Content Warning : This article contains information that some readers may find distressing.
An overview of social media and mental health
In recent years, the advent of the Internet and social network platforms have radically changed our lives. With a simple click, we can now connect with different people from all around the world, find information on any topic and access an infinite amount of content from different providers. However, excessive use can have a negative impact on our mental health. That, however, should not come as a surprise to many as the effects of social media on mental health have been well documented.
How does it impact our mental health?
Many studies have shown that constant and uninterrupted virtual interaction leads to a greater feeling of isolation and loneliness, increasing the risk of depression, stress, and anxiety. Additionally, the social networks lead to excessive exposure to negative news and violent content which also contribution to a worsened mental state of mind.
The content of what we watch influences our perception of reality leading to a distorted view of the world.
Protect your mental wellness
How do we counter these negative effects of what has seemingly become a daily part of our lives? As simplistic as it may sound, the limiting our use of social media may be the first step. Experts have advised that a limit on social media use to a couple of hours (even less !). Avoid interference with aspects of our day-to-day lives! Extended use of social media means that unfortunately, most people tend to distract themselves from meaningful moments in their lives. A "hardline' limit on social media usage is said to contribute towards the maintenance of a balanced lifestyle to improve our overall mental well-being.
What is good for you?
With all news available at the tip of our fingers, we must question ourselves about our habits. Scrolling through Instagram, Twitter or any other social media app may seem a mindless habit but when done incessantly, it becomes part of a series of behaviours that most are unwilling to give up. Social media use is so prevalent now that most people check social network platforms even before getting out of bed? Are you trying to get up-to-date with the latest news? Or is it a distraction from work ? Are we using it to escape from moments of dead air? We need to answer the hard questions : Why are we doing this? Let us be intentional when we use social media.
Thief of joy
Comparison is the renowned sneaky thief of joy. And unfortunately, social network platforms do little to solve this. Overthinking and comparing ourselves to strangers on the internet leads us to feel insecure of our worth. In dealing with social media, we must remember that we all run our own race as such focusing on our journeys is an essential lesson we must all learn to avoid the deterioration of our mental well being. Social media fuels a sense of worthlessness. We must appreciate our differences.
Every second we spend comparing ourselves to someone else's is a second spent wasting ours!
Social media is not real life!
In this day and age, where we all share aspects of life onto the World Wide Web, we often fail to establish boundaries between what is real and what is digital. Using social media to keep abreast of what is happening around us is perfectly fine. However, this should not be a substitute for daily interactions around us. Get connected - in real life! We should learn to give ourselves the permission to focus on ourselves in the real world, the chance to prioritise our well being and practice self-awareness.
Finally, it is important to remember that the social media networks can also be a source of well-being and entertainment, if used correctly. Sharing moments of joy with friends and family, finding inspiration and connecting with people from all over the world can enrich our lives and bring a sense of belonging. In this way, we can make the most of the potential of social networks, without compromising our mental health and general well-being.
All of this is admittedly, easier said than done. But everything can be achieved through gradual steps - one small step at the time.