Recently, I’ve noticed more of a discussion around the negative impacts that social media has on our mental health. Sometimes I don’t even think we realize how much time we spend online, literally consuming mass media for hours every day. When you think about it that way, it’s almost impossible that there wouldn’t be anything that could possibly overwhelm someone, make them anxious or worsen their moods in general. We’ve been really lucky to have so much readily available to us at any moment, but I wonder if we’ve all sort of overlooked what issues have arisen because of everything we consume. So why are we so obsessed with social media if we are mostly aware of the negative impacts it has on us? Furthermore, is it really so bad for us, or is it more about how we use social media as individuals?
I think, for starters, there is a pressure to be involved on social media, but more specifically, whenever we do something cool or fun or change something about yourself, there’s that pressure to share it with the people we know and even the people we don’t. I also personally believe there is a huge fear of missing out for people, even I experience this sometimes, although I think the modern-day FOMO is about who’s doing the most and succeeding, which is also always shared on someone’s social media. Many of the negative ideas and outcomes of social media can also be blamed on the unspoken rule that you basically only share the best pictures, the most exciting news and especially brag when you go on vacation. We rarely see what people really go through and assume that everyone else’s lives are more put together and better than ours. I really think this aspect has a big impact on people.
Our addiction to social media can be explained the same as many other addiction, but the craziest part is the way it’s ignored, or even celebrated despite the negative connotations. Basically, social media gives us dopamine, it’s a sort of pleasure and it makes our brains happy, but only for a little while. It’s important to know this isn’t permanent, but a lot of studies explain that by overusing social media, people can experience the following:
- Low self-esteem
- Poor sleeping patterns (sleeping too much or too little)
- Feelings of anxiety or depression
Overusing social media also negatively affects areas of your life like your relationships, work, or school. It’s also common for people to use social media as a coping mechanism after a bad day or just whenever they might be dealing with any problems. Throughout the pandemic closures, I even noticed myself becoming more reliant on social media, and that trickled into the present.
I read about an interesting study that was done back in 2011, by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which spoke about “Facebook Depression” and how this would develop in youth who spend too much time on social media. This study though has had mixed reviews, and many even have shown that it’s the quality of what someone consumes that contributes to negative mental health, not the quantity. This leads to the question of how someone uses social media. I guess this makes sense if you think of it in the way that if you spend all your time on Instagram scrolling through pictures picking apart your own appearance based on what you see, that will no doubt bring up negative feelings. There are specific ways that I believe social media functions, and many of those include the way that it feeds our desire to constantly compare ourselves to others, as well as judging others and ourselves. There are times where using social media can be beneficial for us if we use it in the right way, mainly making it a point not to over-use.
Even more, interestingly, the correlation between poor mental health and social media might just be the result of social panic, as things like video games and rock music have been thought of in the past. So, is it social media itself that negatively impacts our mental health? Or is it the result of the way we personally use social media? I really believe it’s a mix of both, and if studies can’t fully tell yet, maybe the best option is to keep these platforms at a distance, and try to use them limitedly and with a positive mindset.