As a social species, humans have a natural desire for connection and communication with others. This includes an innate longing for interpersonal relationships and feeling of belonging to a community or group. Online platforms such as social media have greatly impacted the way we seek connection with others and our need for social interaction.
Is social media influence positive or negative on our mental health?
While the majority of research surrounding social media and mental health are primarily negative the question might not be that as easy to answer as it sounds. A TED Talk by psychologist David Ellis discusses the advances in technology and if they are truly to blame for our increased use or addiction to our smart phones. Ellis, concludes that technology isn’t to blame but our dependency with social interaction and need for engagement.
How can you identify if social media usage is affecting your mental health?
Here are a few ways in which research has found social media to be beneficial. A study conducted in 2020, consisted of 400 youth psychiatrically hospitalized for risk of self-harm to themselves or others reported over 80 percent of adolescents age 13-18 believe social media allows them to feel more connected to their friends.
According to the same study, youth who identified as LGBTQ+ state that online relationships have been a source of emotional and social support. Additionally, this line of support may have even contributed as a protective role for some youth. Furthermore, 57 percent reported they received support and even encouragement through social media outlets (Nesi, 2020) (Rutledge, 2011).
On the other hand, 14.6 percent reported that online content promoted suicide and 16.6 percent reported self-harming behavior after viewing online content.
Cybervictimization is defined as being the victim of bullying online. This is a type of victimization that is consistently linked to higher rates of suicidality, individual self-harm and is often in connection with social exclusion or online conflict. This is conjunction to peer influence and being exposed to risky behaviors such as substance use (Nesi, 2020).
It is critical to understand that adolescents 13-18 are at the stage in life where risky behaviors are at their peak as well as were mental health disorders such as depression typically surface (Valkenburg, 2022).
The National Institute of Mental Health reported as of (2020), 1 in 5 adolescents suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder.
More specifically, rates of depression and suicide have greatly increased in adolescents, to a staggering 56 percent from 2007 to 2017.
Pay attention to how social media makes you feel
Consider your engagement on social media platforms and how the instant you log on there is a demand for our attention with a sense of immediacy, intensity and frequency. This can lead to increased stress, anxiety and feelings of inadequacy, prompting many individuals to consider further their relationship with social media.
While, social media has given us the ability to connect and communicate from all over the world.
The rapid growth of social media platforms over the recent years has impacted the way we create and maintain relationships online and in person.
Social media has the ability to give a false sense of connection and an adopted reality. The ability for influencers to give a false perception is in relation to what is called selective self-presentation — only sharing posts and images that are carefully crafted. This results in many viewers getting caught in between what is being shared and what is the true representation (Nesi, 2020) (Abi-Jaoude et al., 2020).
40 percent of adolescents reported using their smart phone to check social media before going to bed and 36 percent reported to checking their phone at least once throughout the night (Nesi, 2020).
Warning signs social media may be affecting your mental health
- Feelings of inadequacy or comparing yourself to others
- An increased feeling of the fear of missing out (FOMO)
- Sleep disturbance (lack of sleep or restlessness)
- Feeling lonely, anxious or depressed
- Feelings of isolation or dissatisfaction
- Decline in academics, work or daily routines
How to fix your mental health due to social media
- Remove yourself from social media
- Take breaks from social media (Schedule days of interaction/ days spent away or offline)
- Schedule or time your interactions and activity on social media
- Shift your focus to other tasks or hobbies
- Turn off notifications (so to not feel pressured to engage)
- Try not getting on social media an hour before going to sleep (or any electronics)
- Turn your phone off during times you want to be present
- Be mindful of the types of social media platforms you use
- Be active rather than passive (create content instead of browsing/leave positive comments on posts)
- Avoid using social media when you are feeling sad, angry or anxious
Reframing the way you see social media
It is important to take notice of your social media usage and how it might be affecting your mental health. If you consider the use of social media as a cycle of addiction, you are able to understand how the ways in which you interact on social platforms can create or promote addictive behaviors.
For example, consider likes and views as rewards, these functions turn on the emotional functionality in the brain and give you a sense of gratification of social approval. This source of gratification creates an anxious feeling in the user to ‘consume more’ as a way to fuel individual recognition or gratification. This continues to promote a cycle of comparing your own personal truths to those individuals on social media furthering your feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction (Giraldo-Luque, 2020).
- 5 Steps for Social Media Mindfulness
- Social Media and Mental Health
- Suggestions for Protecting Your Mental Health
- Maslow Model Rewired for Social Media
- TEDtalk Is technology really ruining your life?
Abi-Jaoude, E., Naylor, K. T., & Pignatiello, A. (2020). Smartphones, social media use and youth mental health. Cmaj, 192(6), E136-E141.
Anderson M, Jiang J. (2020). Teens, Social Media, & Technology. Pew ReSearch.
Ellis, D. Is technology really ruining your life? TedtalkLancasterU.
Giraldo-Luque, S., Aldana Afanador, P. N., & Fernández-Rovira, C. (2020). The struggle for human attention: Between the abuse of social media and digital wellbeing.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2020). Mental Illness: Prevalence of Any Mental Illness. National Institute of Mental Health website.
Nesi, J. (2020). The impact of social media on youth mental health: challenges and opportunities. North Carolina medical journal, 81(2), 116-121.
Rutledge, P. (2011). Social Networks: What Masslow Misses. Psychology Today.
Valkenburg, P. M. (2022). Social media use and well-being: What we know and what we need to know. Current opinion in psychology, 45, 101294.