Lifestyle

Social Media and Mental Health

 Social media can be a great way to stay connected, but excessive use can lead to anxiety, depression, isolation, FOMO, and other negative emotions. Here are some

ways to improve your mood and change your behavior.

Social media and mental health

Humans are social creatures. To thrive in life, we need to be surrounded by others. The strength of our relationships has a significant impact on our mental and emotional health. Social connections can help you to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, increase self-worth, give comfort and joy, avoid loneliness, and even extend your life by adding years.

However, a lack of strong social connections can be a risk to your mental or emotional health.

Many people rely on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube to connect with others. Each has its advantages, but social media cannot replace human contact. To trigger hormones that reduce stress and make you happier, healthier, more positive, it needs to be in person. Ironically, despite the technology’s purpose to connect people, too much social media use can make it more difficult to feel connected and lonely. It can also lead you to develop mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

You may need to examine your social media habits and make a change to live a happier life.

Positive aspects of social media

Although virtual contact on social media may not have the same psychological benefits that face-to-face interaction, there are still positive ways it can be used to help you stay connected and support yourself.

Social media enables you to:

  • Keep in touch with your family and friends all over the globe.
  • Network with people who have similar interests and ambitions to make new friends.
  • Promote or join worthwhile causes and raise awareness about important issues.
  • Offer or seek emotional support during difficult times.
  • If you are unable to make it alone, have social anxiety, limited independence, or belong to a marginalized population, you can still find vital social connections.
  • Find a way to express yourself and your creativity.
  • Take care to find valuable sources of information and learning.

Negative aspects of social media

Because it is a new technology, little research has been done to determine the long-term effects of social media usage. Multiple studies have shown a strong connection between heavy use of social media and increased risks for depression, anxiety and loneliness.

Negative experiences like these could be promoted by social media

Inadequacy in your appearance or life. You may feel inadequate about your appearance or insecure about your life. We all know that people share only the best parts of their lives and rarely the lowest points.

However, envy and dissatisfaction can still be felt when scrolling through

the photos of a friend’s tropical vacation or reading about their new job promotion.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) FOMO is a fear of missing out (FOMO) that has existed for a long time. However, social media sites like Instagram and Facebook seem to increase feelings that other people are living more enjoyable lives or have better lives than you. You may feel like you are missing out on some things, which can affect your self-esteem and trigger anxiety. FOMO can make you feel like you have to constantly check your phone for updates or respond to every alert. This could lead to anxiety, depression, and even driving risks.

Isolation. Study by the University of Pennsylvania showed that loneliness is actually reduced when there is a lot of social media usage. The study also found that social media use can make you feel more isolated and lonely, and it can improve your overall health.

Anxiety and depression. To be mentally healthy, human beings require face-to-face interaction. Eye-to-eye contact is the best way to reduce stress and improve your mood. Social media interactions are more important than in-person relationships. This can increase your risk of developing or worsening mood disorders like anxiety and depression.

Cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a serious problem for teens. Twitter and other social media platforms can become hotspots for hurtful rumors, lies, abuse, and can even leave emotional scars.

Self-absorbed. Self-absorption can lead to unhealthy self-centeredness. What is driving your social media usage?

Most people access social media on their smartphones or tablets these days. This makes it easy to stay in touch but also allows you to access social media at any time. Hyper connectivity, which is available 24/7, can cause impulse control issues. Constant notifications and alerts can affect your concentration and focus, disrupt your sleep, and make you feel like a slave to your smartphone.

Social media platforms are designed for you to be captivated, to keep you online, as well as to have you constantly checking your screen for new updates. This is how companies make their money. However, it can lead to psychological cravings, similar to a gambling compulsion, an addiction nicotine, alcohol, or other drugs. If you get a like, share, or positive reaction to a post it can trigger dopamine release in the brain.

This is the same chemical that results from winning at a slot machine, eating chocolate, or smoking a cigarette. You will spend more time on social media if you are rewarded for it, even if you find other things more difficult.

Other reasons for unhealthy social media usage

FOMO (fear of missing out) is a common reason to keep returning to social media. FOMO can make you believe that there are always things that can wait or require immediate attention. You might be worried about being left out of conversations at work or school if you don’t get the latest gossip or news from social media. Perhaps you worry about how your relationships will be affected if you don’t respond, like, share or comment on other people’s posts. You might be concerned about missing out on an invitation, or worrying that others are having a better experience than you.

