Social Media Effects on Mental Health

Ashley Peters

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Czg_9C7gw0o

Twitter: @ashleyy_peterss

This Article Has 8 Comments
  1. Ben Feng says:

    Hi Ashley,

    Great post. I am 100% guilty of this. There is a definite correlation between my social media engagement and my mental health – I tend to not only post more frequently, but engage with other posts more frequently during my best days.

    I think it’s a great idea to mute and unfollow at times. An even more drastic step is uninstalling a social media app or deactivating a social media account. Sometimes a break from social media can really help get us out of those difficult times.

  2. Zach Newsom says:

    This is a HUGE issue. I recently noticed I was spending too much time on social media and it was affecting my mental health, so I deactivated my Instagram and Facebook accounts for over a month just to take a break. It was super helpful in terms of resetting my system so it’s not the first thing I do when I pick up my phone anymore.

  3. Anushka Pawashe says:

    Thank you for posting this! I totally understand feeling worse about myself after spending too much time on social media and seeing others seemingly more successful lives. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a teenager today with all this being another factor in growing up.

  4. Brea Bechelli says:

    This is such a great post! It is so relevant of how much time we all spend on social media, of course it affects our mental health. Seeing people’s highlight reels everyday and I catch myself getting jealous over superficial things, like why I don’t own those clothes or why am I not on that beach? It is easy to spiral and get so attached to other people’s lives through their social media. I recently starting muting people pages I follow or unfollowing to get a break.

  5. Alyssa Newsom says:

    Hi Ashley! Thank you for this post. This is a conversation that needs to be had more often. I especially liked the section where you suggested some solutions to social media addiction that leads to depression. Personally, I have felt the effects of depression due to social media. The most important thing I did to combat this was, just as you said: UNFOLLOW THEM. It seems like such a simple solutions, but it can make all the difference in the world. Additionally, I think it will be interesting to see how social media platforms choose to combat this rising issue. As we have seen with Instagram potentially hiding likes on their posts, I wonder if other platforms will follow that lead. I wonder if depression rates in teens will lower if Instagram chooses to actually enact this plan.

  6. Sarah Naciri says:

    Hi Ashley!

    I love the message behind this post because it is a topic that needs more awareness. Last year, I watched a Netflix documentary on social media users, ranging from the average high-schooler to established influencers. The average-high schooler perspective really stuck with me because of how eye-opening her story was. The young girl, and other interviewees, discussed the anxiety they feel when they go to school knowing their post didn’t receive a high number of likes. Building on this, they added how this can cause them to miss school all together. This is why I support Instagram removing the ability to see the amount of likes users obtain.

  7. Taylor Lancaster says:

    This post makes an extremely great point that should definitely be discussed more! I think that because our generation has been exposed to social media for so long we tend to overlook the serious effects that it has on our mental health. We often look past the negative impacts of social media because we tend to be so addicted to it. I think that everyone can agree that at times social media can seriously affect how we think and feel. With that being said, I think its super important to remind ourselves to take a step back sometimes and take a break from social media.

  8. Connor Nolan says:

    Ashley,

    Thanks for talking about a subject matter I think a lot of us overlook when it comes to social media usage. Especially in a time like this we’re encouraged to be online more, we have to recognize the effects prolonged amount of social media consumption will do to our psyche. I’m all about setting limits to ensure I don’t get wrapped up the negative side effects of overuse. For example, my phone has a digital wellness setting that auto-locks an app from being used if I go over my daily time limit. I think if these social media platforms integrate these types of disconnect tools, it would have a lot of benefits for their userbase.

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