How does social media affect our mental health?
As with every technological advance in history, the increasing popularity of using social media to form and maintain our connection with others has both positive and negative attributes.
In this article, we’re taking a closer look at how social media affects mental health.
How Social Media Affects Mental Health
While social media can be great when it comes to staying in contact with distant friends and family members or seeking to make professional connections, utlizing social media in daily life can result in negative mental health outcomes. Here’s how social media affects mental health.
Social Media Addiction
It may be surprising for some to learn, but logging in to social media can become a technology addiction. As with other types of behavioral addiction – such as binge drinking or abusing drugs – engaging in the act of making posts, checking notifications, and monitoring amounts of likes and follows can become a compulsion.
Going too long without engaging can result in feeling an insatiable craving for a social media fix, and resisting that craving can produce feelings of anxiety.
When you do finally get to that sweet dopamine reward of giving in to your cravings, there is a sense of relief. This relief only lasts until the next round of craving, similarly to how a drug addiction works. If you want to test your own level of bona fide addiction to social media, try making a commitment to abstain from it for a few days.
Pain of Rejection
Anxiety and addiction aren’t the only mental health disorders that are associated with social media. Being vulnerable enough to share your inner self with the internet world comes with the risk that you will encounter people who don’t like you.
Whether this dislike is due to personality incompatibility or the cruelty enjoyed by an internet troll, those with an indiscriminate social media presence will eventually be faced with some degree of social rejection.
Psychologists have recognized that the feeling of rejection that is experienced by social media users can result in feelings of loneliness and the development of depression.
One of the most dangerous aspects of social media is potentially that of calling anyone who joins our network a friend.
Humans are social creatures, and the necessity of having people in our lives who we can count on has been well studied. A good friend works as a confidant, a cheerleader, and a mirror into who we genuinely are as a person. With a genuine friend, we are able to be exactly who we are at any given time. There is no pressure to perform or to pretend that life is anything other than the beautiful mess that it tends to be.
Social psychologists have spent many years dissecting what factors determine the quality of friendships. Friendships are formed on the basis of having things in common and spending time together and are meant to evolve throughout our life span.
For an adolescent, it is important to have friends who can help to refine the teen’s concept of self. As adults, we tend to prune our social circle to include only those who most align with our own, established, lifestyle.
Anyone who has experienced the avalanche of so-called friends who are able to join our inner circle with a click of a button can attest to the fact that these social media connections do not fit such criteria.
Any manner of person can view, commentate on, and contribute to our social media reality. There is very little commitment to our wellbeing involved, and the connections can end as quickly as they begin. In worse scenarios, these folks who would better be described as acquaintances will spread some poison before they go.
Pressure of Pseudo Fame
Some social media sites have replaced the misnomer of having copious amounts of friendships with the idea of having followers.
Prior to the advent of social media, the concept of having followers was reserved for the likes of inspirational leaders or Hollywood elites.
Now, anyone with some time and a camera can gain a crowd of admirers. Those who have observed the fickle nature of fame as it unfolds for notable figures throughout history understand that it is no easy ride. Working to garner fame – and then keep it – can take a toll on a person’s mental health.
When generating an income is the focus of gaining followers, the social aspect of media has been supplanted by business, and the lines of personal and professional life can be hard to maintain.
Technology is evolving at a rapid pace. High-quality film and editing techniques that were once limited to those in the movie industry are now available to anyone with a phone and an app. Images can be manipulated to eliminate flaws and enhance desired traits with the click of a button. What we view on social media is often nothing more than a facade.
This fact regarding deception in presentation doesn’t seem to dissuade many social media participants from feeling the pressure to bring this false reality into their real world.
Over the past several years, the amount of people seeking plastic surgery in order to match the standards set by these altered images has dramatically increased. People are willing to cut into their own flesh and change the body that they are born with just to look like nature supplied them with a filter.
The mental health concept of healthy self-acceptance has been tossed to the wayside.
Losing the Moment
One of the biggest trends in mental health wellness is the practice of mindfulness. With mindfulness, we learn to genuinely live within each moment as it passes. Practicing mindfulness can put us in touch with the miracle of being alive, and can teach us to get the most out of every experience. Being highly active in social media can sabotage this experience.
The concept of taking selfies isn’t new, the practice of it has hit an all-time high. People intent on making sure that their every waking moment is shared with the world on social media are always living in the future.
They are thinking about how to best set the scene for their future audience and thinking about how their future audience will perceive the presentation.
While this is great practice for a visual artist to employ during working hours, continually living our lives as though we are planning our next photography exhibit means that the actual experience of living life is passing us right by.