Social Media & Mental Health
By: Jordana Moore M.S. LMFT
Social media has become a significant part of our lives since the 90s, when it was first created. From Myspace to Tik Tok, our ability to connect with others via social media has transformed over the years and, consequently, has changed our lives. Research shows that 7 out of 10 people use social media. Still, arguably we all interact with it to some capacity as it shows up in the news, during sports broadcasts, in commercials, and many other ways beyond our control.
From an objective standpoint, the benefits and harms of social media are evident. Positively, it has been integral in building and maintaining connections with others, inspiring creative ideas, spreading local and world news quickly, and brightening up our days with funny content. However, it has been the cause of much drama through applying triggering material and hateful messages, serving as an unhealthy distraction, polarizing our political climate, and negatively impacting our mental health in different ways. These benefits and harms have inspired researchers to take a deeper look into the impact of social media on our lives, and their findings have raised many alarms. Namely, the research has shown that more time spent on social media is associated with increased symptoms of depression and skewed perceptions of our well-being.
Furthermore, dependence on social media can negatively impact sleep, social well-being, and our mental health. Due to the ability to curate our profiles around perfection, people often fall prey to negative self-comparison, leading to body image issues, eating disorders, and depression. Notifications and likes mimic slot machine reinforcements that lead to addictive tendencies in our social media use. It has been shown that fake news spreads faster than accurate news due to “clickbait” posts that incite emotion and increase our viewing of the material. Fortunately, the research has found that routine use positively impacts our social well-being and mental health, mainly when used to strengthen or maintain our relationships. Overall, the younger one is, the more vulnerable they are to all of these outcomes.
So with all this information, you may be questioning whether you should rip off the bandaid and delete your social media altogether, and that is not a bad idea. But as stated above, social media is a massive part of our lives, and it isn’t all bad. Therefore, creating balance and healthy habits in our use may be more sustainable than deleting it together.
Here are some tools you can put into practice to create more balance and better habits when using social media:
- Be intentional in connecting with loved ones,
- Follow uplifting accounts that align with your passions and values,
- Mute or unfollow what triggers you,
- Reduce your screen time,
- Turn off your notifications,
- Take breaks from social media,
- Refrain from binge scrolling, and
- Check the source before reposting something.
Through this knowledge and the implementation of these tools, I hope that you can have a healthier relationship with social media that fosters your connection with others and protects you from the harmful effects it can have on your mental health.