Social media has become an integral part of our lives in the current digital era. It has completely redefined how we share our lives and communicate with people. Platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter have made things so much easier when staying connected with our friends.
We share our thoughts, experiences, and snippets of our lives with people online through these platforms in various formats. Some people have even built careers out of social media, and the advantages keep growing.
While social media offers numerous benefits, it also comes with a hidden cost – the potential for negative impacts on our mental health and self-esteem. The allure of social media lies in its ability to provide instant validation and connection. Every like, comment, or share triggers a release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter in our brains.
Instant gratification keeps us hooked to our screens, waiting for our likes and shares to grow. However, this constant need for validation and the quest for more likes and follows can negatively affect our self-esteem and mental health.
It leads to low self-esteem and the confusion of self-worth. The effects of social media are more complicated than you can imagine. So, to make things easier and quick to understand, we have curated this article.
How Does Social Media Affect Mental Health?
Does social media affect mental health negatively? The simple and easy answer to this question is, “Yes, it does.”
The effects of social media vary from person to person. While it may affect some people negatively, it can also harm many. It depends on how the person uses social media and what they use it for.
According to research, socializing helps lower anxiety levels, reduces stress, and allows people to navigate challenges more efficiently. Humans are social animals. It is challenging, in fact nearly impossible, to live alone without any human connection.
Ever since the pandemic, more people have digitized their lives in this digital world. They use platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram to socialize with like-minded people and find friends.
Nevertheless, although this can frequently be a pleasant and beneficial encounter, virtual connections within any social media platform face challenges when attempting to supplant face-to-face interactions.
Paradoxically, despite its very nomenclature, excessive social media use can contribute to feelings of isolation and solitude. Recent research has also revealed that it can amplify preexisting mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Young adults are particularly vulnerable to these adverse consequences. A study conducted in 2019 determined that individuals in the young adult demographic who engage with social media for over three hours are at an elevated risk of encountering mental health difficulties.
If you’re a young adult who spends most of your time on social media and is experiencing loneliness, elevated anxiety, frustration, sadness, and severe behavioral changes, then now might be an opportune moment to reconsider your connection with social media.
Use all the information that we are sharing here to create a positive impact on your life
Perks of Social Media
Before we talk about the harmful effects of social media, it is worth mentioning that social media isn’t all bad. As we mentioned earlier, social media has been a very positive influence on some people. It doesn’t have to affect you adversely, only if you are responsible enough with how you use social media.
Digital connectivity doesn’t have the same impact as face-to-face interactions. However, it keeps you well-connected with your family, friends, and loved ones.
Here are a few positive effects of social media,
- Keeps you connected with your family and friends, even with people far away from you.
- Raises awareness about worldwide issues.
- Connecting with people who have similar interests as yours.
- Allows you to share your opinions and thoughts.
- Offers a platform to share your creative efforts
- Find emotional support during challenging times
- Meet and become friends with new people
- Gives valuable insights and a platform to do your research
- Marketing brands and businesses
- Expand your horizons
Social media can also provide crucial social connections and information to individuals residing in remote regions, granting them access they might otherwise lack. While acknowledging its positive aspects, it’s also essential to delve into the darker side of social media.
Adverse Effects of Social Media on Mental Health
Let’s talk about the adverse effects of social media on mental health and how you can prevent them from worsening.
- The Like Economy
To understand how social media affects one’s self-esteem and mental health adversely, first, we must understand “the like economy” and its influence. In the digital world, likes, follows, shares, and saves act as social currency. They signify popularity, approval, and social acceptance.
Every time we receive a like on a post, our brain registers it as a reward, releasing dopamine and creating a sense of accomplishment. This immediate feedback loop can be addictive, leading us to seek more validation through our online activities.
However, this concept isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. If you’re posting on social media as a digital creator, your post’s popularity depends on various factors, including content, timing, your page’s insights, and so much more.
Consequently, when a post doesn’t garner as many likes as expected, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. We may start questioning our worth, wondering why others don’t find our content as appealing as we do.
- Comparison is Thief of Joy
One of the most important effects of social media that makes us all more prone to poor self-esteem and mental health is constant comparison.
