It’s not unusual to have a love-hate relationship with social media. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as putting your feet up after a long day and catching up with your virtual world. In the same breath, there’s little as distressing on your mental health as having your self-worth undermined or anxiety skyrocket because of the content that you come across.
Recent studies have indicated that teenagers and young adults who spend a substantial amount of time on social media have shown up to a 66% higher rate of reported depression.
Before we lock all of the phones away and shun the potentially useful platforms, it’s important to know the facts. As well as become familiar with how to protect yourself (and your loved ones) from the negative effects on mental health.
You may find that you’ve passed the point of preventing a negative impact, in which case a professional and supportive organization can help with mental health counseling.
The Pros and Cons of Social Media
There are definite benefits of using social media. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest can enable communication skills and social connections, as well as be a source of inspiration and motivation.
Social media is also particularly useful as a business tool with regards to marketing a brand. Especially during a time when social distancing and various restrictions have limited other forms of connections.
Another huge benefit of social media is the ability to raise awareness about important issues and share news about trending matters.
But how much is too much?
The addictive action of constant scrolling can be detrimental to the human psyche in several ways. With a constant barrage of information, both visual and descriptive, it’s easy to get caught up in comparisons. This has shown to have a negative impact on self-esteem, sometimes leading to suicidal thoughts and self-harm.
Social media can also have a negative impact in other ways. With a large amount of information available at your fingertips, you may find that your attention span has decreased, as well as your ability to sleep peacefully through the night.
The obsession with the virtual world can also result in disconnection in the real world. This puts a strain on relationships and can trigger feelings of anxiety and loneliness.
Are You Or A Loved One Being Impacted By Social Media?
There are a few indicators that may give you a clue about the handle that social media has on your life, all of which can add to the development of depression.
Perceived Social Isolation
Studies have shown that there’s a correlation between the amount of time spent on social media and perceived social isolation (PSI). When users spend more time engaging in the virtual world, they can forget how to engage in real-world encounters.
With a constant influx of picture-perfect people living in an ideal world, it’s very easy to play the comparison game. But many don’t realize that these images are curated and the bar for success is set unrealistically high.
Less Physical Activity
When social media becomes an addiction, it can take time away from doing other physical activities. In turn, this removes the release of endorphins that are brought about from healthy activity. The dopamine burst comes from a notification, and this addiction is neither reliable nor healthy.
Social media platforms are not only addictive, but they are also distracting. The constant need to engage, get likes, and consume information can distract from more important activities such as learning.
Research has shown that up to 60% of teenagers and young adults use their screens right before bed. This can have a negative impact on the ability to sleep – because of the blue light and influx of information. Sleep deprivation is one of the biggest contributions to depression.
How To Protect Your Mental Health
A struggle with social media becomes a problem slowly and often without notice. Being aware of the time that you spend on social media, as well as the effects that it has on you mentally is the first step to protecting your mental health.
But perhaps you’ve passed the point of being in control? There are a few steps that you can take to help distance you from the negative impact of social media.
1. Spend Less Time Online
This is easier said than done when picking up your phone is second nature. There are several applications to help you monitor how much time you spend on social media, thereby introducing accountability.
You can also choose to switch off your phone at certain times of the day, don’t bring your phone to the dinner table or to bed, and disable social media notifications.
2. Use Social Media Intentionally
The next time that you pick up your phone and open Instagram, ask yourself why. If the answer is boredom or habit, then you may want to change your focus.
Social media does have several positive attributes, but these benefits are drowned in the negative when using social media becomes mindless. This is especially true if you feel inadequate after leaving the platform.
3. Connect More With Friends Offline
Social media is a fantastic tool to make friends, but the value of an offline relationship is irreplaceable. Setting aside time to spend with family and friends offline, and away from your phones, can do wonders for mental health.
During COVID-19 and social distancing, this may be a little bit difficult. In this case, a video call with a loved one can be more productive than mindless scrolling.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Using social media can disengage users from the present moment, and the mental perks of being present. Small, conscious changes can break the binds that social media hold.
Practicing mindfulness, taking time for reflection, and expressing gratitude are all habits that can add value and meaning to your life.
5. Encourage Communication
If you have a loved one who is showing signs of depression or addiction to social media, you can encourage conversation and honesty. Monitor the amount of time spent on social media and introduce the routine of “social media” breaks.
Facilitate discussions on the underlying issues of social media and have honest conversations about how social media can warp the idea of what is real.
Gone Too Far?
On its own, social media is not a dangerous tool. In fact, it offers many benefits. However, there are risks that come with using social media too much. Research shows that social media has a link to mental health, fueling feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation.
At Fifth Street Counseling Center, we understand the science behind this dependency, and we are compassionate in our approach to mental health counseling. During a time of social distancing, we’re offering online counseling sessions. Alternatively, you can call us at (954) 797-5222 to find out more.
We accept Medicaid and all major insurance and we offer affordable self-pay rates.