Social media is a great way to keep in touch and stay up to date. But what happens when scrolling through Facebook or Instagram is no longer making you feel connected, but causing stress and loneliness instead?
Research suggests a link between the heavy use of social media and an increased risk of depression and anxiety. It also shows that people experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety can often use social media as an escape – and so the cycle continues.
In this article, we explore the potential harms of social media, and how you can modify your use to aid your mental health.
Negative Impacts of Social Media
We know social media offers plenty of positives. From communicating with friends and family all over the world, to networking with like-minded communities who share your interests, we have a lot to thank Facebook and co. for (not to mention all the funny memes).
But along with the benefits come the potential disadvantages. These are some of the most common negative aspects of social media.
With all your friends at your fingertips, it can be easy to substitute face-to-face interactions for likes and comments. Heavy users of social media may spend more time on their phone than with their real-life connections, leading to social withdrawal and alienation.
Does social media leave you wishing your life was different? You’re not the only one. Comparison is particularly common on image-based social media platforms like Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram. Young people especially might compare themselves to influencers and celebrities, wishing they had the same looks, money, trips, and followers – even if they know they’re just seeing the highlight reel.
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
No one likes to be left out. While FOMO has been around long before social media, seeing updates and pictures of other people having fun without you can further fuel these negative feelings.
Studies have found that heavy social media use is linked to poor sleep. Scrolling through your socials can seriously mess with your body clock and reduce time spent sleeping, which can have negative impacts on your mental health.
Managing Your Social Media Use
If spending time on social media makes you feel stressed, anxious, jealous, or insecure, it might be time to change the way you use it.
Limit Your Use
There’s an app for that. In fact, there are several apps that track how much time you spend on social media and alert you when it’s time to take a break. There are even apps that can temporarily block social media apps so you can focus on more important things. This can help you avoid mindless scrolling every few minutes out of boredom. You could even try disabling notifications or turning your phone off completely before bedtime.
Reconsider Who You Follow
Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad about yourself, and follow the ones that make you feel positive and empowered. You have the control to curate a social media feed that makes you feel better after scrolling, not worse.
Swap Messenger for Phone Calls
Next time you open your Messenger app to reach out to a friend, try picking up the phone instead. Nothing beats hearing your loved one’s voice and laughter over the phone.
Save Some Updates
If you post everything newsworthy in your life, you won’t have anything to talk about with friends and family in person. Save some of your news for face-to-face conversations, and if you have an exciting update, make a habit of announcing it in person before posting it online.
Need someone to talk to? Our counsellors are professionally trained to discuss a range of issues including anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. Learn more about our counselling services and how to make an appointment here.