Many people use social media as a security blanket. We often turn to social media when we feel lonely or awkward in social situations.

However, social media interaction does not allow for face-to-face interactions that can ease anxiety.

You could be hiding other problems like depression, stress, and  boredom by excessive social media usage. You may be using social media to alleviate negative feelings, distract from them, or soothe your own moods. It can be hard to accept your feelings at first. However, it will help you to find healthier ways to manage your moods.

Social media signs that your mental health is at risk

Everybody is unique and social media use can be unhealthy. There is no set amount of time you spend on it, nor how often you check your updates or make as many posts. It is more about the effect social media has on your mood, your life and your motivations to use it.

If your social media usage causes you to neglect face time relationships, distracts from work or school, leaves you feeling angry, jealous, or depressed, then it could be a problem. You might also want to reconsider your social media habits if you are motivated to use it because you feel lonely or bored, or if you post things to make people jealous or upset.

These are indicators that social media could be negatively affecting your mental well-being:

Social media is a more popular social network than real friends. Social media has replaced a lot your offline social interaction. Even when you are out with friends you feel the need to check your social media

constantly, often because you think others might be having more fun than yourself.

Negative comparisons of yourself with others via social media. Low self-esteem and a negative body image are signs of low self-esteem. You might even be prone to disordered eating patterns.

Cyberbullying. You may feel that you are not in control of what people write about you.

Distracted at work or school. You feel pressured to share regular content about yourself, receive comments or likes on posts, and respond enthusiastically to posts from friends.

You don’t have the time to reflect on yourself. Engaging with social media takes up all of your spare time. This leaves you little to no time to reflect on who you really are, what you think and why you behave the way you do.

You engage in risky behavior to get likes, shares or positive reactions on social networks. Playing dangerous pranks, posting embarrassing material, cyberbullying others, accessing your phone while driving, or in other unsafe situations.

Sleep problems. Are you checking social media late at night, early in the morning, or when you get up in the morning? Your mental health can be affected by the light from your phone and other devices.

Worsening symptoms can be a sign of depression or anxiety. Social media doesn’t help you feel better or boost your mood. Instead, it makes you more anxious, depressed and lonely.

Step 1: Modify social media to improve mental health.

According to a University of Pennsylvania study, reducing social media usage to just 30 minutes per day can result in significant decreases in anxiety, depression, loneliness, and FOMO. To improve your mental health, you don’t have to reduce your social media usage so drastically. According to the same study, being mindful of how you use social media can help improve your mood and focus.

Although 30 minutes per day is not realistic for most of us, it’s possible to reduce the time spent on social media. This means that we need to reduce the amount of time we spend on social media. These tips will help you:

  1. You can track your time on social media every day with an app. Set a goal to decrease it.
  2. You should turn off your phone when you are driving, at work, in meetings, eating dinner, with friends offline, or with your children. You shouldn’t bring your phone to the toilet.
  3. Your tablet or phone should not be taken to bed with you. You can leave your phone or tablet in another room overnight for charging.
  4. You can disable social media notifications. It is hard to ignore the constant buzzing, beeping and dinging of your smartphone alerting you to new messages. You can regain control over your time and focus by turning off notifications.
  5. Limit your checks. Limit the number of checks you make to your phone. Next, check your phone once every 30 mins. Then check it once an hour. You can limit the time you have access to your phone with apps.
  6. You can now only access Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites from your computer or tablet. To see how much you miss one app, remove it all at once.

Smartphone Addiction has more information on how to reduce your phone usage.

Step 2: Refocus your attention

Many people log on to social media out of habit or simply to kill time. You can reduce your time on social media and improve your experience.

You might use social media to search for specific information, update a friend who is ill, or share photos with your family. Your experience will be different if you log on because you are bored.

Next time you access social media, take a moment to reflect on your reasons for doing so.

Is social media a replacement for real life? Are there healthier alternatives to social media? Invite a friend to coffee if you feel lonely. Feeling depressed? Go for a walk, or to the gym. Are you bored? Find a hobby. While social media is convenient and quick, there are better ways to satisfy a desire.

