Let’s be honest, social media definitely has its perks. It allows us to connect to friends near and far, to stay updated on news and culture and to network with people who share common interests. Like all things, social media can be beneficial in moderation.
Social media can also have a drastic effect on our mental health, when our usage goes unchecked. Sadly, social media, when used imprudently, can increase our feelings of loneliness and depression, and influence our overall well-being.
Try this: Pause and take a moment to decide what healthy social media usage looks like. Specifically, how much time someone should spend online each day? The recommendation for social media screen time is 30 minutes, according to a study out of the University of Pennsylvania. Now, check your phone. Most phones have capabilities to track screen time for each app. How close are you to a healthy amount of daily screen time, particularly on social media apps? Read on to see how those minutes are affecting you.
Negative Impacts of Social Media
Social media can negatively impact our health and well-being, in several ways.
- Increased isolation
Many people can attest to feeling down after binging social media. The loneliness seems even more pronounced when your friends post pictures of all the things they do without you. Although it seems as if social media increases our connections to others, scrolling through news feeds can make the distance feel even more significant.
It’s likely because when we’re on another person’s social media page, we’re not actually interacting with that person. We’re just viewing something someone posted, rather than exchanging genuine personalized conversation. This likely plays into our sense of isolation, which leads to social media loneliness and depression. In the same previously mentioned study, researchers found that decreased social media usage leads to decreased feelings of depression and loneliness.
- Affected executive functionality
Addiction to social media can also affect what’s called our executive functioning. Executive functioning refers to the skills we use to manage and regulate our behavior and emotion. More practically, it refers to our ability to plan ahead, focus, complete tasks, utilize our memory, balance life and keep our emotions in check. All of these skills are intertwined, supporting (or impairing) the others.
Study after study shows how social media decreases our ability to pay attention and focus to complete a task. It follows that our memory and emotional stability are affected as well. Although these skills might seem abstract, consider how decreased focus over time could affect your employment, your relationships and your own mental health.
- Contributions to a poor self-image
Nearly everyone online has an agenda. Whether someone is trying to sell you a product, sway your political views or push his or her own self-image, you’re faced with a daily barrage of self-promotion. Not all individuals partake in this motive to the extent that corporations do, but we should all be aware that a large portion of our feed is made up of ads, catered to us individually, and rigged to make us feel like our life is incomplete until we buy whatever they’re selling. The better these ads (and the people in them) look, the more likely you are to buy in.
Even armed with the knowledge that your social media feed is manipulated, it is easy to compare ourselves to others. As insecurity mounts, feelings of worthlessness follow. A consistent feeling of worthlessness is one of the signs of depression. If social media brings this emotion out in you, it’s time to talk to a professional.
- Increased exposure to unhealthy content
Increased usage of social media exposes you to the scary side of the internet. Social media is vastly unregulated, and although most sites and apps allow you to report explicit or violent content, it’s often posted faster than it can be taken down. Many people don’t want someone telling them what to watch or avoid online, but few of us have the self-control to manage a healthy stream of content. Sad news, violent videos or explicit material can definitely contribute to depression; this low-grade content is one of the most difficult parts of the internet to handle on your own.
When to step away from social media
Take a moment to assess the impact social media has had on your life. Have your relationships struggled due to social media? Have family or friends commented on your unhealthy usage? Does your profile or the profiles of others, alongside your media feed, consume your thoughts? How do you feel about yourself after long periods of scrolling? Have you been increasingly exposed to dark or harmful material as your usage increases?
How do you feel about deleting all of your social media accounts? Pause for a minute here and reflect on your social media usage. The stronger reaction you are having to the idea of leaving social media, the more you should consider putting it on pause. If social media usage or addiction has had a debilitating impact on your life, it might be time to take the plunge and purge yourself from access to certain apps and websites.
You don’t need to fight the barrage of daily media alone. Your therapist can help you to uncover the role of social media in your life, as you together consider the pros and cons. With differing temperaments and executive functioning skills, each person should maintain a unique set of expectations for himself or herself when it comes to social media usage. Enlist the help of a mental health professional at Pyramid Family Behavioral Healthcare to help you individualize what will work best for you. Call (678) 274-4936 to set up an appointment, or learn even more about our programming online today.