The Effects of Social Media on Mental Health

The Effects of Social Media on Mental Health
Picture of Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Joshua Yager M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Joshua Yager M.D.

Dr. Joshua Yager is an Atlanta native, board-certified family practice physician who is dedicated to the health and wellbeing of his community.

Table of Contents

In our current age of digital interconnectedness, social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok have become inescapable fixtures in our daily routine. While they provide a virtual stage to connect, inform, and share, they simultaneously cast a shadow of mental health concerns, especially among the youth. College-aged individuals, having grown up with screens within arm’s reach, face unique challenges regarding the impact of social media on their mental well-being. This article delves into this intricate relationship, shedding light on both the pros and cons.

The Postives of Social Media

  1. Fostering Connections: One undeniable advantage of social media is its ability to forge connections. It bridges geographical divides, helps find like-minded communities, and acts as a solace during solitary times.
  2. Driving Awareness: Mental health advocacy has found a loudspeaker in social media. Platforms host discussions that challenge societal stigmas, creating a space for open dialogues.
  3. Educational Avenues: Numerous organizations and professionals utilize social media to share resources, making valuable mental health insights accessible to the masses.

However, the perpetual connectivity does come with its challenges.

The Negatives of Social Media

  1. The Trap of Comparison: Platforms often become showcases of life’s highlights, leading users to measure their own lives against others’ filtered moments. This culture of comparison can breed feelings of inadequacy.
  2. The FOMO Phenomenon: Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO, haunts users as they view peers engaging in seemingly exciting ventures. This can escalate feelings of isolation.
  3. Cyberbullying: The virtual realm, unfortunately, isn’t free from bullies. With anonymity as a shield, cyberbullying has become rampant, causing emotional distress.
  4. Anxiety, Depression, and the Social Media Link: The relentless influx of notifications can amplify stress, with several studies linking excessive use to heightened anxiety and depression levels.
  5. The Mirage of Filters: While filters can add a touch of creativity, they also set unrealistic standards, leading to potential body image issues.
  6. Disturbed Sleep Patterns: Late-night scrolling is not just an enemy of time but also of sleep. The blue light from screens can disrupt sleep cycles, affecting overall health.

Recent studies, such as those by The Child Mind Institute and The National Center for Health Research, have indicated a correlation between frequent social media usage and declining mental health. But it’s crucial to understand the underlying reasons.

  • The Allure of Unpredictability: Social media platforms can create a rush similar to gambling. The unpredictability of the content viewed produces dopamine, providing a rewarding sensation.
  • Emphasis on Virtual Validation: The need for external validation through likes and comments can undermine self-worth. A lack of anticipated interaction on shared content or seeing others achieve more interactions can foster feelings of disappointment or even depression.

Strategies to Navigate Social Media Healthily

Research from the University of Pennsylvania underscores the correlation between decreased social media usage and a reduction in feelings of loneliness and depression. While completely distancing from social media might seem like an extreme step given its numerous advantages, it’s paramount to remain self-aware and vigilant of the potential red flags:

  • An uptick in feelings of anxiety, loneliness, or depression.
  • Prioritizing social media interactions over genuine face-to-face time with loved ones.
  • The constant urge to measure oneself against others, leading to frequent bouts of envy.
  • Experiencing online harassment or cyberbullying.
  • Succumbing to the pressure of posting audacious content for validation through likes and comments.
  • Observing a decline in academic performance or strain in personal relationships due to excessive online presence.
  • Neglecting essential self-care routines, such as regular exercise, adequate sleep, and mindfulness practices.

If any of these signs resonate with you, consider recalibrating your social media habits. Practical measures include establishing specific screen-time boundaries, implementing app usage limits, or setting dedicated slots in the day for social media. Some individuals also benefit from sporadic digital “detox” sessions, allowing them to rejuvenate mentally and emotionally.

Furthermore, consider these alternative activities to redirect your energy:

  • Organize a cozy get-together with close ones.
  • Dedicate time for physical activities or outdoor workouts.
  • Engage in community service or find volunteering opportunities.
  • Relish in genuine, face-to-face conversations with a trusted friend.

If you or someone you’re acquainted with struggles to maintain a healthy relationship with social media and exhibits consistent signs of anxiety or depression, professional help is available. Iris Wellness Group provides comprehensive mental health treatments at our residential mental health treatment center in Atlanta, GA to guide individuals towards a balanced and mentally resilient life.

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