Human beings are social creatures
We need the companionship of others to thrive in life, and the strength of our connections has a huge impact on our mental health and happiness. Being socially connected to others can ease stress, reduce anxiety and depression, boost self-worth, provide comfort and joy, prevent loneliness, and even add years onto your life.
It is extremely important to remember that social media can never be a replacement for real-world human connection. It requires in person contact with others to trigger the hormones that alleviate stress and make you feel happier, healthier, and more positive.
Ironically for a technology that is designed to bring people closer together, spending too much time engaging with social media can actually make you feel lonelier and more isolated – and exacerbate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
If you’re spending an excessive amount of time on social media and feelings of sadness, dissatisfaction, frustration, or loneliness are impacting your life, it may be time to re-examine your online habits and find a healthier balance.
Social media usage
Social media usage is one of the most popular online activities. According to a Statista survey in 2021 over 4.6 billion people were using social media worldwide, a number projected to increase to almost 6 billion in 2027.
Social networking is one of the most popular online activities worldwide thus it is no surprise that social media penetration across all regions is increasing.
Social media has become an integral part of people's day with many accessing social media sites multiple times per day. On average, internet users spend 144 minutes per day on social media and messaging apps.
Is it time to re-evaluate how much time we are spending on social media?
Are you addicted to your smartphone?
According to Harvard researchers the short-term dopamine-driven feedback loops that have been created by social media are destroying how society works. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok leverage the very same neural circuitry used by slot machines and cocaine to keep us using their products as much as possible.
The true drivers to our addiction to smartphones are in fact the hyper-social environment that smartphones allow us to carry around inside our pocket. Though humans have evolved to be social, the structures we thrive in tend to consist of around 150 individuals whereas smartphones allow this to be up to 2 billion potential connections.
Many studies are beginning to show links between social media and increased levels of anxiety, depression and poor sleep quality.
Social media isn't going anywhere anytime soon, so it is up to us as users to decide how much of our time we want to dedicate to them. So next time you pick up your phone to check your Instagram or scroll through TikTok, ask yourself, "Is this really worth my time?".
Prioritising your mental health
An article by Tabitha Sutton highlights the importance of setting boundaries when utilising social media and how these boundaries will ultimately better your mental health.
Here are some ways you can prioritise your mental health when using social media:
Be mindful - evaluate how using social media makes you feel and why you are spending time on it, this will enable you gain insight and acceptance and act accordingly. Set an intention on why you are using social media.
Follow fewer accounts - do a clean-up and only follow accounts that make bring you joy and happiness, you genuinely care about or learn from.
Take a break - if you are worried about your social media use, remember you can step away from it. This could mean switching off for a few hours a day, one day a week or even a whole week, start of small and then reassess how it makes you feel.
Avoid before bed - it can be a frequent habit to scroll through social media whilst trying to fall asleep, but it is proven that this can impact our sleep by delaying or disrupting it throughout the night. Try to limit or stop completely using social media at least an hour before bedtime in order to allow your brain and body to wind down and get ready for a good night sleep. Good sleep leads to a good mood.
It is important to monitor how your social media usage is affecting your mood and mental health. If you notice that your current interactions are not positive or uplifting, then take a step back and try to implement changes that will prioritise your mental health.