While social media is a bridge to greater connectivity and community, studies have often shown just how damaging it is for mental health. The rise in anxiety, depression and eating disorders have risen significantly and contributes to other negative feelings such as loneliness, jealousy and stress. Ultimately, reliance on social media had lead to people feeling more and more unhappy
Being active social media presents a number of challenges, such as online bullying, toxic comparisons and the increasing inability to socialize in the real world. Read on to learn more about the effects social media has on mental health.
Rise in depression and anxiety
A study by The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that the young adults who spent a lot of time on social media were more likely to report sleeping problems and symptoms of depression. Those who experienced cyberbullying on social media saw an increase in feelings of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
Frequent social media users also have a tendency to make comparisons about physical appearances, vacations and successes, even though only the highlight reels are presented on social media. This leads to the belief that everyone else’s life is better or cooler than the user’s, when this is in fact a false reality. By placing their sense of worth based on how they are doing compared to others, they go down a social comparison spiral bound for depression and anxiety.
Negative body image
The need to get “likes” on social media for validation and approval leads the user to engage in risky and unhealthy behaviours, including altering their appearances, to gain more interaction on their social media. A study by the University of Pittsburgh found that those who spent more time on social media had 2.2 times greater risk of developing eating and body disorders. Women in particular have been proven to feel worse about themselves and more dissatisfied with their bodies when scrolling through the Instagram of someone they perceive to be more attractive than them. When toxic comparison leads to body dysmorphia, depression or anxiety, it is important to reach out to healthcare professionals or a licensed therapist and get help.
False sense of socialization
Though a user may have hundreds to thousands of friends or followers on social media, it can contribute to FOMO, or fear of missing out, when a user sees their friends attending events or parties that they didn’t get to go to. This leads to feelings of loneliness, anxiety and jealousy. Having a lot of online friends or followers does not make up for deep, connected and meaningful connections that are needed for a fulfilling and healthy life. Real human interaction is key to knowing how to communicate well, learning empathy and compassion and is vital to good mental health. However, more people are engaged with online personas than real people.
The upsides of social media
Young adults who have difficulty face-to-face socializing or finding acceptance within their social circles benefit from the fast, easy and non-threatening nature of social media. Those from the LGBTQ community or who struggle with mental illness have also motivation and friendships through online spaces. It is empowering for them to find like-minded people who encourage their progress and support them through challenges which they would otherwise face in isolation
One of the keys to good mental health in this modern, fast-paced world is balance. Social media can be good for you and even helpful, but so is real-life friendships and engaging in the present moment. We may not need to quit social media completely, but by using less social media and disconnecting in moments of real human connection, there may be a decrease feelings in depression and ironically, loneliness.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with
mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.