Social Media and Mental Health - Anne Serry

Social Media and Mental Health

Although social media offers a wealth of benefits, excessive use can lead to negative emotions such as anxiety, depression, isolation, and FOMO. Here are some tips for modifying your social media habits and improving your mood.

The role social media plays in mental health

Humans are social creatures who thrive when they have companionship, and the strength of our relationships has a significant influence on our mental health and happiness.

Social connections can relieve stress, anxiety, and depression, boost self-worth, provide comfort and joy, prevent loneliness and even add years to your life. On the flip side, a lack of social connections poses a serious risk to one’s mental and emotional health.

Many people today rely on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram to find and connect with others. While both social media and real-world human connection have their benefits, it’s important to remember that neither can replace the other.

In-person contact with others is necessary to trigger the hormones that alleviate stress and make you feel happier, healthier, and more positive. The irony of social media is that spending too much time engaging with it can actually make you feel more lonely and isolated and exacerbate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

If you spend an inordinate amount of time on social media and experience feelings of sadness, dissatisfaction, frustration, or loneliness, it may be time to re-examine your online habits and find a healthier balance.

Social media may promote negative experiences such as:

Even though you know that images you view on social media are often manipulated, they can still make you feel insecure about how you look or what’s going on in your own life.

We may all be aware that other people tend to share just the highlights of their lives and rarely the low points. But it’s still a struggle when you’re scrolling through a friend’s airbrushed photos of their tropical beach holiday or reading about their exciting new promotion at work, while you’re stuck at home with a sick child or going nowhere in your career.

FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is often associated with social media use. The idea that other people are having fun or living better lives than you can impact your self-esteem, trigger anxiety, and fuel greater social media use. FOMO may compel you to pick up your phone every few minutes to check for updates, or compulsively respond to each and every alert—For some, even the risk of accidents or falling asleep at the wheel may be worth it if it means connecting with others via social media.

According to a study at the University of Pennsylvania, high usage of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram leads to increased feelings of loneliness. Conversely, reducing social media usage can reduce loneliness and improve wellbeing.

According to recent studies, face-to-face contact is essential to a person’s mental health. Research confirms that nothing reduces stress and boosts your mood as effectively as eye-to-eye contact with someone who cares about you. The more you prioritize social media interaction over in-person relationships, the more at risk you are for developing or exacerbating mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Nearly one in ten teens report being bullied on social media platforms, and many more are subjected to offensive comments. Social media sites such as Twitter can be hotbeds for spreading hurtful rumors, lies, and abuse that can leave lasting emotional scars.

Sharing too many selfies on social media can create an unhealthy self-centeredness and distance you from real-life connections.

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