Dear social media... we love you?
We all love social media, right? It's our "safe" place to feel connected with the world. With just one swipe or one click, everything we need to know is sitting right in our pockets or our desktops. However, we tend to focus on all the positives and shy away from the negatives and the actual effects it has on our Mental Health. Here's a test: Try thinking of some negatives...
Can't think of any more? Don't worry, that's why I'm here. To help you understand the true effects of social media on your mental health.
Content Warning: This article contains information and discussions about mental health that may be triggering or uncomfortable for some readers. If you are struggling with mental health issues, please consider seeking professional help or support before reading this article.
Who are you mental health?
Before we start we need to understand what mental health is. Mental health is about how we feel, think, and behave. It affects the state of our psychological and emotional well-being. It surrounds our ability to manage stress, form meaningful relationships, and make decisions. It affects every aspect of our lives and it is just as important as our physical health. We need to prioritize our mental health by seeking support and engaging in self-care practices.
Mirror mirror on the wall...
... who's the fairest of them all? Comparing ourselves to the people we see online has a great toll on our well-being. According to data published by Ualberta 90% of women state that they compare themselves with other social media users, while it is 65% for men and up to 40% of these people have a negative view of themselves as a result of comparison. The Mirror also found that nearly one in five (17%) feel under pressure to live the “perfect life” due to social media.
However, over half (52%) admit people only post the things they want others to see on their profiles! We are comparing ourselves to a mirage, a false lifestyle. We see others do it so we try to push ourselves to achieve something that really and truly is false.
"When we look at other peoples’ lives through a filtered and curated lens, it’s only natural that we start to compare with our own lives, and feel we are not quite measuring up"... But it’s so important not to get too carried away with what we see online, and remember that life paints a much bigger picture.” - Emma Wright from RESCUE UK
I just can't stop!
Social Media and Addiction are an undefeated team. The constant notifications, likes, and comments can trigger dopamine responses in the brain that can lead to a cycle of seeking validation and feeling good... temporarily. However, once these stop coming in we are left feeling empty and unfulfilled. Feeling like this can lead to a sense of dissatisfaction with life, boredom, apathy, and a lack of motivation. Which then might lead to symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Social media is also often called toxic because platforms spread disinformation and they encourage their users to engage with this fake news more than with fact-checked ‘real’ news.
Bring me back my joy!
Don't worry! Not all hope is lost. We can still retrieve our joy back from the clasp of social media's treacherous hands with these steps:
Be more news literate and more educated about the news and any information we read
Try to think before we share. Sharing something without reading it is a no-go!
Unfollow or mute triggering accounts: If there are certain accounts or people that make you feel anxious or otherwise negatively impacted, consider unfollowing or muting them. You don't need that negativity!
Connect with people in real life: Instead of relying on social media for social interaction, try to connect with people in real life. Meet up with friends and family, or join a club or group that shares your interests.
Practice mindfulness: Meditation, deep breathing, and yoga can help reduce stress and anxiety.
It's important to address feelings of emptiness and lack of fulfilment in a healthy way by seeking support from a mental health professional, finding activities that bring us joy, and working to cultivate a sense of purpose in our lives.
There are many companies that offer help. Below I have added a YouTube video of a Neuroscientist explaining what overusing social media does to your brain. Here is also a link to a company that focuses on battling Mental Health. Shout