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Social Media and Mental Health

Social media is a great way for people to stay connected with one another while being miles apart. It allows you to share details about your life, get news, and make new friends. It can help combat feelings of loneliness if you are living in an isolated area or if you are struggling with social anxiety. It can give you the opportunity to meet new people who share similar interests as you and it can be a great outlet for self-expression. It can also give you access to new communities that can offer your emotional support during tough times. However, social media also has its downside. Social media usage has been linked to an increase in negative feelings such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Below is a list of some of the ways that social media can negatively impact your mental health.

  • It can be addictive. Similar to gambling or nicotine, social media can create psychological cravings. Opening up one of your apps can give you a release of dopamine and make you feel rewarded because you received a few likes or comments. The more rewarded you feel, the more likely you are to spend time on the app, even if it becomes dangerous to your health or puts you at risk. Spending too much time on social media can cause you to neglect other areas of your life which can ultimately raise your stress levels. 

  • Social media can lower self-esteem. Even when we know that most photos have been edited and filtered and that people only post about the highlights of their life, it is easy to compare our posts to others and scrolling through the can leave us feeling insecure. A study found that Facebook use is correlated to the user’s impression that other users are happier, and that life is unfair. In addition, we often post with expectations of getting likes or comments and if the results don't match our expectations it can leave us feeling disappointed.

  • Spending too much time on social media can prevent you from going out and interacting with people in the real world. While social media can allow you the opportunity to connect with others, it cannot replace in person interactions with real people. Face-to-face contact with others triggers a hormone that alleviates stress and makes you feel happier and healthier. However, many people use social media as a way to get out of social situations that make us feel awkward or lonely. Unfortunately, interacting with social media in this way only prevents you from getting the social interaction that you need in order to ease anxiety and it can result with you feeling even more lonely.  

  • Social media often leaves us with a sense that we are missing out because we are not having the same experiences as others. The idea that you are missing out can enhance your anxiety and add to the social media addiction causing you to habitually check your social media. FOMO can convince you that every ding, alert, or message requires an immediate response.

FOMO can leave you thinking that you will be left out of an important conversation if you do not reply to the DM or that your relationship with someone will suffer if you do not immediately like their post. These fears can cause us to engage in risky behaviors like checking social media while driving.


Everyone is different so there is no correct or incorrect amount of time that you should be spending on social media. Instead of focusing on how much time you are spending on social media, consider how it is making you feel and how it is impacting other aspects of your life. Chronic social media usage can have a devastating impact on your mental health. If you start to notice any of these warning signs, it may be time for you to cut back on your social media usage. 

  • Increased feelings of anxiety, depression, or loneliness. 

  • Spending more time on social media than with friends and family.

  • Feeling envious or constantly comparing yourself to others.

  • Cyberbullying.  

  • Engaging in risky behaviors in order to obtain likes, comments, or shares. 

  • Being distracted by social media at school, work, or driving.

  • No longer prioritizing self-care or taking time to self-reflect.

If you begin to notice any of these warning signs, do what you can to limit your social media use. This could look like setting screen time limits for yourself, putting time restrictions on certain apps, or designating time each day to use social media. By cutting back on your social media use, you may notice that other areas of your life will improve. 

For parents and guardians:

The childhood and teenage years can be full of changes, social pressures, and low self-esteem. Unfortunately, social media can often enhance the anxiety, depression, bullying, and self-esteem issues that they may already be experiencing. It can be tempting to just take your child’s devices away, but these can lead to other problems like social isolation. Below are some recommendations to help your child use social media in a healthy way. 

  • Monitor and limit your child's social media use. While it's okay for them to use it on occasion, it's important that you are aware of what they are doing online and that they are using the apps within reason. Parental control apps can help limit your child's social media usage or you can limit their phone usage to certain times of the day. For example, you could ban phones from the dinner table, have them turn their phones off one hour before bed, or provide them with a time frame where they can use these apps each day.

  • Talk to your kids about any underlying problems they may be having. Often time, children turn to social media as a way to mask or distract themselves from other issues. Is your child struggling to make friends? Do they experience social anxiety? Do they always feel bored? Talk to them and find out what motivates them to use the apps. 

  • Remind your children that social media does not reflect real life. They shouldn't compare themselves to things they see online because most photos have been filtered and/or edited and people only post what they want others to see. The number of friends that they have online does not determine their self-worth and it does not reflect how many friends they have in real life. 

  • Encourage interests that are offline. The more hobbies your child has offline, the less their mood and sense of self will rely on the notifications they receive from social media.

Written by,

Tierney Puig, Intern



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