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  • Writer's pictureAlayna Dorfman

The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

Social Media: The New Normal

In today’s modern digital age, the rise of social media has revolutionized the way we communicate, connect, and share information. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok have become an integral part of modern life, bridging geographical distances and fostering virtual communities. While social media presents a seemingly boundless array of opportunities to connect with others, it has also inadvertently become a double-edged sword and an emerging concern has come to the forefront – its impact on mental health.

Recent Social Media Findings:

-Approximately 56% of Americans aged 18-29 experience anxiety when they are not able to access their social media accounts

-A study found that 89% of undergraduate students experience phantom vibrations. This is the perception of vibrations from a mobile device that isn’t vibrating. People crave notifications so much that they start imagining them.

-Almost 40% of girls who spend more than five hours a day on social media show symptoms of depression.

Learn more about the statistical correlations between mental health and social media usage.

The Positive Effects of Social Media

Although there are more commonly known side effects that are negative, we wanted to first review the positive attributions and human progressivity social media has provided in our lives:

  • Global Connectivity. Social media has bridged geographical gaps, allowing people from different parts of the world to connect and communicate easily. This has facilitated the exchange of ideas, cultures, and knowledge, which is fostering a sense of global community and promoting cross-cultural understanding and encouraging integration.

  • Information Sharing and Awareness. Social media platforms serve as powerful tools for spreading information rapidly. They have been instrumental in raising awareness about social issues, disasters, and emergencies, helping people mobilize for causes and support relief efforts.

  • Empowerment and Activism. Social media has provided a platform for individuals and communities to voice their opinions and advocate for social change. It has played a significant role in organizing and amplifying social and political movements, empowering minorities to seek justice and equality.

  • Networking and Career Opportunities. Social media platforms have become essential tools for networking and professional development. They facilitate connections between individuals, entrepreneurs, and businesses, opening up new career opportunities and expanding professional networks.

  • Education and Learning. Social media has become a valuable source of educational content. From informative articles and videos to online courses and tutorials, these platforms offer diverse learning opportunities that can be accessible to people across the globe.

  • Support and Community Building. Social media has allowed individuals facing similar challenges, such as health issues or personal struggles, to find support and build empathetic communities. Online support groups and forums can provide emotional assistance and valuable sources.

  • Creative Expression. Social media has given a voice to artists, writers, photographers, and other creatives, enabling them to share their work with a broader audience and receive instant feedback and recognition.

It’s good to acknowledge the benefits that social media has brought to our lives, but it’s also important to be aware of the negative mental health impacts that social media can create because we want to catch the root of the problem before it causes psychological distress, anxiety, and/or depressive thoughts.

The Negative Effects of Social Media

  • Mental Health Impact. Excessive use of social media has been associated with increased feelings of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. The constant comparison to others, cyberbullying, and exposure to negative content can contribute to psychological distress.

  • Extreme Phone-Attachment and Time Wasting. Social media platforms are designed to be addictive, leading to compulsive behaviors and a significant waste of time for many users, impacting productivity and daily activities.

  • Social Isolation and Real-Life Disconnection. Paradoxically, while social media connects people virtually, it can lead to a sense of social isolation and reduced face-to-face interactions, negatively impacting interpersonal relationships.

  • Body Image Issues. The curated and idealized images shared on social media can contribute to body image concerns and unrealistic beauty standards.

  • Sleep Disruptions. Expressive use of social media, especially before bedtime, can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to sleep deprivation and its associated health consequences.

  • Digital FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Social media can generate feelings of anxiety and inadequacy when users perceive themselves as missing out on experiences others appear to be having.

  • Impaired Concentration and Attention. Frequent use of social media has been linked to reduced attention spans and decreased ability to focus on tasks.

Alayna’s Reflection: 1 Year of being Social Media Free

During my freshman year of college, I was obsessed with looking at other peoples' fabricated social media posts. It made me feel insecure of my life, my appearance, and my lack of early financial success. After being aware of these negative feelings for a long time, I decided to finally take a risk – going against the generational norm – and deactivate my Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Here are the changes that I’ve noticed while living a social-media free life.

  1. I am living a life designed by me. I am doing things that make my mind, body, and spirit feel genuinely good. I’ve also lost the anxious compulsion to constantly take pictures and feel the need to share them with the world; I am living life in the present and don’t feel the need to project it to the world anymore.

