we do to protect our mental health from the negative effects of social media?

The best thing to do is limit your use of social media. Try to only use it for a half-hour each day, or even less. And when you are using it, try to focus on positive things. instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your accomplishments. And if you start feeling negative, take a break from social media and spend some time outside in nature or with friends and family.

Social media can be a great tool for connecting with others, but it’s important to remember that it can also have negative consequences for our mental health. So be mindful of how much you’re using it and make sure to focus on the positive things in your life.

5 Major Impacts on Mental Health

1. Body Dysmorphia.
Filters used on images and videos on social media are disturbingly realistic these days. Check out reddit.com/r/instagramreality for many examples. Moreover, everyone has been spending more time online and less time seeing others in real life over the past two years due to the pandemic.

Some people may be seeing more filtered bodies and faces than real ones. When your brain is constantly comparing yourself to filtered, impossible versions of others, it’s impossible not to start to feel that you fall short.

There are already some statistics coming out showing increases in disordered eating and cosmetic surgery since before the pandemic. Many of my clients have been experiencing outsized shame about objectively very small amounts of weight gain that occurred over the pandemic at higher rates than I’ve ever seen before.

2. Depression and Anxiety.
Social media creates a situation in which we are constantly comparing “the movie of your life to someone else’s highlight reel.” Much of the tone of social media appears to be confessional while it is aspirational.

We get the impression we are seeing into someone’s life while we are seeing a curated version of their life. When you compare your boredom, loneliness, and the general mundanity of your daily life to the perfectly captured moments that those you follow have chosen to post on social media, the comparison can lead to low self-worth and anxiety about “keeping up with the Joneses.”

3. Bullying.
Online bullying is rampant and can be done anonymously which often allows bullies to act in even crueler ways than they might in person. It also increases the number of bullies or harassing statements a person can encounter in a day which increases the overall stress of the experience.

For school-age children, it also takes away home as a safe space from bullying that might previously have only occurred in school. Online bullying and harassment have to lead to depression, anxiety, trauma-related symptoms, and even suicide.

4. Constant Exposure to Advertising.
Before social media, people encountered plenty of advertising in magazines, billboards, television, etc. In these forms of media, however, the ads are contained to commercial breaks or certain pages and can more easily be ignored. They are also not algorithmically tailored to your exact interests and psychology.

On social media, which many of us passively scroll through for minutes to hours throughout our days, we are constantly exposed to advertising at a rate we never were before. Most ads are built around creating a feeling of need or lack to prompt you to buy something. This feeling of falling short or being incomplete without something can contribute to anxiety, depression, and body dissatisfaction.

5. Decreased Quality of Social Relationships.
We all have different “social batteries” and needs for socialization, but nearly all people need human connection and some amount of social time. When we “socialize” perpetually through social media we often experience some of the draining effects of social interaction without receiving the positive benefits of real connection which usually come alongside the draining effects with other forms of interaction (in person, phone.)

Social media can take up a portion of our daily social battery and discourage us from seeking more in-person connections. Social connections and satisfying relationships are protective for mental health. I am concerned about the breakdown of social connections and community.

Neena Lall

Neena Lall

Neena Lall, LCSW, MPH & Grouport Therapist.
Ravi Parikh

Ravi Parikh

Ravi Parikh, CEO of RoverPass.

False Comparisons

One of the most commonly cited ways that social media affects our mental health is the issue of comparison. Apps like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok often leave users comparing their life to the lives of those they see on those platforms – and then feeling that they don’t quite measure up to the lives that others are living.

The trouble with this is that the things we see on social media are just the “highlight reel.” It’s not the day-to-day, it’s the carefully curated best parts. Social media just makes it seem like these “best parts” are the norm.

Empty Connections and Unrealistic Expectations

Yes, social media can impact people’s mental health in various ways. For a start, it alienates man from the physical world; they become antisocial even though they were created to be a physically social being. They need to be in physical contact with other human beings to share hugs, love, laughter, fun, sadness, disagreements, reconciliations, and all other things that make up social living.

Social media alienates a person from this reality of life and they end up feeling connected to people but lonely at the same time which can cause depression. The other thing is that social media sets unrealistic standards for people. One can end up having low self-esteem which ultimately causes mental health problems when they realize that standard is unachievable.

Other issues include social anxiety by making one believe they belong to the virtual world and cannot handle the realities of physical social life. The other mental health problem that comes with excessive social media is absorption into self because the affected person never gets a chance to understand that other people can be different from themselves. This mental structuring is disruptive to making any meaningful social connections with other people.

Leslie Radka

Leslie Radka

Leslie Radka, Founder & Hiring Manager at GreatPeopleSearch.
Allan Givens

Allan Givens

Allan Givens is the Director of Strategic Marketing of YouNow.

Filtering Out Triggering Posts Can Boost Positive Aspects

Yes, social media can impact mental health but so can everything else. This impact can be positive or negative. Our mental health is our psychological, emotional, and social well-being. Based on that definition walking to school, cooking a meal, or watching your favorite show can all have an impact on those things.

When it comes to social media some positive impacts that could arise are an increase in self-confidence due to positive engagement, peace of mind when finding a group you relate to, or a sense of nostalgia that puts you in an uplifting mood when you see a poll about cartoons from your childhood. On the opposite end, cyberbullying, being shunned on platforms, and seeing certain atrocities broadcast can all be triggering and have negative impacts. There are ways to filter out certain triggers for various platforms which you can look up for whatever platforms you use.

