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Is Social Media Harming Your Mental Health?

Could your phone be hurting your brain?


CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness, self-harm and suicide which could be distressing to some readers.

The use of social media is harmful to us.
Social Media is Harming Your Mental Health

Why do we all feel so addicted to our phones? Just a minute of misplacement sends us into a raging panic about where we left our most valued possession. But are these devices helping us, or hurting us?


The devil and the angel on our shoulders


Social media originally was invented to help people connect and stay in contact with friends. It was the perfect way to keep everyone updated on what you're up to and how you're doing. But unfortunately, what started as an escape from being stressed or bored, has now become something that we depend on for stimulation. How many of us turn to looking down at our phones in social settings, maybe we feel awkward or shy, and our phone just offers us that reason not to make contact with others. Now as helpful as this may seem, by keeping us in our comfort zone, it's not so much helping us as hindering our social skills.


Unfortunately, we also now rely on social media to keep us continuously entertained, the release of dopamine from watching something entertaining on our phones has gotten us addicted, but we just want more and more hits. We are no longer satisfied with a TV show programme once a night, we now need hundreds of 15 to 60 second videos on TikTok to stimulate our brains. And when we don't get this stimulation, our brains go crazy with boredom and we are unable to entertain ourselves because we have forgotten how to.


It can be argued that the social media platform can be used for good. The promotion of topics such as 'body positivity' and the spreading of awareness for global issues is definitely a positive. Letting people know that they aren't alone, and where they can get help. But a short attention span isn't the only trouble social media is causing, it can also be very heavily argued back that these solutions are solutions to problems mostly created by social media itself. It is not normal to live someone else's life, constantly aware of where they are and what they're doing. One of our biggest weaknesses is the feeling of needing to compare our lives to others. We look at these people on social media and how they're travelling the world, living like a superstar, happy all the time and we can't help but to compare their fake lives to ours. The truth is, we will never be happy from comparing our lives to someone else.


Even if we are the ones living the lives of superstars, we still won't be happy because we want more, we want more likes, we want more attention, we want more people to be envious. And all of this happens thanks to social media. To compare your life to someone else's, often leads to feeling inadequate in ourselves. I should have travelled more, I should have gotten a better job, I should be doing what they are. It digs a hole in us that never should have been there in the first place, and then we spend the rest of our lives trying to fill that hole.


Think about the lives you get sucked into every day, this celebrity has come out, who is so and so dating now, is this celeb pregnant? This noise can be so loud. How do we separate the truth from the lies? How do we figure our what we believe within ourselves, rather than having other people shove it down our throats. There isn't space to breathe in a world where each individual has the power to tell you what they think of the world and what they think of you every second of the day. Some news just isn't meant to be read. Unfortunately social media struggles with a filter. The line is often crossed when it comes to informing people. Arguably, although we believe hearing all these horror stories keep us safer through awareness, they are also staying with us, scaring us, holding us back with bars we can't see. The social media opens up a can of worms because with the good, comes the bad.


With good news, comes gruesome details of horror stories. With body positivity, comes impossible beauty standards. With interesting facts, comes conspiracies and lies. With complements and likes, comes insecurities produced from hate and 'trolling'. Social media is almost impossible to regulate and unfortunately, more often it is used to harm people rather than help them. A scary but important example of this is "Molly Russell, 14, killed herself in 2017 after seeing graphic images of self-harm and suicide on Instagram." There is not enough regulations in the world to keep everyone safe, and in tragic cases such as this, social media can be held responsible for the distribution of harmful content. We are exposed to such sad and hateful things, and sometimes this content can not only scar people, but give them ideas on how to hurt themselves or commit suicide. Even crimes can be sourced back to ideas they found on social media, or some crimes are committed using social media, and it's often too late to prevent these from happening. Because with anyone being able to do and say anything, comes, well anyone being able to do and say anything.


Your mental health is arguably the most important factor in your life, it shapes your outlook, your actions, your relationships, your dreams. We often forget to take care of ourselves and our minds. So take a break. Put your phone down and grab some paper, who are you? What do you believe, what makes you happy, what do you love about yourself, what is your dream? Ask yourself these questions and take a minute to really breathe and realise that you are free. That phone, laptop, tablet, is just that, a phone, a laptop and a tablet. It is not your life, it is not the truth. You are free. Please, put your phone down and go and do something that makes you and you only happy, something that makes you feel alive. You are free to make your own decisions and decide your own beliefs.


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