What Are the Positive and Negative Effects of Social Media on Mental Health?
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Positive and Negative Effects of Social Media on Mental Health

Published on Feb 13, 2024   -  6 min read

Abstract

Using social media can have both positive and negative impacts on one’s mental health. Read the article to know about the pros and cons of social media.

Introduction:

In the current era of social media, everyone, from teens to adults, starts and ends their day by checking their social media accounts. Almost everyone’s life seems to come to a standstill if they refrain from using social media for at least a day. People use social media to stay connected with friends and family, read news, and share their views. Several studies have indicated the benefits and harmful impacts of social media on one’s mental health. Excessive use of social media can increase the risk of loneliness, anxiety, depression, poor social connections, and envy.

Social media has gained popularity in recent times due to the following reasons:

  • Social media was the only medium to share information and stay connected with one’s loved ones during a pandemic like COVID-19. Social media gained immense popularity during this period as it was the only means through which people obtained and shared information and stayed in touch with their friends and family members.

  • Social media tempts the user to use it again. Counting the number of likes and comments for their posts and checking others’ posts keep them glued to social media. Sometimes, using social media has been found to activate the reward center of the brain by releasing a feel-good chemical called dopamine. This dopamine persuades the individual to keep using social media again and again to experience these feel-good senses triggered by dopamine.

  • Social media boosts self-esteem, particularly if an individual is famous online and receives numerous likes and positive comments for their content. Social media can be beneficial to those with social anxiety since these individuals may find it difficult to interact with others in person.

What Are the Benefits of Using Social Media?

The following are the benefits of using social media:

  • As discussed previously, using social media activates the reward center of the brain by releasing dopamine. This elevates the mood of an individual.

  • Many individuals may face anxiety and depression due to not having a job. With the help of various social media platforms, people come to know about various job opportunities which enable them to overcome stress, anxiety, and depression.

  • Social media helps one find new friends and communities who share similar interests or ambitions.

  • One can stay connected with friends and families even if they are miles apart.

  • Social media acts as an excellent platform to display one’s creativity and self-expression.

  • One can gain or provide emotional support to others during tough times using social media.

  • One can either join or promote worthwhile causes using social media, which helps raise awareness on crucial issues.

  • Those residing in remote areas facing social anxiety, having limited independence, or those who are part of a marginalized group may find social media to be a powerful tool to express their opinions and concerns.

  • When used appropriately, social media can act as valuable resources for information and learning.

What Are the Negative Effects of Social Media on Mental Health?

The negative effects are as follows:

  • Social media may trigger feelings of inferiority complex. A few individuals may feel that their appearance or life is not the same as that of others on social media, which leads to feelings of dissatisfaction and envy.

  • A study conducted in 2018 found that using social media increases feelings of loneliness rather than decreases it. It has also been found that minimizing the use of social media enables individuals to feel less lonely and improves their overall well-being.

  • Human beings are social creatures whose inherent skill is to interact with other human beings. Having eye contact and conversation with someone who cares for the individual can reduce stress and enhance one’s mood. Prioritizing social media use over in-person relationships can make an individual susceptible to developing mood disorders like anxiety and depression.

  • Despite enjoying entertaining content on social media, it is common for a majority of people, especially teens, to be a victim of cyberbullying. These types of offensive comments can leave long-lasting emotional scars.

  • Sharing personal information and one’s inner thoughts on social media can result in unhealthy self-centeredness and can keep one away from real-life connections.

  • Spending time on social media before retiring to bed can interfere with one’s sleep.

  • Too much use of social media can interfere with one’s focus at school, work, or other tasks.

  • The fear of missing out on something (FOMO) can trigger anxiety, affect one’s self-esteem, and make one inclined to use social media even more, resulting in addiction. One can also indulge in risky behaviors by using social media, like checking the social media account while driving.

What Are the Signs of Overusing Social Media?

The following are the warnings signs of overusing social media:

  • Noticing that one’s work at school or office is getting hindered due to the use of social media.

  • Feelings of increased loneliness, anxiety, or depression.

  • Devoting more time to social media than to friends or family members.

  • Making comparisons with others or feeling jealous frequently.

  • Not giving importance to self-care like sleep, exercise, and mindfulness.

  • Being trolled or a victim of cyberbullying.

  • Indulging in risky behaviors or taking risks to get unique photographs so as to gain likes and comments on social media.

What Are the Ways to Minimize Dependence on Social Media?

Some of the ways to minimize dependence on social media are as follows:

  • An app can be used to track how much time one spends on social media in a day. Based on this, one can work to set a timeframe on how much time one is planning to spend on social media in a day. Few apps have time restriction options. Once the time is up, the app notifies the user, but this requires self-control and discipline of the user. Snoozing the notification and extending the viewing time will not serve the needed purpose.

  • One must make up their mind to turn off their phone while eating, driving, in a meeting, playing with kids, or when at the gym. Taking mobile phones to the restroom should be avoided.

  • Electronic gadgets should be kept away in another room before going to bed.

  • Receiving constant notifications may make one feel tempted to have a peek into their phone. Turning off the notifications can serve as a solution for this issue.

  • If one is used to checking their phones frequently, then one can gradually wean off by increasing the checking time progressively from, say, 15 minutes to 30 minutes, and so on.

  • Very addictive social media apps can be removed from smartphones and installed on a tablet or computer. These devices are not as handy as smartphones and can delay the checking time of social media. One can do this by removing one app at a time.

  • Notifications and data connectivity should be turned off while spending time with friends and family members.

  • Filtering whom to follow and whom not to follow on social media can help one avoid cyberbullying and can keep one’s self-esteem intact.

  • Social media time can be swapped with other activities like arranging a meeting with friends, doing one’s favorite hobbies, and so on.

  • If one feels that usage of social media is affecting their mental health, then one must seek help from a medical health professional without any hesitation.

If teens are obsessed with using social media, then parents can help their children wean off from using social media in the following ways:

  • Parents need to educate their children on how to prevent social media from interfering with their homework, sleep, meals, or other activities. Children and teens must be encouraged to refrain from using electronic gadgets before bedtime, and these should be kept out of their rooms. This can be initiated when parents set an example by following these themselves.

  • Teens should be informed that the parent or parents will be checking their social media accounts regularly, and parents must ensure that they follow these.

  • Parents should strictly not encourage habits like spreading rumors, bullying, gossiping, or damaging others’ reputations both online and offline. Teens should be taught what is safe and appropriate to be shared on social media.

  • Teens must be encouraged to make face-to-face contact with their friends so that they do not become vulnerable to social anxiety disorder.

  • Parents should talk about their habits of using social media with their children. The teens must be asked about how they are using social media and how they feel about it. They must be reminded of the fact that social media is full of just unrealistic images.

Conclusion:

Human beings, being social creatures, need the companionship of fellow human beings for their survival. The strength of these connections has a remarkable impact on one’s mental health and happiness. Staying socially connected with others can minimize stress, anxiety, and depression, prevent loneliness, and promote happiness, joy, comfort, and self-worth. In the current era of technology, everyone, be it teens or adults, is obsessed with using social media. Though social media offers certain benefits, one must remember the fact that social media can never act as a substitute for in-person human connection. Spending too much time on social media can instill feelings of sadness, loneliness, frustration, or dissatisfaction. This does not mean that one needs to stay away completely from using social media, but optimal use, analysis, and imbibing of the needed and relevant information can help maintain a healthy balance and promote healthy physical and mental health.

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Last reviewed at:
13 Feb 2024  -  6 min read

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