How Social Media Affects Mental Health – 9 Alarming Facts

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We, humans, are sociable creatures by nature. We need the company of people to succeed in life, and the strength of our ties has a substantial impact on our mental health, lives, and happiness.

When you are socially connected to people, you can cope with anxiety, worry, stress, and depression. It not only boosts your self-esteem but also makes you feel comfortable and joyous, keeps you away from loneliness, and even extends your life. A lack of good social ties, on the other hand, can jeopardize your emotional and mental wellness.

Many of us use and rely on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat to communicate with each other in today’s society. While each has its own set of benefits, it’s important to remember that social media can never substitute for or replace genuine and actual human interaction.

It would help if you interacted with others in-person to trigger the release of hormones or chemicals that relieve stress and make you feel happier, healthier, and more hopeful.

Spending a long time on social media, even though it is designed to bring people closer together, might make you feel more lonely and isolated—and exacerbate mental health issues.

How Social Media Affects Mental Health?

Do you ever wonder how social media affects mental health? If not, here is an eye-opener.

Suppose you’re spending too much time on social media and are experiencing feelings of unhappiness, frustration, lack of satisfaction, loneliness, or any other negative emotions then in that case, it’s time to re-evaluate your online habits and establish a better balance.

A coin always has two sides. Similarly, social media usage has got both benefits and detriments. This article shall discuss how social media affects mental health, either positively or negatively.

Studies that Suggest Why and How Social Media Affects Mental Health?

Many people feel anxious that they are spending too much time on social media. Teenagers may spend up to 9 hours per day online, according to a 2015 Common Sense survey. This outpouring of concern implies that social media may impact users’ mental health.

This was validated by the authors of a 2017 study. They discovered that students who use social media for more than 2 hours per day are far more likely to assess their mental health as fair or foul than infrequent social media users.

According to a study published in 2019, evidence suggests that social media is linked to sleep disruption and delay. According to research, sleep deprivation has been linked to adverse mental health effects such as depression and memory loss.

In a 2020 survey of more than 6,000 people, the researchers discovered that nearly 50% of people had been bullied. These people were between 10-18 years of age.

How social media affects mental health
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Social Media – A Blessing or A Curse?

A) The Positive Aspects of Using Social Media Platforms or How Social Media Affects Mental Health, Positively

Even when the advantages of social media use are limited or outweighed by the downsides, they are nonetheless important. Following are some of the benefits:

  1. You can use social media to find an avenue for your creative and emotional expression.
  2. It assists you in learning and gives a wealth of helpful information.
  3. It allows you to communicate with friends and family members worldwide.
  4. It aids in forming new friendships and the discovery of others with similar interests to you.
  5. It allows you to extend your outlook on life.
  6. Development of social skills.
  7. It provides opportunities for social connection.
  8. It helps people stay up to date with the activities of your social circles.
B) How Social Media Affects Mental Health Negatively
1) It Is Addictive!

Health experts say that sitting is the new smoking. When we have some spare time, we mindlessly scroll through the social media feeds. Habitually, we then tend to take out time and scroll through it. It is like keeping oneself updated with what people are doing, how the elders in the house keep up with what’s going on in the world as they read the newspapers.

You don’t know what you might see unless you open these apps. The spontaneous results to your wonder bring you a feeling of satiety by releasing dopamine. This is the chemical released in your body when you carry out other satisfying activities like eating your favorite food, winning on a slot machine, or having sex.

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Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

2) Inadequacy About The Way You Look and The Life You Live

Everyone on social media will share photographs of their latest luxury staycation, a lovely tropical beach vacation, or anything related to their success. Is there, however, anyone who discloses their failures or low points on these platforms? Only a handful of people may be doing so.

We feel insecure about how we appear and the life we live when we see such photographs on social media. Although these photographs have been manipulated and people tend to portray only the best aspects of their lives, sentiments of jealousy and dissatisfaction persist.

Even if you realize that posts are edited and carefully picked, continuously watching other people’s picture-perfect highlight reels might make you feel like they are having more fun than you are. You cannot possibly live up to their lives.

Yes, we feel that other people’s lives are more accessible and happier, and this comparison is mentally unhealthy, causing damage to mental well-being.

3) Isolation

Although social media platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and others are said to make you feel less lonely because they allow you to connect and meet new people, the Pennsylvania study suggests that using popular social media platforms increases feelings of loneliness rather than decreasing it.

It is believed that social media triggers more sadness and less well-being.

And why shouldn’t it? When you try to replace real-life with social media and believe that people on those platforms are better and more attractive than those in real life, you will become estranged from friends and family who genuinely love and care for you, as opposed to those on social media who are only with you for a selfish purpose, whatever that purpose may be.

Because you don’t want to be around genuine people in your life, the end consequence is isolation and loneliness, and you end up discovering that the people you meet on social media are creeps.

According to the University of Pennsylvania study, self-monitoring and limiting time spent on these social media platforms can help people feel less lonely.

4) The Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)

When you see people living their best lives, you begin to feel as if you are losing out on some aspects of life.

You may also want to keep up with what other young adults of your age, as well as friends and family members, are up to in their lives. This frequent browsing and checking, on the other hand, can have serious negative consequences in both your personal and professional lives.

You tend to procrastinate your work, be stressed, have poor information retention, feel excluded, lonely, or suffer from other anxiety disorders.

