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Social Media, the Thief of Joy?

The negative relationship of social media and mental health

"Social networking is a crucial element in protecting our mental health. Both the quantity and quality of social relationships affect mental health, health behaviour, physical health, and mortality risk. The Displaced Behavior Theory may help explain why social media shows a connection with mental health. According to the theory, people who spend more time in sedentary behaviours such as social media use have less time for face-to-face social interaction, both of which have been proven to be protective against mental disorders"

When thinking of our metal health it can be very easy to make comparisons to other people, either to aid feelings of doubt and sadness or to further fuel positive periods of happiness and confidence. Regardless, the use of social media is an excellent platform for this to take place, due to the constant stream of information providing excellent opportunity for us to compare our day to day life with other people. As some may argue, how can we be happy if someone is always going to be better off?

The argument that 'comparison is the thief of joy' stems around the concept of constant evaluation of our behaviour and an impossible search for perfection. As individuals it is perfectly normal to be flawed in our nature, since that is what makes us human. However, the danger comes with social media platforms when this aspect is suppressed, allowing people to appear 'perfect' in the eyes of those viewing their content.

"Theodore Roosevelt said “comparison is the thief of joy”. It literally steals us away from satisfaction with our own life, providing us with a yard stick on the thing we see as desirable. We see one thing in a person that shows us how we would like to be, in success or in worth and make an instant assessment of comparison."

The main question to be asked is how to find a solution to this issue. This can be due to social media also being a useful tool for our lives, allowing for us to stay up to date with current affairs and being able to contact our friends and family. A key focus is moderation, and how too moderate our use of social media platforms along with monitoring our own mental health. For example, by setting screen time limits or by being very selective in what accounts we select to follow and interact with. Such steps may aid in suppressing these negative thought processes, allowing for us to potentially take the first steps against the negative effects of social media on our mental health.

Another potential solution to such an issue could be a focus on honesty, with a true and honest evaluation of our behaviour allowing for the first steps to be taken. For instance, it is very difficult to solve a problem if a constant state of ignorance and untruthfulness prevents the issue from being identified. By being truly honest with ourselves it could allow for the issues with our mental health, be that our confidence or anxiety for example, to be not only identified but also helped. Furthermore, this could also aid in identifying the negative thought processes we endure when using social media. Such an example may be when seeing a photo of a celebrity that is photoshopped, giving an impression that their physique is attainable and can be compared to a normal person.

"Two studies involving more than 700 students found that depressive symptoms, such as low mood and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, were linked to the quality of online interactions. Researchers found higher levels of depressive symptoms among those who reported having more negative interactions. A similar study conducted in 2016 involving 1,700 people found a threefold risk of depression and anxiety among people who used the most social media platforms. Reasons for this, they suggested, include cyber-bullying, having a distorted view of other people’s lives, and feeling like time spent on social media is a waste."

Fundamentally, it is clear that some form of relationship exists between social media and our mental health, with the effects depending on our consumption and thought processes. It could be argued that for these negative effects to be combated it is very important for us as individuals to be honest with ourselves, along with being reasonable and accepting that perfection is not attainable. Furthermore, it is also important to see social media as a tool for good, but also recognising it's ability to damage our mental wellbeing if we allow it to.


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