HOW DOES SOCIAL MEDIA AFFECT MENTAL HEALTH?
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Social Media
Social media, and technology as a whole have a very prominent role in and affect on our everyday lives. I know for me personally, almost my entire existence is attached to not only technology but also social media. When we think of social media, our minds automatically go “oh it allows me to be socially connected to others.” That is very true..social media helps us to connect with individuals we may have lost touch with. It can help to reduce stress, anxiety, bring forward joy, and can even help us feel less alone.
The thing is that social media can also act as a catch 22, where there is no escape. If we really think about social media has a reinforcing nature where we get rewarded with “feel-good chemicals” like dopamine when we engage in fun activities. Often times, this means that we can’t really stop ourselves from going on social media. Let’s take me as an example, sometime before bed I log onto TikTok to destress and next thing I know its 3am. That means the next day I am tired, irritable, and just not having a good time.
Another aspect of social media that can often reel people in is that it can help with boosting self-esteem. We post pictures, send out tweets, and make videos which we then get positive responses or likes on. The trouble begins when we start associating our self-worth to the number of likes we get. When that happens, we aren’t really posting for ourselves anymore but more so for the approval of others. This can open the door for social comparisons where we start to ask ourselves “did I get as many likes as so and so?”
Along with social comparison with likes, we can often start to engage in social comparison through looks. I want too heavily illustrate the point that what we see on social media is often not what we would see in real life. Through social media, we have access to so many types of filters and editing tools, which bring forward their own troubles. Now it is completely natural to compare ourselves to others, I have done it multiple times, but I want you to always remember that looks can be deceiving. Staying true to who you are, even if it feels hard, is so important!
Now this is something I know I have personally experienced, fomo - or fear of missing out. Seeing others on vacation, or at a concert, or doing anything other than work and go to school is hard. I am not going to lie about that, because it really is hard and can make you feel like you are missing out. As a result we can start to feel anxious or even depressed.
The Digital Age of Vulnerability
For so many teens and young children, social media and technology is something they have grown up with and is all they really know. It is how they connect with friends, pass time by, and it is even used for school purposes! The thing is the earlier on social media used, the more of an impact it can have on mental health. A big disadvantage of social media is that it actually creates more opportunities for bullying and social exclusion.
Going back to my point about filters and editing tools, so many children, teens, and young adults can develop a disordered lens on appearances during a time where their bodies are growing and developing. This can make it so hard to differentiate what is real and what its’t, especially during moments of vulnerability. Of course, the same can be said for adults who are exposed to the same types of pictures and filters. It can be so hard to not compare yourself, but every single person in this world is beautiful and unique in their own way.
Social Media and Teen Suicide
I wanted to shift the discussion towards social media usage and suicide. I believe it is so important to talk about this to help spread awareness. The Social Media Victims Law Center has so many useful resources and general articles revolving around social media and its harmful effects. One sections specifically discusses social media and suicide. They explain how research has found several links between social media usage and teen suicide.
One topic that they discuss is about the overuse of social media. Like I mentioned earlier, I can get so distracted by social media and then a few hours later it’s like 3am. This is because social media is captivating and so good at drawing us in. An important point that they make is that we can become so emotionally attached to the content we post that we truly take to heart any negative comments made or if we don’t get a certain number of likes.
They discuss so many other topics such as content we are exposed to, bullying, and even the warning signs of teen suicide. I would highly recommend venturing over to their cite to learn all about it!
Another section that I found so interesting was about tips on how to promote healthy social media usage with teens. While it is directly focused on teens, I feel as though individuals of all ages could benefit and gain new tips.
We Are Always Here for You
No matter your thoughts or feelings on the concept of social media, we are always here to help you and listen to you. Social media can be a tricky thing and we never want you to feel that you are facing anything alone. While social media and other forms of technology can help you to connect with others, engage in some self-care, laugh on TikTok, and so much more. It is still a slippery slope and we want to make sure you are given the proper tools to handle those not so pleasant social media times. Whether you are looking to work on your self-esteem, reduce screen time, or even work through a possible social media addiction — We are here for you…always.
Thanks for reading,