Social media: The Impact on our Mental Health
More people than ever are using social media, the number of users continues to grow each year and is forecast to reach nearly 51 million by 2025.
YouTube and Facebook have had a significantly larger reach than any other social media platform with a 62% and 59% respondent share in 2019 (Statista 2021).
This article from Statista 2021 goes on to say, that in 2019 the average adult in the UK spent 102 minutes daily on social media, with the majority of 25–54-year old’s admitting to browsing social media whilst watching television.
With so many of us absorbed by social media, we need to take some time to reflect on the impact of social media on mental health. We know that excessive social media usage can fuel anxiety, depression, and isolation to name a few.
Seeing content online which makes you feel angry, sad, worried, jealous, stressed, overwhelmed, or annoyed, can build up and start to have a significant negative impact on your life.
For these reasons, there is clearly a strong connection between social media and mental health. We’re here to offer as much help as we can to turn the negatives of social media into positives.
Are there any positives to social media?
Of course, social media has its benefits. It’s a fantastic tool to connect with others online and gain the companionship which we as humans naturally seek.
As we socialise more and form these connections, our stress can ease, our anxiety and depression can improve, our self-esteem can be boosted, and loneliness can be prevented.
Social media opens up many doors for us to stay communicated with loved ones who don’t live nearby. We can raise awareness and promote worthwhile causes which are important to us, we can offer essential emotional support when needed, we can discover valuable information and learning when we look in the right places.
We can find another outlet for our self-expression and creativity, and we can find new friends and network with others who share similar interests or passions of ours.
The negatives of social media
However, there are always two sides to the story and despite the positives associated with social media, there are just as many, if not more negatives of social media.
We’re still learning about the long-term consequences, positive or negative, of social media usage. It’s still a relatively new concept so many more studies and research need to be conducted. From the early studies that have already been made, we’re able to see clear signs that social media is impacting mental health in a harmful way.
The social media impact on mental health is linked to increased anxiety, depression, self-harm, loneliness, and even suicide.
We must remember that online connections can’t be replaced for real-life human connections. In order to trigger our hormones that relieve stress and make us feel happier and healthier, we must experience that in-person contact.
There isn’t any better way to boost your mood or reduce your stress than eye-to-eye contact with someone who cares about you. Therefore, spending too much time online can actually make you feel more lonely or isolated and more at risk of developing anxiety and depression, making any mental health problems much worse.
Whereas, reducing your social media usage has proven to make you feel less lonely and isolated, thus improving your overall well-being.
By sharing your innermost thoughts and endless selfies on social media, you’re actually creating an unhealthy obsession with yourself, resulting in you being detached from the real-world.
A huge impact of social media on teenage mental health is around inadequacy or comparing your life or appearance to someone else’s.
This particularly impacts young people as they’re more easily influenced and may not realise how many of the images online are manipulated; they’re not a true reflection of someone’s real life.
This causes many people to feel insecure about the life they live and about how they look, resulting in a negative impact on mental health.
We’ve seen a huge rise in cyberbullying which also has a dramatic impact of social media on teenage mental health. Social media platforms tend to be breeding grounds for online abuse, lies, and rumours.
Many cyberbullies feel like they’re protected behind their keyboard and forget about the awful impact which their words could have on someone’s life.
What are the signs that social media is impacting mental health?
One of the most common signs is the amount of time you’re spending on social media whether that’s posting or just checking for updates.
Whilst this is different for everyone, you must look out for the impact which social media is having on your mood and on other aspects of your life. Ask yourself, why are you using social media?
If you’re spending more time socialising online than in-person, this could be an indicator of the impact of social media on mental health.
Social media should never be a substitute for your offline interactions, if you feel as though you constantly need to check online even when you’re physically out with friends, this could be another warning sign that social media is affecting your mental health.
Do you feel distracted at work or school because of the pressure to post frequent content or to get a certain number of likes on your post?
You shouldn’t feel as though you have to keep this facade up if it’s making you feel anxious or causing you to compare yourself unfavourably with others on social media.
Make positive changes to your social media habits
Social media and mental health can have a positive relationship. Try to clean your feed by unfollowing accounts that take up your time or make you feel down, limit your time on social media particularly before you go to sleep.
Find a group of people who share your interests and get involved in a positive community online. These are small steps but can make a huge difference in improving the impact of social media on mental health.