Bings and Red Dots- On Social Media and Mental Health

Social media, like anything else we consume, has its pros and cons.

Pros: Apps such as Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat allow us to keep up with friends, network, and promote businesses; for example, I use Facebook groups to network with other therapists and to receive referrals for new clients. These apps also help families separated by distance to stay connected.

Cons: We tend to use these apps to show our filtered “best lives,” which can skew reality. Phones are no longer used to actually talk to other humans; instead, we use them more to message, tag, snap, and DM each other. Ironically, the use of social media can reduce the quality of our social interaction if not managed carefully.

Mental health

There have been a lot of correlational studies published over the last decade linking the overuse of social media to mental health issues (Remember: correlation does not equal causation). One study highlighted by Psychology Today found that adolescents who spent a large amount of time on social media tended to have higher levels of depression and anxiety than their peers who use social media infrequently. With that being said, high levels of social media use tends to correlate with higher rates of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, eating disorders, and even self-harm.

So overuse of social media can negatively impact our emotions. But why? 

The answers to this question begin to unfold when we consider what we love so much about social media. Examples include that sense of connectedness, instant gratification, the “likes,” and the follows. While none of these things are necessarily bad, overuse of these platforms can leave users with an addiction to the virtual representation of positive feedback; ie, the 👍🏽s and ❤️s.

Because we present our best selves online, many of us get caught up in the comparison trap. If not kept in check, comparison can lead us to feel inadequate, jealous, and envious. Social media also tends to result in a clinical condition (I kid) known as FOMO (the fear of missing out.)

Okay, okay! So how do we protect ourselves from these pitfalls?

I’m so glad you asked!

  • Unplug from social media intermittently!
    • Turn off notifications
    • Unfollow accounts that trigger you
    • Turn on “do not disturb”
    • Delete apps
    • Schedule days off

I personally only allow myself to engage with email and Facebook four times daily: at 8 am, 12 pm, 4 pm, and 8 pm. When I engage during these times, I do so with the intention of getting in and getting out in a timely manner. It’s so easy to fall into rabbit holes when online! 🕳🚶🏽‍♂️

Wrapping this up

Now that we know the pros and cons, let’s try our best to use social media as an intentional tool. Social media can be a fun part of life if we remember to set boundaries and practice gratitude both online and offline.

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