  2. I am more productive. Instead of watching short-clips and scrolling through hours of fabricated images, I am filling my days up with things that matter the most including studying, writing, biking, painting, cooking, working out, building my relationships/deepening connections, and going to the beach. I have noticed a significant increase in satisfaction with my own life; I am discovering my meaning and purpose.

  3. I have lost attachment to my phone. I don’t have this anxious tendency to check my phone for notifications anymore and I feel comfortable putting it away for a few hours. Losing the attachment has allowed me to enjoy the beauty of the present without any digital distractions.

  4. I am creating my own beliefs that aren’t dependent upon public validation.

Hall Birdsong: Deleting Instagram

Another one of our BYBS members has also decided to make a change in his life and delete a well-known and addictive platform. Here’s Hall’s view of social media and why he chose to delete Instagram:

“I think there are ways of positively engaging with social media to keep up with friends, but there are also problems with social media as a whole. The reality social media reflects is a distorted view of reality. When I was on social media, I felt it myself: validation from posting feels great and numbs bad emotions like any other addictive behavior. It’s easy to get hooked and lose touch with your actual daily life and real relationships, which is why I deleted it."

We know that since our world has transitioned digitally, some aspects of your life may depend on social media and may not be possible to deactivate. That being acknowledged, we wanted to include some ways in which you can use social media in a mindful manner that’ll preserve your mental health and wellbeing.

Balanced Ways to Use Social Media

  • Set Time Limits. Establish specific time limits for social media use each day. You can use built-in app settings on your device or download third-party apps that track and limit your social media usage.

  • Create a Schedule. Designate specific times of the day for social media engagement and stick to the schedule. Avoid mindlessly scrolling during work or study hours, mealtimes, or before bedtime.

  • Disable Notifications. Turn off non-essential notifications from social media apps to reduce the urge to check them constantly. This will help minimize distractions and interruptions.

  • Identify Triggers. Be aware of the situations or emotions that trigger your social media usage. This awareness will help you find alternative ways to cope with stress or boredom.

  • Replace Social Media with Hobbies. Instead of reaching for your phone during downtime, engage in hobbies, physical activities, or spend quality time with loved ones.

  • Keep Devices Away at Night. Avoid using social media before bedtime as it can disrupt sleep patterns. Consider charging your phone outside the bedroom to resist the temptation to check it first thing in the morning or before sleep.

  • Unfollow or Mute Accounts. Be selective about the accounts you follow; unfollow or mute accounts that consistently trigger negative emotions or make you feel inadequate.

  • Use Productivity Apps. Consider using productivity apps or website blockers that limit your access to social media sites during specific hours.

  • Accountability Partner. Partner with a friend or family member who also wants to control their social media usage. Hold each other accountable and support one another in achieving your goals.

Remember, the goal is not to completely eliminate social media, but to use it mindfully and in a way that enhances your wellbeing and overall life.

Are you interested in seeking some professional assistance in achieving a well-rounded lifestyle, handling negative emotions due to the impact of social media, or anything else?

Meet two of our clinicians from BYBS, who are a part of the social media team, as well as specialized in this area of topic/care and can assist you in a safe, respectful, and empathetic manner.

Areas of Expertise: Self-esteem, women’s issues, life transitions, anxiety, depression

“My approach to therapy is holistic, drawing from mindfulness techniques to gain understanding of the mind, body and spirit. I will teach you how to use meditative techniques such as grounding, guided imagery, and deep breathing so that you can release your stress and overwhelm and feel more grounded and calmer.”

Areas of Expertise: Self-esteem, college students, women’s issues, anxiety, depression

“I use a Person-Centered approach, this way you are leading our sessions and making discoveries. I will still be there every step of the way to support you, but you will be the guide of where we go and how we work. This is important to me because I want you to choose what matters to you rather than me deciding that for you.”

If you are interested in seeking professional help from Rochelle Young, Jordan Jones, or one of our other BYBS clinicians, schedule a free 15-minute consultation!

Read one of our past blogs that discusses social media even further: Enhancing Your Relationship to Body Image and Social Media

Hi everyone! Thank you for reading, The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health. I hope this blog inspires you to take mindful measures when using social media and to remember to focus on what you value the most in life.

Alayna Dorfman

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