social media and mental health

Social Media and Mental Health

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Social media is not going anywhere anytime soon and there are certainly positive aspects about it. However, there are also some negative mental health effects of increased social media use. It is important to be aware of the signs of unhealthy social media use so that you can turn to more productive or healthier behaviors if you are using social media as a coping mechanism.

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Positive Side of Social Media

Social media helps us connect with friends, family members, and people around the globe that share similar interests. It can provide a sense of belonging and comfort. It can even provide us with a new type of support system. These positive aspects do not mean that it should ever replace face-to-face social interaction, but there are certainly positive effects.

Social media can help us remain connected to family and friends no matter how far away they are. This can be beneficial and may provide a boost in mood even if that boost is temporary. We can also find new friends and communities of likeminded people or those who share similar experiences or interests. This can be a good way for some people to find social support during difficult times. People who are depressed may isolate themselves and find it easier to speak with someone online than to go out and talk to someone in-person.

This is also true for people who are unable to see people often like those that do not have the ability to go out due to disability or those that live in remote, rural areas. It may also be easier to speak with others online if you suffer from social anxiety. A support system is important for mental health and wellbeing and social media may provide an easier way to grow a support system for some people.

Negative Side of Social Media

There is not a ton of research on the effects of social media because it is fairly new, but there are studies that show that there may be an increased risk of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and other mental health issues.

Social media may make some people feel inadequate or unsuccessful because many images on social media are altered to improve appearance or to make someone appear healthier, happier, or more successful than they actually are. These images can make other people feel insecure about their own lives in comparison. People also tend to share positive life changes and experiences on social media, like marriages, promotions, and vacations, that may promote envy in others.

There is also the fear of missing out phenomenon. Even though this idea, referred to as FOMO, is not new, social media presence does seem to make it more likely. This is the idea that others are having more fun without you and that you are missing out of entertaining or important experiences.

Studies also indicate that social media use can increase feelings of loneliness. Therefore, even though connecting with people on social media can be positive in some ways, it is not a healthy substitute for face-to-face social interaction. There may even be an increase in isolation, depression, and anxiety.

Social media can also lead to self-absorption in some people. The sharing of your thoughts, behaviors, and selfies on a daily basis can make us more self-centered. It can also lead us to focus on our online image more than creating offline memories with our social network. This can have an even harsher effect if someone does not achieve the approval that they desire online.

Extreme use of social media can lead to issues with a person’s impulse control. This is especially true with the rise of smartphones because they provide access to social media apps at every hour of every day. This can negatively affect concentration and productivity in addition to impacting sleep. It may also harm our ability to stay in the moment when interaction with our friends and family in-person.

Some people may use social media to cope with their distressing thoughts and feelings. Some people may turn to the dopamine release that social media provides for some people when they feel anxious, sad, or bored. This can temporarily distract us from our negative feelings but is not a healthy way to improve mental health and wellbeing in the long run.

Final Thoughts on Social Media and Mental Health

Social media can be beneficial, but it is also important not to use it in a way that harms our wellbeing. It is good to be aware of the signs that you may be negatively affecting your mental health. If you are spending more time on social media than you do with friends in-person, then this could be a sign that you need to work yourself away from social media and only use it at certain times during the day. This is especially true if you feel the need to constantly check your social media while you are with other people.

If you find that you are harmed by low self-esteem or a negative body image when you see other people on social media, you may want to pull back a little. Cyber bullying can also be harmful, and you should not remain in a position where you are vulnerable to cyber bullies.

Social media may also distract us from things that are important to us like our interests or work. If this is the case, then your wellbeing may be compromised. If you feel like you suffer from anxiety or depression and that you use social media to cope, you can learn healthier coping techniques in therapy. These days, you can even find a qualified mental health professional today by locating one that is available online.

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