Social Media exploded into our lives a little over a decade ago and while there are many benefits such as increased social interaction and providing inspiration, it can become very unhealthy for us. We’re social beings and the strength of our relational connections directly affects our mental health. This makes it easy for us to interact with an app that gives us serotonin and dopamine hits but also puts us in danger of being addicted to chasing these feelings.
There have been many studies about the harm social media can cause that cite issues such as: –
- People being addicted to their phones and social media is a major influence. Seeking distraction or comfort can mean that we do not deal with or process our daily stresses and strains. This can lead to us feeling easily overwhelmed or stressed which can encourage us to use the same avoidance coping mechanisms causing an ongoing degeneration of our well-being into general low mood.
- We can be influenced negatively by the distorted views and images we see on social media platforms. Social media posts are geared to grabbing our attention and they are rarely a reflection of reality; they are always distorted or bias in some way. As individuals we seek to project a positive image of ourselves and most posts are attention or approval seeking in some way. Organisations wish to attract our attention and often do this by dramatizing or glamourising their posts.
- Social interactions online are a diluted form of connection.
- There can be a dis-inhibition affect where people feel less inhibited to express things which has coined terms like keyboard warriors.
- People (more commonly young people) can use it as a tool for persecution and bullying.
- It can encourage anxiety and low mood through developing feelings of inadequacy from seeing distorted posts and not being able to distinguish distortion from reality or not being able view themselves separately from others and positively.
- Spending too much time can create feelings of loneliness and isolation as they are not a replacement for real interactions.
- We can begin to feel inadequate about ourselves or our appearance.
- Self-absorption – we can become self-obsessed by posting endless selfies, posts and pictures.
- We often see the same bad news stories repeatedly which can distort our perception of how safe our world is which contributes to longer term anxiety and low mood
- People tend to air their views when they’re unhappy with something to express their feelings and process their experience. This means we can see unbalanced views creating distortions in our perceptions.
It’s not all bad though as if it were, we wouldn’t use it. Social media can be great. It can aid our wellbeing where we keep up to date with relationships and we see pictures of people we love making us feel warm and more connected. We can connect with people we wouldn’t normally, we can be inspired with new ideas, recipes and music, and it can be an expressive outlet for us. As humans, we like to feel involved and connected and social interaction contributes to our well-being significantly.
So, do we need to protect ourselves from Social Media? – Absolutely Yes.
Should we stop using it? Probably not, but maybe be aware of how much you use it or take regular breaks from it.
With many of our activities, it’s helpful to be aware of the impact of them. Too much of many things can be harmful to us with social media being a great example of this. Living mindfully and with awareness helps our mental health and well-being tremendously. The negative impact of social media use often builds up within us rather than having a direct affect so we may not directly associate our low mood with the 4 hours a day we spend noticing how everyone else is living a better, being more successful and leading a more fulfilling life than us because they’ve got more friends, go on more holidays, are more attractive and do brilliant things. When we’re feeling low or anxious or if we can easily doubt ourselves, this can make us more vulnerable to the negative affects social media can bring.
If you feel affected by your social media use you may want to monitor how much time you spend. Most smart phones have a function where you can view your screen time. You may want to make a list of other things you’d rather be doing than mindlessly scrolling. Taking a break can be helpful as we can notice the benefits of not scrolling and if you find that you can’t take a break from it, this is a clear alarm bell that you may want to attend to.
I hope this has been helpful and made you think about your own social media use.