In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the use of social media. According to the Pew Research Center, 72% of Americans in the US use social media.
People use social networking tools to keep in touch with family and friends, receive news andshare your political views. This has caused some researchers to wonder about the long-term effects of using social media.
As the use of social media is still relatively new, there are no long-term studies documenting its effects. But several studies indicate that social networks impact mental health in a variety of ways. The growing reliance on and use of social media places large numbers of Americans at increased risk of feeling anxious, depressed, lonely, jealous, and even sick from their use of social media.
Why social media is growing in popularity
In addition to allowing people to reconnect with family and friends who live far away or have lost touch, social media has become a vital communication tool during the pandemic.
Social media supports connections
People used social media to share information and connect with others whenorders to stay at homeprevented them from meeting in person. It became a vehicle for social support and connection that they would not otherwise have.
Social media makes people feel good
Social networks tend to reinforce use. People quickly become addicted to checking their statuses for comments and likes, as well as reading other people's posts.
Using social media sometimes activates the brain's reward center, releasingdopamine, also known as the feel-good chemical. That dopamine release, in turn, keeps people coming back because they want to repeat those feel-good experiences.
Social media boosts self-esteem
Social media can also boostself-esteem, especially if a person is viewed favorably online or gets a lot of likes or interactions on their content. And social media allows some people to share parts of their identity that may be difficult to communicate in person.
Social media can be particularly useful for people withsocial anxietywho struggle to interact with people face-to-face.
Concerns about social media and mental health
Despite the aforementioned benefits, researchers are finding that there are some downsides to social media, particularly when it comes to mental health.
Social media use may contribute to depression
For a technology that's supposed to bring people together, it can have the opposite effect – especially when disagreements arise online.Social media has been linked to depression, anxiety and loneliness. It can make people feel isolated and alone.
A 2017 study found thatyoung people using social mediapeople who spend more than two hours a day are much more likely to categorize their mental health as fair or poor compared to occasional social media users.
A large-scale study of young adults in the US found that occasional users of social media were three times less likely to experience symptoms of depression than heavy users.
Social media can hurt your self-esteem
While social media can sometimes boost self-esteem, it can also make you experiencefeelings of inadequacyabout your life and your appearance. Even if you know that the images you see online are manipulated or represent someone else's highlights, they can still cause feelings of insecurity, envy and dissatisfaction.
Fear to lose
Another mental health phenomenon associated with social media is what is known asFOMO, or the "fear of missing out". Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram exacerbate the fear that you are missing something or that other people are living a better life than you.
In extreme cases, FOMO can leave you stuck on your phone, where you're constantly checking for updates or responding to every alert.
Social media can lead to self-absorption
Sharing endless selfies, as well as your most intimate thoughts on social media, can create an unhealthy self-centeredness that makes you focus on creating your image online rather than creating memories with your friends and family in real life.
Indeed, strenuous efforts to engage in impression management or obtainexternal validationit can have psychological costs, especially if the approval you seek is never received. Ultimately, the lack of positive feedback online can lead to doubt andself hate.
impulse control issues
Excessive use of social media can lead toimpulse control issues, especially if you access your social networks through your smartphone. This means you have 24/7 access to your accounts, which not only makes it easier for you to always be connected, but it can also affect your concentration and focus. It might even disturb your sleep and compromise your personal relationships.
Social media can be used as an unhealthy coping mechanism
Social media can become an unhealthy way todealing with uncomfortable feelings or emotions. For example, if you turn to social media when you feel depressed, lonely or bored, you are potentially using it as a way to distract yourself from unpleasant feelings.
Ultimately, social media is a poor way to soothe yourself, especially since reading social media can often make you feel worse instead of better.
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Signs that social media is impacting your mental health
Since everyone is different, there is no set amount of time spent on social media that is recommended. Instead, you need to assess how your social media use is impacting your life, including how you feel when you're not using social media, as well as how you feel after you're using it.
A 2018 study from the University of Pennsylvania suggests thatself-monitoringcan change someone's perception of social media.According to lead researcher, psychologist Melissa G. Hunt, PhD, using social media less than usual can lead to significant reductions in loneliness and depression. By using self-monitoring and making adjustments, people can significantly improve their overall well-being.
Social media distracts you
If you find that your social media use is impacting your relationships or distracting you from work or school, this could be problematic. Also, if browsing social media makes you jealous, depressed, anxious or angry, then you need to re-evaluate your use.
It may be that you need to detox from social media and spend some time offline to protect your mental health.
You use social media to avoid negative emotions
Social media can also be a problem if you tend to use it to combat boredom or deal with loneliness. While these feelings are uncomfortable and it's natural to want to ease them, turning to social media for comfort or distraction is not a healthy way to deal with difficult feelings and emotions.
As a result, it may be time for you to reevaluate your social media habits. Here are some additional signs that social media may be having a negative impact on your life and mental health:
- Your symptoms of anxiety, depression and loneliness are increasing.
- You're spending more time on social media than you are with your real-world friends and family.
- You tend to compare yourself unfavorably to others on social media, or you find that you are often jealous of others.
- You are being trolled or bullied by others online.
- You are engaging in risky behavior or taking outrageous photos to get likes.
- Your work obligations, family life or school work are being hindered because of the time you spend on social media.
- You have little time for self-care activities such asmindfulness, self-reflection, exercise and sleep.
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If you spend a lot of time on social media and you are starting to notice feelings of sadness, dissatisfaction, frustration and loneliness that are affecting your life and relationships, it might be time to reevaluate your online habits. .
If you find that even after adjusting your social media use, you still have symptoms of depression or anxiety, it's important to talk to your doctor so he can be evaluated. With proper treatment, you'll soon feel better.
If you or a loved one is experiencing [name of condition], contact yourSubstance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helplineno1-800-662-4357for information about support and treatment facilities in your area.
For more mental health resources, see ourNational helpline database.
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