In this blog, we cover how social media affects your mental health in a negative way, and then cover ways to counteract the negatives by using it in healthy doses.
Let’s go over the main ways social media affects mental health:
1. Comparison trap and self-esteem
One of the predominant issues from excessive social media use is the comparison trap we fall into and the ramifications this often has on our self-esteem in the long run. Social media is known to incite feelings of jealousy or comparison which results in feelings of sadness and self-doubt.
Our tip for avoiding the comparison trap as much as possible is to only follow accounts that make you happy, without comparing ‘upward’ or ‘downward’. Removing any construct that certain lives or people are more superior than others, will remove the need to compare and simmer in the thought of – “how do I change to be more like that?’ or ‘wow, I’m so lucky my life isn’t like that.’
2. Highlight reel
Whether your following feed is filled with perfect families, blooming relationships, impeccable interior design or luxury cars – it’s more often than not, someone’s highlight reel.
In particular, when we look at influencers or celebrities, posts tend to be constructed around promoting a lifestyle or product, but it often excludes the “real life” elements. It’s one thing to aspire to something, but it’s another to obsess over unrealistic perfection.
Try to remove the idea that what you see is what you get, and focus on the in-between moments in life that don’t need capturing or tagging to be fulfilling.
3. Decreases social interaction
Spending more and more time on social media typically decreases in-person social interaction which is known to boost our mood and endorphins.
We recommend organizing catch-ups with friends and family throughout the week, to keep social interaction consistent. On top of this, try and put your phone away completely when catching up with someone to avoid getting distracted in their company.
4. It’s addictive
A study conducted by Swansea University found that “people experienced the psychological symptoms of withdrawal when they stopped using it (this went for all internet use, not just social media)”.This shows the direct effect excessive social media use can have on our mental health, given the likely anxiety brought on by not being able to use it.
Our tip for dealing with a potentially addictive habit is to pay attention to the time you spend on it and what you are doing on it. From here, assess your particular ‘habits’ and if they are affecting other daily activities. For example, if you always plan to scroll on social media when you get home from work, and one day a family member wants to chat, you may feel the urge to scroll while you talk or avoid the social interaction altogether.
This is the point where it may be good to set boundaries around not getting “FOMO” so to speak, about what you are digitally missing out on. Try noticing when this happens and set small rules for yourself to avoid it interrupting social interactions or other valuable parts of the day.
We hope this helps you understand some ways social media can have a negative effect on our mental health. Try our tips for avoiding it! If you would like to join our 10-day online Happiness Challenge, we are kicking off on 21 July. You can sign-up here.