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Does Social Media Affect Mental Health?


Mental health issues refer to a range of conditions that affect a person's mood, thinking, behaviour, and overall mental well-being. These issues can range from mild to severe and can interfere with a person's daily life, relationships, and ability to function. There has been a surge in social media usage, allowing people to connect and communicate more frequently, although, it can leave individuals exposed to cyberbullying and online harassment, both of which seriously affect a person's mental health.

How can social media affect you?


Social media can have both positive and negative effects on mental health. On the positive side, social media can provide a platform for social connection and support, and can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. Social media can also provide a source of inspiration, motivation, and empowerment, particularly for those who use it to connect with like-minded individuals and communities.

Although, after extensive research, it has been found that social media can cause exposure to cyberbullying as well as trigger a fear of missing out, which can cause anxiety and stress. It can also become a very addictive habit, meaning some people spend too much time on their phones, especially in the evening times, for example in bed. This can be seriously disruptive to sleeping patterns, as phones emit blue light, which restrains the production of melatonin, which affects your sleep-wake cycle, hence making it more difficult to get to sleep and wake up. This can have knock-on effects on mental health, as people may feel a lack of motivation and fatigue, potentially increasing stress and anxiety.


Further, individuals often compare themselves to others they see on social media, which can cause envy and as a result feelings of lower self-esteem and a more negative self-image. Spending too much time on social media can make people feel disconnected from the real world, therefore increasing feelings of loneliness.


Can it be mitigated?


Although it may be tricky, yes it can. There are multiple ways in which we can mitigate the negative effects social media has on mental health. Many apps such as Tiktok and Instagram have features where you can set a time limit of how long you can spend on the app, this prevents scrolling for hours, which can help increase sleep, you can also try and set yourself certain times that you use social media. Social media can expose you to lots of negative news, which may impact mental health, to combat this you can ensure you are following the right people or simply take a small break to go and relax, perhaps this could be meditation, exercise or catching up with a friend.


Further, it is a good thing to unfollow people or accounts that are causing you distress, as it is far more important for your mental health. Finally, whoever you do follow or whichever communities you are part of, it can be really beneficial to reach out to and create a connection with people, this may then lead to meeting face-to-face, which is very likely to boost your mental health.


So does social media really affect mental health?


Ultimately, Yes. Social media can have a very large impact on mental health, especially due to its addictive nature, but it can also have positive effects. If you are able to manage your daily usage, set boundaries if it gets out of hand and has the self-awareness to know when you may need to take a break then it can be a really positive way to boost your mental health. However, if you are struggling with mental health issues due to social media it is important that you talk to someone, such as a friend, family member or a professional. If you do not feel comfortable talking to somebody face-to-face then it is important to realise you are not alone. There are multiple ways to access support online such as Mind and YoungMinds or take a look at the Mindless support resources.

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