5) An Increased Focus On Interactions

You are all set to post a new picture or reel and expect all the praises and likes and positive comments and, most notably, several numbers of DM’s. You will keep checking your phone to not miss out on any of the likes and comments.

But to your surprise, you didn’t happen to receive the response and feedback you expected. Will you not feel disappointed? Oh, you, of course, will!

Such turn-off can have a significant negative impact on your life. It leads to comparison. When you look at the attractive profiles of people, you feel that you are not good enough and have low self-esteem.

There are many “fitspiration” accounts on social media where they tell you about dieting, skincare, haircare, exercises to maintain a zero-figure, and related stuff.

Also, these days everyone tends to photoshop their images, remove their blemishes, have perfect backgrounds, making them look next to excellent! And such unhealthy comparison is when a negative body image of self comes into the picture.

All you do is think about it, and in return, you are at an increased risk of experiencing depressive symptoms and delayed sleep or sleep problems due to overthinking. You also land up in self-doubt and self-hatred.

6) Cyberbullying

According to studies, roughly 10% of social media are victims of cyberbullying and offensive, insulting comments. People are not only bullied, but they are also abused, mocked, and have rumors published about them. This can leave long-lasting emotional scars.

According to a Pew Research Center survey, one out of every six teens has been the victim of online abuse such as spreading rumors, receiving unsolicited pornographic photographs, being tracked, and so on, leading to mental illness, which is a concern for adolescent health.

7) Self-Absorption

Social media users upload an endless stream of photos, selfies, reels, and other content, which, when complimented, can lead to pathological unhealthy self-centeredness. You strive to connect only with people who admire you, which isolates you from close friends and family and prevents you from conversing and having a face to face time with them and hence, spoiling in-person relationships.

Also, this leads to spending time more than usual on different platforms where you keep interacting with people for hours together due to increased self-expression.

8) Mental Health Problems

Technology and social media are designed to bring people together. But ironically, spending too much time on these apps will lead to several mental health problems.

Researches suggest that young adults or teenagers using social media for more than 3 hours a day are more likely to suffer from mood disorders like anxiety and depression, lower life satisfaction, aggressive and anti-social behaviors.

Excessive social media use might lead to a self-fulfilling cycle: When you’re lonely or anxious, you’re more likely to use social media to pass the time or connect with others. The process goes on and on, and hence, that’s strictly how social media affects mental health.

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Photo by Adrian Swancar on Unsplash

9) Oh, Sleepless Nights and Sleepy Days!

Is it the last thing you do at night and the first thing you do when you wake up to check social media? Of course, we all do it because we have free time and leisure. However, this can cause sleep disruption and lower the quality of your sleep.

It creates a vicious cycle. The light from phone screens, as well as the memory of the last thing you browsed through, can make it difficult to sleep. Sleep deprivation might make you feel tired and lethargic during the day. As a result, work quality and performance suffer, and that’s how social media affects mental health.

According to Pew Research Center, 72% of people use social media in the United States.

Teenagers and young adults, but children younger than 13 years of age also have easy access to the digital world and social platforms.

According to the National Center for Health Research, age is self-reported when creating social media profiles. As a result of peer pressure, many underage children lie about their ages so that they can sign up.

Many parents do not know about popular social media and how they work. On the other hand, many parents and guardians have busy schedules leaving the children unsupervised, which is how social media affects mental health.

How To Keep Away From Social Media?

To how social media affects mental health, here is the solution:

  • Distract yourself from distractions
  • Parents should monitor their children
  • Limit your media screen time
  • Keep your phone away from your bed
  • Try to remove social media apps from your phone
  • Control your urge to browse through social media
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Engage yourself in other healthy activities

An intense feeling of jealousy, competition, or bullying can severely affect young people’s mental health and encourage teens to commit suicide attempts, and that’s how social media affects mental health so severely.

Hence, Suicide prevention is essential.

If you know someone who is at risk of self-harm, suicide, or harming another person, take the following steps:

  • “Are you thinking about suicide?” asks the problematic question very politely.
  • Listen to the other person without passing any judgment and seek emotional support.
  • Dial 911 or the local emergency number to contact a certified crisis counselor.
  • Keep an eye on the person until expert assistance arrives.
  • Remove any weapons, pharmaceuticals, or other potentially dangerous items from the area.

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Photo by Christopher Ott on Unsplash

A Word For Today’s Generation

There’s no denying that social media platforms will continue to expand in popularity. The digital world is at our fingertips doesn’t mean we use them blindfolded. The fact remains that more friends on social media doesn’t mean that you are more social. Also, anything in excess is harmful. You for sure might now have realized how social media affects mental health.

The use of social media, in particular, has grown prevalent in the lives of young people, and it has stayed with them into adulthood, necessitating nursing practice to meet the developing requirements of people whose mental health and welfare may be harmed.

This does not mean that there are no benefits of social media, and we should stop using it. But when the use of social platforms leads to consequences, as mentioned above, it seems to be a bad idea.

Breaking up with social media has improved self-esteem and lessens mental illness in studies. If you dare to do so, go ahead and attempt it. If not, you may limit your social media usage and use it in moderation. Is self-improvement too much to ask for?

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Content is medically reviewed periodically by professionals for accuracy and relevance. Reviewers include doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and even medical students. 


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