Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives. We use it to connect with friends and family, share our thoughts and experiences, and keep up with current events. While there are certainly many benefits to social media, there are also potential negative impacts on our mental health.
Positives of Social Media on Mental Health
Connection with others: One of the most significant benefits of social media is its ability to connect us with others. It allows us to stay in touch with friends and family who may live far away and to make new connections with people who share similar interests. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals who may struggle with social anxiety or have difficulty making in-person connections.
Access to information and resources: Social media can be a valuable source of information and resources for individuals seeking mental health support. Many organizations and individuals use social media to share resources, such as self-care tips, coping strategies, and mental health awareness campaigns. This can help to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and provide individuals with the tools they need to manage their mental health.
Supportive communities: Social media can also provide individuals with access to supportive communities. There are many online groups and forums where individuals can connect with others who share similar experiences or struggles. These communities can provide a sense of belonging, validation, and support, which can be particularly helpful for individuals who may feel isolated or alone in their struggles.
Negatives of Social Media on Mental Health
Social comparison: One of the most significant potential negative impacts of social media on mental health is the tendency to engage in social comparison. Social media platforms are full of carefully curated images and updates that can make individuals feel like they are not measuring up. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and depression.
Cyberbullying: Another potential negative impact of social media on mental health is cyberbullying. Social media platforms can provide a breeding ground for bullying, harassment, etc. This can have significant negative impacts on individuals' mental health, leading to increased anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.
Reduced face-to-face communication: While social media can provide individuals with a sense of connection, it can also reduce face-to-face communication. This can have negative impacts on mental health, particularly for individuals who may struggle with social anxiety or have difficulty making in-person connections. Additionally, research has shown that face-to-face communication is more effective in reducing stress and promoting positive mental health than online communication.
Going deeper: More about social comparisons and what happens when we compare ourselves to others
When we compare ourselves to others on social media, we are often exposed to an idealized version of their lives. People tend to present their best selves on social media, sharing only the highlights of their lives and carefully curating their content to present a picture-perfect image. This can create unrealistic expectations for ourselves and lead to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and depression.
Comparing ourselves to others on social media can also lead to a phenomenon known as "social comparison." Social comparison is the act of evaluating ourselves in comparison to others. When we constantly compare ourselves to others on social media, we may start to judge ourselves based on what we see, rather than our own values, goals, and accomplishments.
Another issue with social media is that it can create a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out). When we see others posting pictures of their experiences, we may feel like we are missing out on something, and this can lead to feelings of sadness, loneliness, and even envy.
So, what can we do to protect our mental health on social media?
Here are a few tips:
Limit Your Time on Social Media
Spending too much time on social media can lead to increased feelings of anxiety and depression. Try to limit your time on social media and be mindful of how much time you spend scrolling through your feeds.
Be aware of your own emotional reactions when you use social media. If you notice that you are feeling sad, anxious, or envious after using social media, take a break and engage in self-care activities.
Focus on Your Own Accomplishments
Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your own goals and accomplishments. Remember that everyone has their own journey, and there is no need to compare yourself to others.
Unfollow or Mute Accounts That Make You Feel Bad
If there are accounts on social media that make you feel bad about yourself or trigger negative emotions, unfollow or mute them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
Social media can be a powerful tool for connecting with others and sharing our experiences. However, it's essential to be mindful of how social media affects our mental health and take steps to protect ourselves from the negative effects of comparing ourselves to others. By limiting our time on social media, focusing on our own goals and accomplishments, and being aware of our own emotional reactions, we can use social media in a healthy and positive way.
Megan Philbin, LSW