The advent of social media means that all of us are more connected than we have ever been in the history of time. However, our reliance on social media can have negative effects on our mental health.
While social media platforms can have their benefits, relying on them too much can make you feel increasingly unhappy and isolated, experts say. The constant stream of perfectly filtered photos on Instagram is bound to erode our self-esteem while checking our Twitter feed just before bed can contribute to poor sleep.
Here are 6 ways that social media could be harming your mental health without you even realizing what’s happening.
- SOCIAL MEDIA CAN DAMAGE YOUR SELF-ESTEEM
We all have our fair share of insecurities, some that we share openly and others that we prefer to keep to ourselves. However, comparing ourselves to others on social media does little to ease our natural feelings of self-doubt. In fact, this habit may increase our sense that we can never measure up.
A study conducted by the University of Copenhagen found that many people suffer from “Facebook envy”. By contrast, those who stayed away from the popular website reported that they felt more satisfied with their lives.
Becoming more conscious of the amount of time you spend scrolling through other people’s online profiles could help you focus more on yourself and boost your self-confidence.
- YOU CAN LOSE YOUR SENSE OF TRUE CONNECTION TO OTHERS
As human beings, it’s so important for us to be able to communicate and forge personal relationships with one another. However, it can be hard to do so when we’re glued to rectangular screens, becoming more acquainted with our friends’ digital facades than their real-life personas.
Stina Sanders, a former model who has 107,000 followers on Instagram, explained how social media sometimes makes her feel like she’s being left out.
“I know from my experience I can get FOMO when I see my friend’s photos of a party I didn’t go to, and this, in turn, can make me feel quite lonely and anxious,” she said.
A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that regular use of Facebook had an overall negative impact on the lives of the 5,200 people studied.
- SOCIAL MEDIA CAN AFFECT WHAT YOU REMEMBER – OR DON’T
Social media can be great for looking back fondly on memories. However, it can also distort the way in which you remember certain episodes of your life.
Many of us spend so much time trying to take the perfect photo of an event or loved one that we miss the actual experience of experiencing what’s happening or who we’re with at the time.
If we direct all of our attention toward capturing the best shots for our social media followers to admire, less will be available to enjoy other aspects of the experience in real-time. Likewise, spending too much time on our phones will draw us away from one another, undermining the happiness we could be gaining from simply being in the moment.
- SLEEP CAN BE PROFOUNDLY AFFECTED
Having enough sleep is of critical importance to our mental wellbeing. However, many of us use our phones too soon before bedtime, making it much harder to doze off.
Getting worked up with anxiety or envy from what we see on social media keeps the brain on high alert, keeping us from falling asleep. Plus, the light from the devices we hold just inches from our face can suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps us feel sleepy.
Set a rule for yourself: no screen time for at least 40 minutes to 1 hour before bedtime.
- YOUR ATTENTION SPAN MAY CHANGE
It’s not just your subconscious brain that you need to worry about, but also the extent to which your brain is able to fully focus while you’re awake.
While it’s astounding to think about the amount of information readily available on social media, it also means that people have become far more easily distracted. We give in to the temptation of instant, easy-access entertainment – which often pulls us away from where our focus should be.
If you find it hard to keep from checking your phone for more than a few minutes, you may be experiencing the shorter attention span that social media can cause.
- SOCIAL MEDIA CAN CONTRIBUTE TO SERIOUS MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
Not only has social media been proven to cause unhappiness, but it can also lead to the development of serious issues such as anxiety or depression when used too much.
In March 2018, researchers surveyed 1,000 young people who said they were quitting social media for good. More than 40 percent stated that social media made them feel anxious, sad or depressed.
FINDING A BETTER BALANCE
While you don’t necessarily have to quit social media for good, it’s wise to be aware of these 6 potential sources of harm to your mental wellbeing. One way to ease the effects of social media is to designate times during the day when you pledge to stay away from your screens. You might also take full breaks from social media for periods of weeks or even months, just to give yourself a chance to compare how you feel. You may be surprised by the difference!
As an experienced therapist working with individuals and couples in the Edmonton area, I am concerned about the effects of social media. If you feel you are having trouble fighting the urge to put down your devices and live your life, I can help. Contact me now to schedule a session at a time that is convenient for you.