Scrolling through curated feeds filled with picture-perfect moments and seemingly flawless lives, it’s easy to feel like we’re falling short. Even though the digital creators who post these picture-perfect moments constantly remind us that their lives aren’t as picture-perfect as they seem.
However, the pictures and curated feeds we see on social media are enough to send us on a deep end. We start comparing our lives to what we see on social media, believing that we are the ones who don’t have anything figured out. Our lives aren’t as promising as compared to what we see on social media.
We may start to feel envious, inadequate, or even depressed. A study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that limiting social media usage to 30 minutes per day can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and loneliness. It indicates the profound impact of the comparison trap on our mental well-being.
- Filter or No Filter
Social media platforms are a stage where we perform versions of ourselves. These performances are often filtered, edited, and curated to present the best possible image. While this can be a form of self-expression, it can also lead to a distorted sense of reality.
Even though a funny emoji filter or a dog filter can be fun, at the same time, airbrushing body parts, whitening teeth, and hiding imperfections only create delusion, leading to depression and anxiety for not meeting the idealistic body standards.
Many people even feel scared coming on camera without social media filters and makeup because they fear people won’t approve of them. They fear revealing their true self, which can be excruciatingly disorienting. It further causes feelings of inauthenticity, eroding our self-esteem as we wonder if we’re living up to the image we’ve created.
It can go even further and affect our relationships as people can stop finding us genuine and authentic regarding the persona we have created online.
- Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
Another psychological ramification of social media is the fear of missing out, commonly known as FOMO.
Seeing friends and acquaintances attending exciting events, traveling to exotic locations, or having a great time can trigger a sense of exclusion. This fear can lead to anxiety, insecurity, and a further decline in self-esteem.
FOMO is fueled by the constant stream of updates on social media, making it seem like everyone else is living a more exciting life.
In reality, people showcase their best moments online, leaving out the mundane or challenging aspects of their lives. Understanding this can help alleviate some of the FOMO-induced anxiety.
- Self Absorption
Social media has allowed everyone to share their thoughts and feelings. It has dramatically boosted citizen journalism, and now everyone has an opinion on everything.
While this is a good thing since it has allowed people to raise their voices and awareness regarding some susceptible issues like the #MeToo movement or #BlackLivesMatter, at the same time, sharing your opinion and thoughts on everything in the world gives a sense of self-absorption.
People tend to get into fights and social media wars because there is less tolerance to hearing an opposite opinion. More and more people want to prove to others that they’re right. This can cause severe damage to personal relationships, further promote isolation, and undoubtedly lead to depression.
- Can Be Addictive
Have you seen the popular documentary The Social Dilemma on Netflix? If you haven’t, then you must take some time and watch it. The Social Dilemma talks about our addiction to our screens and how the notification bar keeps us hooked.
Social media websites and apps affect our brains like a slot machine in a casino does. Since you won’t know what the notification is about until you open the app, your mind is constantly rushing to find out what your notification bar is talking about. You can call it another kind of FOMO.
Just take a look around. When you go to a restaurant, you will find people sitting together at the table, but their eyes are constantly hooked to their screens. This is an entirely negative impact of social media that even though we are with family or friends, we still prefer scrolling through our feeds.
Curbing Negative Effects of Social Media
According to research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, you can lower the chances of depression and anxiety because of social media by decreasing screen time. We understand it can be pretty hard to quit social media altogether because we can’t forget that there are also some positive effects.
But you can certainly lower the potential risks by following these tips closely.
- Limit screen time
- Spend more time with friends and family instead of social media
- Don’t compare yourself with others
- Be more mindful of the content you consume
- Take time out to be physically active
- Go out and have fun
From FOMO to Self-Love: Transform Your Social Media Experience
Social media isn’t all bad and all good. It’s a double-edged sword and depends on whether the user will use it to harm themselves or save themselves against unforeseen circumstances.
Over the years, many people have found solace and humility through social media. They’ve met new people, raised awareness, and found their soul mates. But then again, the consistent and unchecked use of social media can devastate your mental health.
So, instead of using social media like a crazy person, recognize its potential and dangers and try to avoid the bad parts. Limit your screen time, and follow people who inspire you instead of those who trigger your insecurities. Be more mindful about the content you consume.
Trust us, it’s an incredible tool; you must be careful how you use it.
Would you like to add something to this conversation? Share your feedback in the comments.