5 Ways Social Media impacts your Mental Health
Popular Social Media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube etc. have become an integral part of our lives, and sometimes makes us wonder how we managed without it a few decades ago.
It was never this easy to connect and communicate with other people; and that too instantaneously like we do now. What could be better than being able to talk to your loved ones or convey critical information without needing to put it off because of distance, cost or limited access to technology. It is good that it becomes a way to be still connected to your friends from different walks of life. But, just as there are two sides to every coin, there are advantages and disadvantages to everything in life. Being selective in how we make use of this brilliant tool makes all the difference.
Anything in excess is never good, which holds true for Social Media as well. Extreme use of Social Media platforms not only affects your Physical but also impacts your Mental Health.
Impact on Physical Health
It increases the chances of Physical inactivity and prolonged sedentary lifestyle. You can spend hours sitting down and mindlessly scrolling your Social Media feeds without any productive outcomes. We should keep a check on what we see, read, hear and how useful it is or how much it could impact our moods and attitudes or utilize that time to engage in useful activity like exercise or inculcating a new habit.
Impact on Mental Health
The impact of Social Media on our Mental Health is far more disastrous in comparison to physical health. Since human beings are social animals; we need people who always stand by our side in thick and thin. In today’s world, we are building companionship through Social Media Platforms, unlike earlier where we made decisions and kept time aside for meeting people in person.
Being socially connected to people can help ease Depression, anxiety, boost self-esteem, and provide joy and comfort. But nothing matches the real-world connections. The joy of having some real-world connections is something different. You know these are the people you can rely on! You might have 1K friends on Social Media, but you do not know who will be there if you need some help. The joy that a real-world human interaction brings is unmatchable and triggers hormones that relieve stress and you feel more positive, happier and healthier. The sole idea behind designing Social Media was to bring people closer. But instead, being busy on Social Media platforms is pushing you away from meeting people in real-time.
The Bright Side
- Social Media bridges the physical distance by facilitating easy access to things you feel, want & aspire.
- Staying up to date with your friend’s and family’s life.
- Acts as a display of your expression and creativity.
- Source of information and learning.
- Raise awareness, promote or join good causes.
- Network with people of the same ambitions or interests.
The Downside – 5 things that have an impact on your Mental Health
The number of people suffering from depression, loneliness, Anxiety has increased drastically, and a major chunk of it can be attributed to the unhealthy use of social media.
1. The Comparison Factor:
Happiness is a choice, a state of mind and takes work from our side to get to that point where we acknowledge the negatives in our life and understand that one has to work their way through it as a part of our journey. The most important thing to remember though is that everybody’s journey is different and struggles are personal and subjective. Reality will never be an objective metric, cuz your best friend may be someone else’s worst enemy. But that does not mean one of you is right or wrong. Similarly, what is seen on Social Media may not be the entire truth or anyone’s reality. Nobody likes to display or show the problems they face but instead spend hours putting in an effort to upload a perfect picture.
Regardless of whether it it is the reality or a façade, seeing someone else’s picture perfect life when we are not in a similar space or time of our life can bring a cloud of sadness and casting a dark shadow on your mental health. You feel inadequate about your life and these types of comparisons make you feel jealous, depressed, sad and lonely. The feeling of jealousy acts as a breeding ground for making your life look better online. This endless trial of showcasing a good Social Media life leads you to a vicious circle. This in turn increases your Social Media usage further. Because you start keeping a track of what people do online and your posts are then inspired by their posts.
Building a big group of friends on Social Media might make you happy. Scrolling your feeds, hitting that like button and posting a good comment won’t get you friends who will support you in your life issues. Rather the reality is the friends you have online may not be your real friends. These friends can only calm you down in chats or by putting great comments on your pictures or posts. But in reality, these online friends are pushing you away from the people that are present in real-time. Try reducing your online time and you will observe less loneliness because then you will invest in making some real-time friends who are concerned about your wellbeing.
We have all seen multiple examples in life that validate the theory that being addicted to Social media is a real possibility. This then leads to various behavioural changes like mental preoccupation, intolerance and neglect of personal life. Various studies suggest heavy Social Media usage can lead to an increased risk of anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and other Mental Illness like personality disorders.
People start thinking that they need acceptance or validation from Social Media about their lives; both good & bad. They stop believing in the people who care like family and Real-time acquaintances. The more you start prioritizing Social Media interactions over real-time interactions you may witness mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
This has the potential to blow up into a huge crisis in the future, and highly debated among psychologists, psychiatrists and another mental illness specialist.
4. The fear of having a less fun-filled life or FOMO:
As they call it on Social Media platforms, fear of missing out or FOMO. Scrolling through Social Media might imbibe in you the feeling that other people have a more fun-filled life and that other people are living a life made out on their rules. This idea of missing out a few things in your life leads to self-esteem issues, triggers depression, and you start using Social Media even more. This fear forces you to check your phone in every few minutes so that you are up-to-date on everything on Social Media.
This fear and keeping yourself up-to-date disturbs your Sleep Cycle because all you think about is prioritizing your Life on Social Media.
You do not even know-how creating a good image on Social Media imbibes in you a feeling of an unhealthy self-absorption. You start sharing endless selfies with endless filters to look good. To portray a perfect life you may start spending money uselessly on shopping for good clothes. You become a part of that rat-races to show life without flaws!
There is another angle to self-absorption. We start using Social Media in public to avoid face-to-face interactions. Continuous practice of this behaviour might start making you anxious, lonely or awkward during public interactions. And if you happen to talk to people, all you talk about is the Life on Social Media either yours or others. Because only that runs on your mind and runs your life too!
Are you being sucked into an unhealthy Social Media vortex?
1. Do you feel a strong urge to keep checking your phone for notifications or updates even when you’re spending time in person with your friends and family?
2. Do you have low self-esteem or a negative self image that triggers inadequate or excessive eating?
3. Do you feel shame or guilt thinking about what your contacts think about you and your life?
4. Do you live in a constant state of anxiety or panic and feeling like you have no control over the things people post on Social Media about you.
5. Are you are always distracted in whatever work you do and/or have symptoms of anxiety and/or depression?
6. Do you start posting things online just to gain shares or likes, even if it requires putting up inappropriate or embarrassing content?
7. Is your sleep cycle irregular, disturbed and/or inadequate because of your time spent online?
8. Does Social media disrupt your day-to-day activities, causing instability and/or insecurity?
If you answered Yes or related with any of the above questions, If you feel like you’re spending a lot of time on Social Media platforms, feeling lonely, sad, dissatisfied, or frustrated with life; you should seek help from a Professional Mind Therapist who can guide and aid you in restoring the balance between the real and virtual world.