Let’s talk about the one aspect of social media none of us really want to address:
The negative impacts it has on our mental health.
While social media has the incredible ability to connect us with billions of people from all across the globe, there are some aspects, rather important ones, that should not go unaddressed for the sake of our sanity.
Recent studies on social media usage show that the compulsive tendencies that are reward and gratification driven can perpetuate social media addiction. The urges we feel to pick up our phone and scroll through sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are linked to instant gratification (the desire to experience pleasure or fulfillment without delay) and dopamine production (the chemical in the brain associated with happiness and pleasure). Often times subconsciously, when you pick up your phone and continue to refresh, you are searching for some sort of gratification or form of fulfillment.
The issue with this arises when you continue to refresh and that gratification doesn’t come. Research has shown that there is a connection between using social media and anxiety, depression, poor sleep quality, lower self-esteem, the inability to pay attention and hyperactivity. The problem with social media, as we all know, is that it doesn’t accurately represent people’s lives and instinctively we compare ourselves to what we perceive other people’s lives to be based on what they share online. But the unfortunate reality of social media is that people mostly only post their best photos from their best days. You don’t see the hardships and sometimes less glamorous reality of people’s lives through their social media accounts and that is where the comparison can lower self-esteem and lead to anxiety or depression.
Americans spend an average of 2 hours a day on social media. By first recognizing the problem with social media, you will be better equipped to recognize the effects it has on you. Conducting a social media audit is another means to better your online social experience. If a post or account is making you feel bad about yourself whether it’s because you don’t look a certain way or live in a certain area or have the clothes a specific person has, simply unfollow them. Purging your social media of those that make you feel bad can be highly beneficial for your mental health. Here’s another tip: You are not obligated to follow your friends. You can still maintain a solid friendship in real life without following someone on social media because at the end of the day it shouldn’t matter if you follow someone or not. If you find that by following someone it is negatively affecting your mental health, it may be time to hit the unfollow button. While social media can have negative effects on mental health there are ways you can manage the media you are consuming.
The TED Talk linked below has more information on ways you can keep yourself from falling into a social media-induced depression and practice healthy decision making about your media consumption habits.