Social media affects your mental health

Social media can have a positive impact on mental health by providing a support system.

Studies have shown that social media usage, in moderation, can be beneficial to one’s mental health. Obviously, social media can be used as a fun, creative outlet to interact with friends and family members. By connecting people through posts and digital content such as photos and videos, social media networks create a sense of community and belonging in their users. As long as users are mindful to avoid overuse or emotional dependency on social media, enjoying social media content and sharing interests with friends and family can boost users’ happiness and can offer a healthy connection to online communities.

Social media can also have a negative impact on mental health by causing anxiety and depression.

According to the Pew Research Center, almost 70% of American adults and more than 80% of American teens regularly use social media. This means a large portion of the population is at risk of social media negatively affecting their mental health. Recent studies conducted by the National Center for Health Research suggest frequent social media usage can contribute to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, most notably in teens and young adults.

Though the specific ways by which social media negatively impacts users’ mental health can vary for each individual, here are some of the common reasons:

  • Seeking approval/validation: Social media users often seek to boost their confidence and their sense of belonging through the positive feedback they receive on their social media posts. However, if their posts or content do not receive the desired feedback (number of likes, comments, reposts, etc.), this can cause users to become disappointed or depressed.
  • Distorted reality/disconnection to the real world: When people are spending excessive amounts of time on social media sites, they are vulnerable to becoming disconnected from real life experiences. A significant amount of the digital content presented on social media sites carries a risk of being edited, photoshopped, airbrushed, or enhanced with filters. When users, especially teenagers and young adults, are consistently fed this sort of content, they can develop unrealistic expectations in their own lives, and the line separating their social media world and their “real world” physical experiences can become distorted. Younger, more impressionable users can become depressed or envious when looking at other users’ social media content and comparing that to their own life experiences. This can be especially dangerous when a user develops an addiction or dependency to social media.
  • Fear of missing out, loneliness, jealousy: Social media users can feel sad or depressed when they see their friends hanging out together and having fun without them. This is particularly relevant for young adults on social media, where common social pressures in high school and college settings causes kids to worry about missing out on the event, the Instagram post, or the inside joke that connects them with their peers.

Excessive use of social media can cause body image and self-esteem issues.

Similar to the reasons listed above, excessive use of social media can negatively impact users’ body image and self-confidence. Users might compare their own content to that of their friends, celebrities, or public figures they follow. Photos can easily be enhanced with filters and editing techniques, while stories, captions, or shared posts can easily be fabricated as well. Thus, people who are regularly exposed to these unrealistic beauty standards and life experiences are at risk of having self-esteem and body image-related issues.

Social media can also be addictive.

A study conducted in 2019 (Bekalu et al.) found that individuals that frequently used multiple social media platforms were significantly more likely to have symptoms of depression and anxiety in comparison to people that used 0 to 2 social media sites with less regularity. The study suggests many of those social media want to maintain social capital and have developed an emotional connection to one or multiple social media platforms. 4

There are numerous factors that contribute to the potentially addictive nature of social media. Social media is easily accessible and ubiquitous, or “always-on.” Many social media platforms are designed to continue bringing new content to users’ content feeds, so an individual can keep refreshing the page or application to consume more content. Additionally, the fear of missing out on popular events and social media trends can lead users to become addicted to social media. This is the dangerous nature of social media platforms; feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression may be the reason users continually visit the sites, but this consistent usage sometimes only compounds these mental health issues.

It’s important to be aware of the risks associated with social media and take steps to mitigate them.

Users can often lose track of time or forget other plans and responsibilities while scrolling through social media platforms. It is important to be mindful of how much time you are spending on social media. Furthermore, if you are feeling symptoms of depression, anxiety, or another mental health-related issue, be mindful of how social media may be affecting your mental health.

Many popular social media platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, have settings that users can adjust to limit their screen time and usage. Most smartphones also have capabilities by which users can review their activity and screen time reports, as well as the option to set limits on the usage of specific applications. These tools are especially helpful for parents looking to monitor their children’s social media usage, as young people are more susceptible to the addictive nature of social media.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s important to reach out for help.

Social media is an ever-changing landscape, and the effects on its users’ mental health largely varies. Though social media platforms can provide a positive impact, it is greatly important to be mindful of the potentially harmful, negative effects social media usage can have on our mental health.

If you or someone you know is showing symptoms of depression or another mental health issue, it is recommended that you reach out to a doctor or mental health professional for help. PCI Centers will provide a free consultation so that you can see for yourself if treatment is the right path for you