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How Does Social Media Affect Your Mental Health?

How Does Social Media Affect your Mental Health?

Table of Contents

For the past decade, social media has become more and more pervasive.

Nearly all of us likely use it somehow, whether Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, or any of the other platforms.

Whether you’re a gen X, a millennial, or gen Z, you probably use it in some form. So how does social media affect your mental health? 

This article will explore some of the positive and negative effects of this technological breakthrough and give you some insight into what to do next. 

The Benefits of Social Media

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some of those became more obvious.

While we were social distancing over the last year, many of us felt isolated from our friends and loved ones.

For a lot of people, digital platforms were a lifeline.

We were able to keep in touch with the people we care about no matter where they were in the world.

Having a sense of connection is critical to our happiness, well-being, and mental health.

When we’re socially connected, it can reduce anxiety, stress and depression, prevent loneliness and generally improve your quality of life.

With that being said, online connections aren’t a replacement for in-person, real-life connections.

There are ways to have both healthy and unhealthy relationships with social media, and you may need to find your balance with these platforms.

How Does Social Media Affect Your Mental Health Negatively?

Studies show that social media can have dire consequences and may be the root cause of many mental health issues.

Some of the ways that it can specifically and negatively affect your mental health include:

  • You may feel inadequate: We see only a snapshot of people’s daily lives online, and obviously, they put the best out there for the world to see. If you’re regularly scrolling and you see picture-perfect images constantly, it may make you feel inadequate about your finances or your life in general. You may feel dissatisfied with yourself and develop body image concerns or become envious of others in your social circle. Those feelings of inadequacy can lead to depression or anxiety, as well as low self-esteem.
  • Fear Of Missing Out: Also referred to as FOMO, selective exposure can make you feel like everyone around you is having more fun or living their best life, and you aren’t. Again, that can trigger anxiety, affect your self-esteem negatively, and lead you back online more often and compulsively.
  • Depression and anxiety: You need in-person, face-to-face contact with other people to be mentally healthy. If you’re prioritizing social media sites over that contact, then it’s going to put you at a greater risk of developing feelings of anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders.
  • Cyberbullying: This is linked with elevated levels of depression, social anxiety and suicidal thoughts. For young people, such as members of Generation Z or millennials, the risk of cyberbullying has a significant effect on mental health, whereas this isn’t something gen X might worry about, for example. If you’re older, think back to when you were in school. If you weren’t getting along with someone or they were bullying you, you could escape at the end of the day.
  • Like-focused: If you spend a lot of time on social media seeking out approval, then you might end up making unhealthy choices that you wouldn’t otherwise. For example, you could be more likely to do risky things or change your appearance. This is especially true of teens but can affect you at any age.

Social Media Addiction

Digital platforms are inherently designed to be addictive and compel people to use them for longer.

In many ways, they work the same way drugs do. 

There is a reinforcing element of these services that affect your brain’s reward center.

When you do something pleasurable, your brain releases dopamine.

Dopamine can be released when you get a “like,” just like it can be when using a harmful substance.

When you seek life satisfaction, instant gratification, or boost self-esteem, you might post content that you hope gets attention or positive feedback.

That’s one element of the reward your brain experiences on social media.

Right now, psychologists estimate anywhere from 5% to 10% of Americans could meet the criteria of addiction.

Researchers at Harvard found that self-disclosure on social network sites activates the same areas of the brain as taking an addictive substance.

When you experience something rewarding, dopamine-producing areas of the brain are activated, and dopamine levels rise.

The reward centers in your brain are also most active when you talk about yourself, which compounds the issue.

A problem arises when this becomes a coping mechanism.

“Problematic use” might mean you’re logging on when you feel stressed, depressed, or lonely.

Then, you’re engaging on platforms more and more, and that’s leading to problems in other areas of your life.

What Can You Do About It?

Emphasizing your mental health is an excellent first step toward helping you develop a healthy relationship with social media sites.

Tips to achieve this include:

  • Be mindful and intentional when you’re logging in. Don’t ever go on auto-pilot when you scroll.
  • Prioritize and nurture your genuine relationships in real life.
  • Screen time. You can put settings on your devices that will tally and help you limit your screen time.
  • Don’t interact with content that upsets you. Block or unfollow anything that creates negative emotions.
  • Put your phone away when you’re out doing other things. If you’re at dinner with friends, leave your phone in your pocket or bag.
  • Be aware of your feelings when you’re surfing the web. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, then take a break for as much time as you need.

Final Thoughts

Social media isn’t inherently bad for our mental health, but a growing number of issues are becoming more evident with it.

If you do feel like social media is negatively affecting your mental health, take a step back and think about what you need to do to reclaim that space in your mind. 

If you’re experiencing mental burnout, anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issues resulting from social media (or the people and news you see on it).

In that case, we invite you to call 858-465-7722 and talk to one of the care coordinators at The Mental Health Center of San Diego and discuss ways we can help.