How Social Media Affect Mental Health By Karla Palma
With everything at the tips of our fingertips, social media has become a part of everyday life. Social media has developed into something that has changed the way people interact with each other and how people intake information. There are positives and negatives towards social media; however, social media can negatively turn when excessively using social media. Everyone is different and uses social media in different ways. One of the most prominent aspects of social media is a person’s appearance. Social media has provided its users with several various features and filters to alter their faces and bodies in order to enhance their looks online. These filters distort the person’s real looks into something the person is not. Filters are temporary and a replacement for those who want to permanently alter their appearance to look like the filter used primarily on Snapchat and Instagram. Due to the fact that filters are widely used, this can directly impact the self-esteem of social media users. When looking at influencers on social media, one forgets that their singular post has been heavily edited and enhanced to look picture perfect. Even body-positive influencers fall for the photo enhancements because there is a yearning to look like perfection. Realistically it is impossible to attain such perfection in real life.
There has to be a moment of realization that it’s all facade when on social media. Social media is an act of a miniature version of someone’s life. Everything seen on social media is rarely the full scope of what reality is—creating a domino effect on social media users towards their emotions and how they feel towards themselves and others. Social media has become one of the biggest sources of finding information. Although social media has created an outlet for several content creators to have a platform, some creators have used their influence to spread false information and mislead social media users. Regardless of what application you are using, all apps have this issue. It is also important to remember that social media should not be the sole resource for collecting information about any topic. From politics to what your body image should look like, it is important to find proper resources for any topic. Social media can quickly become a place of negativity where it becomes the sole priority. This can negatively impact someone’s mental health by allowing social media to become a priority and your online persona to have more importance than your real life. Here are some questions to ask yourself to clarify the motivations for why you are using social media:
- Are you using social media as a substitute for real life? For example, if you are lonely, instead of talking or hanging out with your real-life friends, you turn to social media? Social media is quick and convenient when it comes to fulfilling the cravings of human interaction. Another example is when feeling depressed, you turn to social media to release how you feel instead of talking to a friend, taking a walk, or going to the gym.
- What kind of social media user are you? A passive or active user? A passive social media user is when you are just scrolling through social media anonymously. Whereas an active social media user looks for connections with most of the content they are being shown.
- Does social media leave you feeling disappointed about your life? Many social media users tend to focus on what other people have and what they personally lack. Another major disappointment that social media may feel you are leaving is that you have to change how you look to fit into the online community.
Here are some examples of when a person is starting a cycle of unhealthy social media usage:
- When feeling lonely, depressed, anxious, or stressed, you find yourself using social media more often in a way that relieves a connection to others.
- You find yourself spending more time on social media rather than with your real-world friends. You become distracted from what is truly important in the real world and more focused on the online world.
- When using social media, you sense a feeling of dissatisfaction with your personal and social life and your physical body. Starting to compare your life to others and feeling a need to change yourself to appeal “better.”
- These negative feelings start to impact your mood more often and worsen possible symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. You find yourself having less time to have self-reflection by engaging only with social media.
- Lastly, you keep turning to social media for an answer or a coping mechanism; however it creates a never-ending cycle.
Here are some helpful tips on reducing the amount of time spent on social media when it becomes negative in your life. Realistically there is no way social media could be completely wiped out of your life because social media drive the world around us. What can be realistic is the way you use social media. With so many apps out there, there can be difficulty in managing everything that you are feeding yourself. Here are some helpful tips on reducing the amount of time spent on social media when it becomes negative in your life.
- Track what apps you are using the most and spending the most time on. Based on your times, set small, realistic goals to reduce the amount of time spent on each app.
- Turning off your phone or putting your phone on “do not disturb” every day or every other day for a specific time of day. There can also be rules on where and when not to use the phones—for example, not using phones when eating at the table.
- When social media becomes too much and is completely consuming your life, a great solution is to turn off notifications for specific social media apps. This small change can help you regain a sense of focus for yourself or other responsibilities you may have.
- Lastly, delete social media apps that you do not need or rarely use. There is no point in keeping apps that are not needed. You aren’t missing out on anything truly important. Delete the apps you do not use or rarely use.
It is important to find a healthy balance of the usage of social media, and it can look different for everyone. Social media is still fairly new and is continually evolving as time goes on. It is important to take care of your mental health and put aside social media in order to keep living in the real world.
She is a student at SAGU studying for her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She is from Houston, Texas, and is currently living in Waxahachie, Texas. She is an aspiring bilingual counselor.