Looking back in time, one might say that social media sites as we know them today crept up on modern society unawares. Those of all ages–ranging from the very young and impressionable, up through adolescence, young adulthood, and even mature adulthood–have come to follow social media apps consistently (and even obsessively, one might argue).
Over three-and-one-half billion people worldwide use the internet, and over three billion of them use social media regularly, amounting to about 40 percent of the earth’s population. It is certainly one of life’s more ever-present daily activities for a significant portion of humankind, whether for a few minutes daily, or for hours at a time. Some of social networking’s benefits include the ability to stay informed, self-educate, build and relationships with family and friends, professionally network, interact with another human being at any time of day or night, and share expertise. But have you ever wondered if you can use social media sites too much?
Unfortunately for those who love their social media time, there is enough evidence to argue to some degree or another that the downside of social media effects on mental health well outweigh its touted benefits.
Sources of lowered self-esteem, social anxiety, and moodiness in social networkers have been shown to include cyberbullying, heightened stress levels, unhealthy comparison of self with others, jealousy, depression, feelings of helplessness and/or hopelessness, impaired ability to manage emotions, disrupted sleep, and decreased productivity leading to a decreased sense of achievement.
According to a 2015 research study at the University of Missouri, researchers noted that regular Facebook use can lead to depressive symptoms if the interaction creates feelings of envy in the user. In a study conducted by the British disability charity known as Scope, 1500 Facebook and Twitter users were surveyed, and as high as 62 percent of them reported feeling “inadequate” and 60 percent reported feelings of “envy” caused by comparison of self to other users.
Think about it. It stands to reason that if you have a generally negative outlook on life, or are already feeling somewhat down, regularly scrolling through pictures of happy couples and other cheerful characters living what appears to be a “perfect” life, it can easily make you feel worse. Excessive online social networking and mental health are not always a harmonious combination.
What else do social media and mental health statistics have to teach us? Excessive social media use has been directly linked to less happiness overall. Other studies have shown that Facebook use was linked to less life satisfaction overall, as well as less moment-to-moment happiness. Another study suggests that social networking creates a heightened perception of social isolation in the user unlike other solitary activities, and this perceived sense of self-isolation is one of the most emotionally destructive dynamics humans can encounter.
While it still stands that social networking has some benefits, there are plenty of convincing reasons that factual data can show us how social media affects us negatively.
You don’t need to “swear off” social media cold turkey, but you can motivate yourself to use social media in moderation. Here are some ideas to help manage its effects in your life:
- Choose to seek out the positive, and soak in the gratitude for your own victories as well as for those of others.
- Remind yourself regularly that social media isn’t an accurate representation of real life.
- Stop tormenting yourself with comparisons of yourself to others.
- Don’t be afraid of missing out by unfollowing your most (seemingly) happy and successful friends (even if just for a while).
- Give social media a rest by deactivating your account(s) (you can reactivate them later at any point).
The effects of social networking continue to be studied, but nothing we’ve learned so far has even remotely indicated that its effects are anything but detrimental to your mental well-being. You’re still on the computer? One final tip: go outside, face the world, and start creating your own realistic and successful, happy moments.
Do you suspect that excessive social networking is having a negative effect on your mental health or on that of a loved one? If you or someone you love need to talk to someone about mental illness or feelings of being overwhelmed, we want to help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.