Social media has come to occupy an increasingly large portion of our time and attention in recent years. In fact, the average Internet user spends 2 hours and 27 minutes each day on social media sites.
Social media certainly has its uses and benefits. It helps us maintain relationships that might be hard to keep up otherwise, and it can be a great way of sharing information and interests. But as with most technologies, social media also has its drawbacks—particularly for our mental health.
How Does Social Media Affect Mental Health?
Social media’s effect on mental health is tied to a few key characteristics of social networking platforms. When you scroll through your feed, you’re likely to see the news of current events and highlights of other people’s lives: engagements, career advancements, gorgeous vacations, etc. This filtered view of other people’s lives can prompt us to compare ourselves to other people, which can leave us feeling down or dissatisfied with our own lives. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is another common experience on social media that commonly leads to feelings of loneliness or sadness.
Being constantly exposed to those sorts of feelings can have some pretty deleterious effects on our overall well-being. For example:
Researchers have found that high usage of some social media platforms actually increases feelings of isolation, rather than promoting connection.
One British study found a correlation between social media use and worse sleep quality, which in turn has been linked to depression and decreased cognitive function.
While it’s difficult to determine a causative relationship between social media and mental health issues like depression and anxiety, some researchers believe that it may be a contributing factor. In particular, experts worry about the potential connection between social media and teen mental health. Studies have suggested that cyberbullying, poor self-esteem, and self image issues as a result of social media usage may increase teens’ risk for mental health problems.
Repairing Your Relationship With Social Media
Fortunately, protecting your mental health doesn’t have to mean cutting out social media entirely. However, it is wise to limit your usage. Here are some strategies and tips you can employ to establish some boundaries around your social media consumption:
Turn off notifications. It’s hard to focus on other things when you’re constantly being notified of comments, likes, or new posts.
Set limits on your usage. Decide how much time you think is reasonable to spend on social media each day, and make a habit of cutting yourself off when you’ve reached that point. Consider downloading an app that tracks your screen time across different programs.
Cultivate positive content. We’re all guilty of following people and accounts that bring us more frustration or pain than joy. Go through your accounts and unfollow anyone that doesn’t contribute positively to your social media consumption.
Practice mindfulness. If you’re a regular social media user, odds are you’ve become accustomed to opening the app out of habit when you’re bored or waiting for something. Learning to be mindful and recognizing when you feel those urges can help you develop a more intentional social media habit.
RADIAS Health provides person-centered integrated healthcare services to people experiencing mental illness, substance use, or co-occurring disorders. Our services encompass primary care and behavioral health services delivered by compassionate, skilled health care and support staff. In addition, our care includes supplementary services such as case management, supportive housing, homeless services, residential services, outpatient DBT treatment, and more. If you or someone you know could benefit from our mission, contact us today or consider donating!