How many times have you aimlessly scrolled through Facebook, TikTok or Instagram today? If you feel embarrassed by your answer, you’re not alone. On average, people spend approximately 144 minutes using social media each day.
It’s no secret that we’re becoming more and more connected through our screens, and this trend doesn’t appear to be declining anytime soon.
But what’s the real cost of all this virtual interaction? What are the benefits, and what are the risks? What do we know about the relationship between social media and mental health? Let’s get into it.
What Are The Negative Risks Associated With Social Media?
Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube haven’t been around that long. Therefore, we don’t have substantial research on the long-term effects of social media and mental health. However, research does show that heavy social media use can impact one’s emotional well-being.
Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)
Although people may use FOMO in a joking context, the phenomenon is very real. Many people use social media to post their highlight reels. We used to pull out photo albums to share happy memories. Today, we use social media to showcase outings with friends, our latest shopping trip, vacations and what we ate for dinner!
While it can feel exciting to see what your friends are up to, it can also trigger feelings of incompetence and inadequacy. You might look at someone else’s relationship and wonder why yours doesn’t seem that happy. You may see a picture friends partying by a pool and wonder why you weren't invited. Comparing your life to theirs can result in you feeling jealous, left out and resentful.
Research shows that more than 59% of teenagers have experienced cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can include everything from harassment to stalking to receiving unwanted explicit content to physical threats.
Bullying has always been a problem, but some experts believe social media is responsible for increasing teenage mental health issues. Unfortunately, cyberbullying creates an easy opportunity for anonymous, rampant abuse. Moreover, once something is on the Internet, it can leave a permanent digital footprint.
Depression, Anxiety, and Increased Isolation
Although social media is meant to foster connection, the opposite effect can happen. Excessive social media use can exacerbate mental health symptoms.
That’s because humans depend on positive social interactions to feel connected. Unfortunately, virtual interactions don’t replace face-to-face conversations. And the more people prioritize screen time over in-person relationships, the more likely they are to experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, and isolation.
Social media may breed more narcissistic behavior. Think about it. We devote excess time crafting that witty Facebook status or photoshopping that Instagram picture. We think about how we want to curate our lives to “look good” online.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with sharing your life. But all this focus on the self can create ego problems and disconnection from others.
What Are The Positive Benefits of Social Media?
Social media isn’t all bad, and virtual time offers some significant benefits. Like with anything else, moderation appears to be the key in maximizing these perks.
First and foremost, social media enables us to stay connected with anyone in the world. This ability for instant, 24/7 interaction provides opportunities that would never exist otherwise. No need to pay for long-distance phone calls or send digital photos through the mail- today, we only need a secure Wifi connection!
Grandparents in another country can talk to their grandchildren. Someone can share a funny video to boost a friend’s spirits. A celebrity can send a message to a devoted fan.
Social media offers the chance for developing new connections. Today, many social media platforms have groups and forums where like-minded people can come together. This connectedness allows for the development of both personal relationships and professional networking opportunities.
Additionally, social media can be a lucrative tool for learning. Many people turn to Youtube to learn a new skill. They may head over to Instagram to watch a useful tutorial, Pinterest to grab a recipe, or LinkedIn to read a news article.
Social Media and Mental Health: What To Do Next?
There isn’t a perfect answer to managing social media consumption. However, if you recognize that it’s adversely impacting your well-being, consider cutting back or engaging in a digital detox. Pay attention to how your mood changes.
You don’t have to struggle with your mental health in silence. At Elevate Counseling, we’re here for you. Contact us today to learn more about how we can support your well-being.