“Social media has given us this idea that we should all have a posse of friends when in reality, if we have one or two really good friends, we are lucky”. -Brene Brown
A quick Google search of “social media and mental health” can elicit a plethora of mental health blogs and websites stating how social media is contributing to the mental health epidemic in the United States.
Excessive use of social media can be linked to depression and anxiety. However, it is the way people are using social media, not necessarily the time and duration spent on these platforms that separates the positive and negative impacts social media can have on our mental health.
A means for social connection
Social media can combat loneliness by allowing us to connect with friends or family who we often do not see. It also allows us to connect with strangers and potentially start a new friendship.
There is an active community and connectedness associated with social media and logging in to send a message to a friend or look at photos of a family member’s new baby can be a great way to connect when you are on the move.
Sending messages and checking status updates on social media is often used to compensate for diminishing in-person interactions that are difficult due to time, distance, and daily obligations.
A creative outlet
Social media is not just a creative outlet for companies to advertise their products, but it is also a creative outlet for individuals to express themselves in the form of writing and photography.
A creative outlet such as writing can help focus the mind, ease anxiety, and productively manage negative emotions.
When social media becomes a slippery slope
Mindful use of social media can have a positive impact on individuals, but when conscious use becomes excessive unhealthy use, you may begin to slide down a slippery slope.
When we become emotionally connected to social media, we quickly become our own worst enemy. Depression, loneliness, and anxiety are lurking in the shadows of unhealthy social media use, primarily when we use these platforms to compare ourselves to others, to fill a void, or to bully others behind a screen.
Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a common social media term used when we compare our lives to others and always want to be “in the know.”
We are scared to miss out on what others are doing. This FOMO usually exists because we are trying to fill an empty void. Maybe we are depressed or feel alone or feel that we are not good enough.
We want to fit in, and although social media can help us connect with others, it can also be an unhealthy comparison tool. We compare our lives to the highlight reel of a stranger’s life, and we often feel as though we are missing out.
When social media becomes too much
Have you ever scrolled through someone’s newsfeed aimlessly and noticed that an entire hour has passed? It is so easy to mindlessly scroll through social media to pass time. Minutes can quickly turn into hours.
As we become more interested in our popularity on social media, the rush of dopamine that we receive from instant gratification leaves us wanting more until we find ourselves addicted to social media for no apparent reason.
When we begin to use social media to become more popular or create a false sense of reality, this can trigger feelings that are similar to drug addiction. We are filling an empty void and must continue to go back for more but without any purpose. This instant gratification can leave many reeling in feelings associated with depression and anxiety.
Taking a break to take care of yourself
If you feel that you are negatively affected by social media or are spending too much time aimlessly scrolling, then take a break.
Delete the apps, devote more time to yourself, join an in-person community, and maybe even consider therapy. Social media is not necessary, and you mind find that you can flourish without it, especially if you find yourself leaving these platforms anxious and depressed.
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If you or someone you love is struggling with a mental health illness or substance use and addiction disorder, we can help now more than ever! AKUA Mind & Body provides an integrative treatment approach with multiple levels of care from detox, residential to virtual outpatient programs. With several facilities throughout the Sacramento Region, Los Angeles & Orange County Region, and San Diego Region, we aim to provide our clients with a solid foundation for healing and transformation. Gender specific and Co-ed facilities available.
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