Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives. It can be used to connect with friends and family, as well as sharing our experiences online and expressing our personalities. While social media has many benefits, there is a growing concern about its impact on our mental health. Studies have shown that excessive social media use can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness, addiction, isolation, and FOMO which is the fear of missing out. In this blog, we will explore the ways in which social media affects our mental health, discussing strategies for using social media in a way that promotes mental wellness.
Social media is damaging you!
Comparing ourselves to others is one of the most detrimental features of social media as people often portray a curated version of their lives. This can create feelings of guilt and unworthiness as we compare ourselves to others who appear to have it all together, although in many situations this simply isn't the case. This can lead to negative self-talk, self-doubt, and a decreased sense of self-worth.
Bullying is a dangerous aspect of life and through social media there is no exception. In recent years, social media has become a breeding ground for cyberbullying, taking many forms such as name-calling, harassment, spreading rumours and threats. The impacts of cyberbullying can seem even worse than in person bullying as there is no real escape. In previous decades if there were problems in a workplace or school, once the day is over you could go home without having to face it for the rest of the day. With the rise of social media, it means that there is no true escape.
In some circumstances, social media can be addictive, and excessive use can lead to a range of issues. The addiction to social media can cause individuals to stay up later than they perhaps would have, being exposed to more blue light for prolonged periods of time. This can leave them at greater risk of developing sleeping disorders such as insomnia.
Linking closely with addiction, fear of missing out is also a complex problem that social media can cause. A sense of FOMO can be created as we see others living their lives and doing things you may also want to do, creating a constant search for dopamine which can impact the periods in which social media is consumed over. This can lead to feelings of anxiety and a constant need to be connected to social media, making it hard to put the devices away.
Given these points, social media can certainly have a negative impact on mental health if not used in a healthy and balanced way. It is important to be mindful of how much time we spend on social media and to set boundaries for ourselves to promote our mental wellness.
Death by socials!
As discussed, social media can cause lots of bullying and harassment, especially as people may operate under aliases. In recent years it has even caused fatalities. One known case of this was the 2019 death of Channing Smith, a 16-year-old from Manchester, Tennessee, who took his own life after two classmates publicised screenshots of explicit text conversations he had with another young man. This demonstrates the power that social media has as rumours were spread which brought the bullying and embarrassment of the young man, eventually leading to his suicide.
The TikTok era
TikTok is a video-sharing app that has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. The app provides a source of entertainment just as many other platforms do, however it has been criticized for its negative impact on attention span and mental health. The app is designed in a way that aims to keep users engaged for as long as possible, with a continuous feed of short form videos that autoplay one after another. The reason this has a negative impact on attention span is that users become used to the constant flurry of short form content and the stimulation this brings.
TikTok has been criticized for its potential impact on mental health. The app has been accused of promoting unrealistic beauty standards and creating a toxic culture of comparison which sometimes comes in the form of TikTok trends which users take part in. Users are faced with images of perfection, leading to feelings of self-doubt. This can have a particularly negative impact on young people, who may be more vulnerable to these types of messages.
Another concern with TikTok is the potential for cyberbullying. When using TikTok, it is clear to see the lack of moderation ads comment sections can be a very toxic place. The app has been criticized for this lack of effective moderation.
Overall, while TikTok is a very entertaining platform that has provided people with a new way in which they can quickly increase in popularity with no budget, it is important to be aware of the potential negative impact on mental health. Time limits are a healthy way of monitoring the use of apps like this, as prolonged use can lead to consequences as discussed. In addition to this, it is important to be mindful of the content consumed especially from a younger person’s perspective as this can seriously impact their thoughts and feelings towards many topics of discussion.
TikTok is just one example of a range of social media platforms that can have a seriously negative impact on us if the use of them isn't regulated. From cyberbullying and comparison between individuals, to the lack of healthy sleep caused by prolonged use of social media and exposure to blue light, it is clear to see that more needs to be done in raising awareness of the impacts that social media can have on individuals, especially when considering younger generations as it is clear to see the trend is getting worse. For help on using social media in a more healthy, balanced way, so you can scroll to happiness instead, I recommend considering using some of these tips published by HelpGuide who provide a "trusted nonprofit guide to mental health & wellness":
Use an app to track how much time you spend on social media each day, setting goals for how much you want to reduce it by
Turn off your phone at certain times of the day
Don’t bring your phone or tablet to bed (Turn devices off and leave them in another room)
Disable social media notifications
Limit checking your phone gradually
Try removing social media apps from your phone so you can only check from your tablet or computer