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The Effect of Social Media on Mental Health



Social media has taken the modern world by storm and is a major part of everyone's lives as it aids communication worldwide, helps to raise awareness on important issues, provides a platform for people to express their creativity and interests, and much more. However, it is not all sunshine and butterflies. The quickly evolving platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and Facebook can have a detrimental effect on people's mental health for a variety of reasons.


Why do we get addicted?


Once you're in the social media 'loop' it is hard to reduce your time on it or even stop using it altogether. This is due to the dopamine (aka 'feel-good' hormone) release it causes and trains your brain to enjoy, thus reinforcing this behaviour as it feels like a reward. For some people, it has got to the point where they are scrolling 24/7, even whilst doing other things such as eating dinner. Being at university, I personally see this all the time and it affects even my own housemates.


Studies show that 59% of the global population uses social media and their usage averages 2 hours and 31 minutes every day. This averages to almost 18 hours per week! When put into perspective, this usage is more than one day per week (not including sleep time). Crazy right?


Possible effects on mental health


There are a number of ways that social media can affect mental health, the majority of which are caused by unrealistic standards that are posted and promoted all over social media. Here are some examples of how it can affect the audiences of social media:

  1. High beauty standards - this leads to people comparing their bodies and feeling unhappy with their own appearance.

  2. Lifestyle standards - a common example is the unrealistic 'day in the life' vlogs which are totally unreliable for the majority. This leads to people not being happy with their own lives, feeling like they're not good enough or their lives are inadequate.

  3. Reduced sleep - this is due to be addicted to scrolling as well as blue light keeping people awake, this leads to leads to lower mood and depression from lack of sleep and as sleep is crucial for developing the brain.

  4. FOMO - fear of missing out is seeing people post their experiences and feeling left out, missing the opportunity of fun times, connections, and socialising. This is a driver of social anxiety and fear of losing social connections.

  5. Posting for likes and shares feels like a reward - this leads to people never being content with what they have as not having enough likes makes them feel inadequate.

  6. Spending more time on social media than with friends - this can result in social anxiety or social phobia and worse real-life relationships.

  7. Worsening symptoms of anxiety or depression - if you already suffer from anxiety and depression, things that you can see online may have a worsening effect.

  8. Experiencing cyberbullying - this can make a person feel horrible about themselves and anxious. In some cases, it can affect people's mental health to the point of self-harm or suicide. If you feel like this applies to you please reach out to someone, or see the Samaritans Website.


Tips for looking after your mental health when using social media


Don't let social media and scrolling take over, spend more time with loved ones and friends, I guarantee it will improve your happiness. Here are some tips to make a change and start improving your mental health:

  1. Set time limits for different apps - reduce your total scrolling time on TikTok and Instagram, and try to stay off your phone as much as possible.

  2. Go for a daily walk - stay off your phone and connect with the outdoors and nature, it will really help to improve your mindset.

  3. Promote "Deinfluencing" - this is the new thing, being more truthful online is what we need to see more of!

  4. Don't compare yourself to people you see online - you are beautiful, and remember that not everything you see online is real.

  5. Have a look, and use these tips for looking after your mental health on social media by Shout.


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