Is your social media activity active or passive? It’s not meaningful to scroll through posts and follow the interactions of others on social networks anonymously. You may feel isolated. Participating in the conversation with others will increase your engagement.

Do you feel depressed or insecure about your life because of social media? FOMO can be countered by focusing more on what you have

than what you don’t. When you feel like you are missing something, make a list of all the positive things in your life. Remember that no one’s life will ever be perfect, even if it appears so on social media. Even if we don’t share our heartache online, we all experience self-doubt and disappointment.

Step 3: Spend more quality time with offline friends

Face-to-face contact is essential for our happiness and health. Social media can be a powerful tool to facilitate real-life connections. If you allow virtual friendships to replace real-life friends in your life, however, there are many ways to make meaningful connections without using social media.

Make time every week to connect offline with family and friends. Make it a regular event where you don’t use your phone.

You can reach out to an old friend or an online friend if you have neglected to make face-to-face friends. Offer to do errands together if you have busy lives.

Join a club. Join a club if you have a hobby, creative pursuit, or fitness interest and meet other like-minded people on a regular basis.

Social awkwardness shouldn’t be a hindrance to your success. There are proven ways to overcome shyness and make friends, even if you are shy.

Reach out to friends if you don’t feel like you have someone to spend time with. Many people feel the same way about making new friends.

Invite a colleague to lunch, or invite a neighbor or classmate along for coffee.

Interact with strangers. Connect with strangers by looking up from your computer screen. Smiling or simply saying hello can make you feel better. You never know what it might lead to.

Step 4: Show gratitude

Social media can make it difficult to feel and express gratitude for the things that are important in your life.

Reflection is a good habit to develop. You can keep a gratitude journal, or use a gratitude app. You can keep track of the positives and memories in your life, as well as the people and things you would miss if they suddenly disappeared from your life. You can express gratitude via social media if you are more inclined to vent or post negative things.

However, it is possible to benefit more from private reflection that’s not subject to public scrutiny.

Practice mindfulness. You can become FOMO by comparing yourself to others and dwelling on your life’s failures and frustrations. Instead of fully engaging in the present, your mind is focused on the “what-ifs” or “if onlys”, which can prevent you from living a life that mirrors the lives of those you follow on social media. Mindfulness can help you live in the moment more, reduce FOMO and improve your mental well-being.

Volunteer. Volunteering is a way to show your support for others, just as humans are wired to connect with other people. Not only does it enrich your community and benefit a cause important to you but it also makes us happier and more thankful.

Helping a teen or child with social media addiction

The teenage years and childhood can be full of developmental difficulties and social pressures. Social media can be a powerful tool for some children to exacerbate these problems, as well as fueling anxiety, bullying and depression. It can be tempting to confiscate your child’s phone or other device if you are concerned about their social media usage. This can cause more problems by separating your child and their friends, as well as the positive aspects of social networking. There are ways that you can help your child use Facebook, Instagram and other platforms responsibly.

You can monitor and limit the use of social media by your child. You can address any issues by learning more about your child’s social media interactions. Parental control apps are a great way to limit your child’s use of data or restrict their phone usage to certain hours of the day. To limit your child’s exposure to predators or bullies, you can adjust their privacy settings across different platforms.

Talk to your child about the underlying issues. Social media problems can mask deeper issues. Are your children having difficulty fitting in at school? Is your child shy or anxious? Do they have stress-related problems at home?

Enforce “social media” breaks. You could, for example, ban social media until your child completes their homework. Also, don’t allow phones to be at the dinner table, or in their bedroom. Plan family events that prohibit the use of smartphones or other devices. Avoid sleep problems by ensuring that phones are turned off at the very least an hour before bed.

Teach your child that social media does not reflect the lives of everyone. It is not a good idea to compare their lives or your own life with others on social media. People post only what they want other people to see.

Images can be manipulated, posed carefully and chosen. Your child’s popularity and worthiness doesn’t diminish if they have fewer friends on social networks.

Encourage your child to exercise and have other interests. Encourage your child to engage in physical activities that are social and involve real-world interaction. Exercise can help with anxiety, stress,

self-esteem, mood, and other things. It is something that you and your family can do together. How many social media friends, shares, and likes your child has will have a significant impact on their self-worth and mood.

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