We human beings have evolved into social creatures who have thrived in building civilizations and communities. Our connections have a very important role to play in our mental health and happiness. The social connections we form throughout our life add meaning to our accomplishments. On the flip side, lacking strong social connections can damage and affect our mental health negatively and put our well-being at risk.
In today’s world, we are increasingly relying on social media platforms to build and sustain our connections. While each platform is developed with a good intention, and has their share of benefits, it’s about time we realize that they can never replace real-world human connections. To trigger the hormones that reduce stress and make us happy requires in-person interaction. They are essential to make us happier, healthier, and optimistic. Ironically, the same technology that aims to bring people together is now responsible for an unprecedented loneliness epidemic.
If you spend too much time indulging in social media usage, you are more likely to experience the feelings of sadness, dissatisfaction, frustration, and loneliness.
How does social media affect mental health
Inadequacy about your life or appearance
Even when you know the images you are getting on your feed are carefully curated highlight reels, they still succeed in making you insecure about your appearance and where you are in your life. Most of us are aware that people tend to post only their best moments from their life, rarely displaying the low points that everyone experiences. But they invoke and compound your feelings of envy and dissatisfaction. No matter how well you are doing in your own life, your friend’s airbrushed pictures of a tropical beach holiday will put you at unease. Reading about someone’s exciting new promotion makes you question your own self-worth.
Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)
While FOMO has always been a part of human existence, social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have amplified it. They exacerbate the feelings of you missing out while others are having more fun or are living a more exciting life than yours. This impacts your self-esteem, it triggers anxiety and fuels greater social media use. It’s FOMO that compels you to pick your phone every five minutes. It constantly drives you to check updates or compulsively respond to alerts. It even makes you take risks while driving your car and by losing your sleep. With it, social media interactions get prioritized over real-world interactions.
Depression and anxiety
As human beings, we need face-to-face contact to ease the feeling of anxiousness and depression to improve our overall mental health and well-being. When you have close face-to-face interaction with someone who cares about you, your stress or fleeting feeling of depression is reduced, and your mood is boosted naturally. If you choose to prioritize social media interaction over the real-world connection, you’ll be vulnerable to exacerbate mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
Cyberbullying is a concerning issue for the mental health of young adults. Ten percent of teens report experiencing cyberbullying on social media. Many users are regularly subjected to offensive comments and threats. Social media platforms, especially Twitter, is a center stage to hurl hurtful rumors, lies, and abuse. They all leave long-lasting emotional scars. This ugly aspect of social media affects your mental health significantly and restricts your ability to live a great life.
Self-absorption and narcissism
By projecting yourself with your endless selfies and innermost thoughts on several sensitive issues, you’ll create an unhealthy self-centeredness that alienates you from your real-world friends and connections.
Here are a few insights on how to curb your addiction to social media
Understand what’s driving your social media usage?
Access to social media has been made very convenient through our smartphones and tablets. They are with us almost all the time. This situation of hyper-connectivity triggers impulses and controls problems. The constant alerts and inflow of notifications fracture your concentration. Your focus is diluted, sleep is disturbed, and you end up being a digital slave.
Social media applications are designed to be addictive. They are designed to capture the entirety of your attention. They incorporate designing tricks to hook you and keep you online for the longest. Not out of your own conscious choice, you are made to repeatedly check your screens for updates. The more time you spend on screens, the more those tech companies make money.
Compulsive social media usage might spiral down into forming a full-fledged addiction. This behavioral addiction is very similar, if not more compulsive, to the addiction to hard-core drugs like cocaine. You can be restrained to help abstain from drugs, but abstaining from psychological cravings will prove to be incredibly difficult.
Every “like” or a favorable reaction you receive on a post triggers the release of dopamine. This is the same pleasure chemical that gets released after winning on a slot machine or taking a bite of chocolate. The more your brain feels rewarded, the more you want to spend your time on social media. You carry it out even when it’s detrimental to your well-being.
Catch the signs when social media is impacting your mental health
Everyone is different, there is no one way how social media impacts everyone. The first step is to notice your frequency of checking updates, or the number of times you post. It gives you a slight indication of how your social media habit is turning unhealthy. Next is noticing how it alters your mood, how social media affects other aspects of your life, and what motivates you to use it more.
Your social media use is in a problematic phase, if you are neglecting face to face relationships. It is time to reassess your social media habits, if you are distracted in your school or work, if it leaves you feeling envious, and depressed. Or if you just post intending to make someone envious or upset.
Modify your social media usage to improve your mental health
You don’t need to completely cut off social media from your life to drastically improve your mental health. It’s about being more mindful about your usage. That helps in elevating your mood and improving your focus. It’s important to set a realistic target and proceed to avail the benefits of limited social media use.
There are many apps available that help you track the amount of time you spend on social media each day. Set a goal and reduce the usage. Make it a habit to turn off your phone while you’re driving, when you’re in a meeting or when you’re spending quality time with your dear ones. Avoid bringing your phone to bed. To eliminate the disturbance from constant buzzing, beeping, and ringing of your phone, disable all the social media notifications.
If you’re serious about significantly cutting social media usage, take the bold step of deleting all these applications from your phone. Try doing this, one application at a time.
If your compulsive social media usage has gone out of hand, and you’re experiencing the symptoms of depression, therapy can open the doors for you to break free from your addictive behavior. You can call The Bloom Health Centers and talk with one of their licensed professionals. Take a step today to achieve better mental health and lead your best life.