Ways We Use Social Media Affects Its Impact

Social media are an integral part of the modern way of life for almost all generations. They have become so widespread and easily accessible that we probably all sometimes wonder how we functioned without them until recently. Our social life is an important factor in our mental health. Through it, among other things, we satisfy the need for acceptance, belonging, fulfillment, connection. On the contrary, when all that is missing, a suitable ground is created for the development of various mental health problems.

Considering that social networks nowadays are just a click away from us and that this is the place where almost everything takes place, a large number of people have noticed the so-called fear of missing something. At the core of this phenomenon is anxiety, a constant feeling of tension that is accompanied by compulsive browsing of social networks, so that the person is “up to date with all events.”

A significant number of teenage girls (but also older adolescents) see social networks as a place to “advertise” their physical appearance and use numerous filters to process photos to show “perfection,” which is an indicator of very low self-confidence. Comparisons with others have become particularly common, which stands out as particularly characteristic of female behavior, and produces and reinforces insecurity even where it is not primarily solid.

Social networks that have imposed “standards of beauty and sexual attractiveness” and “perfection” in girls often leads to a disorder of body pattern – a person begins to see in the mirror only their flaws, never satisfied with their appearance. There is a good chance that these people will also develop some eating disorders. We can conclude that those who do not have self-confidence will be more exposed to the negative influences of social networks.

The line between the positive and negative impacts of social networks is very thin. The way we use social networks is crucial and determines what impact they have on our lives.

Ashley Dolan

Ashley Dolan

Ashley Dolan, Founder of Vegiac.
Kristen Bolig

Kristen Bolig

Kristen Bolig, CEO, SecurityNerd.

Can Create Depression and Anxiety

Social media can impact mental health. I doubt there is a single person who uses social media who hasn’t been impacted in one way or another. There are countless ways that it can affect your mental health, so it may be different from person to person.

For some, seeing posts from people they know living their “best” lives going on elaborate vacations or wearing designer clothing can make them feel depressed about their accomplishments and how they aren’t in that place.

For others, seeing pictures of people with their ideal body type can deepen insecurities and lower self-esteem. Seeing highly-emotional posts about world events or politics also can create a sharp increase in levels of anxiety.

Positive and Negative Impacts

Yes, I think that social media has an impact on mental health, both positive and negative. Just like everything else in the world that has its disadvantages and advantages. For one, on a positive note, social media can offer entertainment and help for depressed individuals such as enabling them to keep in contact with people, make new friends, and have someone to talk to.

There are so many apps nowadays such as Betterhelp, Talkspace, and What’s Up, where people can talk to mental health professionals, or simply interact and talk to strangers. This makes a lot of people feel better if they find it difficult opening up to people around them.

However, social media can upset someone even more, especially if one’s bad mental state is caused by economic decline or feelings of lack of progress in their life. They get on social media, especially on popular sites like Instagram, and come across a lot of faked happy content by other people, and this can tend to make them feel like they have been left far behind by the world.

Social media can also tend to isolate an individual too much in their own space. This keeps them away from the fresh air and natural light that is much needed to maintain a healthy mental state. Staying indoors too much can affect an individual mentally due to isolation. Social media is both good and bad for your mental health depending on how responsibly it is used.

Evelyn Ott

Evelyn Ott

Evelyn Ott, Tattoo Artist and Content Writer at Soul Canvas Ink.
Craig Miller

Craig Miller

Craig Miller, Co-Founder of Academia Labs LLC.

Cravings for Validation Leave You Vulnerable

Social media can bring about a superficial validation to a person which might lead to issues with a person’s mental health. People nowadays seek validation through social media, how many likes they get or how high the engagement in their content is.

The problem stems from focusing on getting these validations that negative comments start to impact the way you see yourself. When a person focuses on negative, hurtful, or abusive comments, that is when the mental health is affected.

Hence, if you focus on social media to get your affirmation as well as boost your self-confidence, then you might also experience the negative end of the bargain. Try to not focus on this and get your confidence from deep within yourself. This way, whatever you read on social media won’t rattle or affect you so much.

You Are Who You Follow

We’ve heard similar sayings like ‘you are what you eat and ‘you are who you hang with,’ but no one ever applies the same theory to social media. Picture this, in that first week of January, you created a new, clean Instagram account and followed a slew of positive affirmation, motivational, and uplifting accounts. You scroll through happy, positive posts that encourage good vibes.

Now picture your old account where you scroll through posts from frenemies, negative attention seekers, and people you don’t remember meeting who complain about every aspect of their lives. The latter is not going to inspire, lift your mood, motivate you to live your best life, or anything else. The uplifting account can truly help upgrade your mindset and inspire a great mood.

Now imagine you’re struggling with your weight, and are constantly bombarded with photos of young influencers and models you consider gorgeous. For many of us, this would be the catalyst for a ton of negative emotions from negative self-talk, insecurities, comparing ourselves to others, and generally feeling dissatisfied with how we look. and our lives in general.

Sophie Bowman

Sophie Bowman

Sophie Bowman, Founder & CEO of Convert Your Followers.
Harriet Chan

Harriet Chan

Harriet Chan is the co-founder and marketing director at CocoFinder.

Find Your Balance

Yes, social media can impact people’s mental health. Social media can be a great way to connect with friends and family, but it can also be a source of anxiety and stress. People who spend a lot of time on social media may compare themselves to others and feel like they are not good enough. This can lead to low self-esteem and depression. If you are feeling stressed or anxious from social media, it is important to take a break and do something that makes you happy.

Researchers have also found that social media can be a source of positive mental health. People who use social media to connect with friends and family are more likely to feel happy and connected. So, it is important to find the right balance of social media use that works for you. If you are using social media in a way that makes you happy and feels positive, keep doing what you’re doing! If not, try to find other activities that make you happy.

This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors' statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.

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