How Can Social Media Impact Your Mental Health? Here’s What You Need to Know
What are your feelings about social media?
Whether we’re talking about Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, or one of the other hundred social platforms on the internet, it’s meant to be a place for entertainment and connection-building.
I mean, posting photos of happy memories and checking out what your friends are up to sounds harmless enough, right?
Well, the truth is, opening your social apps shouldn’t be taken *too* lightly.
A growing body of research suggests that the time spent scrolling through these apps can be more harmful than it seems on the surface – particularly to your mental well-being. (1)
Today, I want to talk about social media and mental health. We’ll go over the negative effects of social media and tips on how to use it in a healthy way!
How Does Social Media Impact Mental Health?
The negative effects of social media on mental health vary from person to person. For example, studies show that young women are more like to experience health issues. (2)
But one thing in the research is clear – no matter who you are, the more time you spend on social media, the more likely it is to cause mental health problems, including feelings of:
- Trouble sleeping
Many of these symptoms are connected and boil down to 3 over-arching health problems.
#1. Depression and Anxiety
It’s New Year’s Morning. You mindlessly hop on social media after spending a quiet night in and see your feed is flooded with posts about new years resolutions and beach vacations.
All of a sudden, you go from feeling at peace to… jealous, lonely, and anxious? But why?!
It’s great that your friends are having so much fun and feeling motivated at the start of the new year. The fact that you feel ‘bleh’ about it might make you feel even worse.
But you’re not alone in feeling this way, and you’re definitely not a bad person!
You’re simply experiencing the very human act of social comparison. Comparing yourself to others can lower self-esteem and make you feel isolated. (3)
This is especially true when you’re comparing yourself to people on social media, which is just a highlight reel of other people’s experiences.
It’s no wonder young adults who spend large amounts of time on social media have a higher risk of developing anxiety and depressive symptoms. (4) (5)
It’s not healthy to compare yourself to anyone, especially not a curated version of someone.
#2. Sleep Problems
Are you guilty of taking your phone to bed?
Maybe you want to send off one last text – but before you know it, you’re scrolling on Instagram and 30 minutes have passed.
This is not a healthy habit! Not only did your bedtime get pushed back, but studies show that social media can decrease sleep quality, too. (6)
This is because electronics give off blue light, which blocks melatonin production and stimulates the body, making it harder to fall asleep.
Social media also disrupts your state of mind. It has you thinking about what other people are doing, rather than being with your own thoughts.
Think about it… you wouldn’t invite 30 people into your bedroom just before bed while you’re trying to fall asleep, right?
You might physically be alone in your bedroom, but when you’re on social media, you’re mentally elsewhere. Remember that!
#3. Greater Distractibility.
Is getting distracted a health issue?
Studies show that social media is a major source of distraction that keeps people from completing certain tasks. (7)
And putting off tasks, or not completing them altogether, can perpetuate a vicious cycle of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
So, why is social media so distracting?
Current research suggests it’s probably related to our desire to be connected all the time, not wanting to do an unpleasant task, or both.
We also know that using social media releases dopamine, the brain’s “feel good” hormone. So, it makes sense why we’d be tempted to open social platforms rather than do hard work!
Tips for Using Social Media in a Healthy Way
When used in a healthy way, social media can actually enhance our mental health.
Positive effects of social media include:
- Connecting with old friends and like-minded people
- Discovering new businesses and events
- Marketing your work to make a living
- Sparking creativity
- Sharing ideas
So, how can you take advantage of these wonderful benefits while protecting your mental and emotional well-being?
It all comes down to having boundaries.
Here are 5 top tips for creating boundaries around social media:
#1. Customize your social media. Who you follow has a HUGE impact on your mental well-being. So, be intentional with this. Take a moment to evaluate who you follow. Are they accounts that inspire you and make you think, or do they stress you out? Are they relatable to your life and where you’re at, or is their life radically different from yours, and unattainable? The latter can bring on feelings of jealousy or lack rather than promoting connection.
#2. Put your phone away at least one hour before bed. Ideally 2 hours! Bonus points if you leave your phone outside of your room altogether and don’t even keep it in your room. If you rely on your phone for your alarm, buy an alarm clock!
#3. Get sunlight on your eyes before blue light every morning. Studies show that stepping outside before looking at a screen helps you wake up and stay focused all day long.
#4. Turn your phone on Do Not Disturb during the day. Notifications can be extremely distracting and make you tempted to pick up your phone, even when you’re in the middle of something important.
#5. Use the “app limits” feature on your smartphone. You can manage your settings and set a time limit on your social applications, so whenever you hit the limit, you’ll receive a notification.
Protect Your Peace
While you could argue that social media does more harm than good, it’s also central to our lives. We use these platforms to get information, stay connected, and even conduct business.
It’s likely they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so it’s extremely important to learn how to live with them in a healthy way, whatever that looks like for you.
If you or someone you love is struggling with their mental health, social media could be part of the problem. Please forward this article along if you found it helpful! 🙏
And if you need help with your wellness, click here to learn how we can work together.
- Karim, F., Oyewande, A. A., Abdalla, L. F., Chaudhry Ehsanullah, R., & Khan, S. (2020, June 15). Social media use and its connection to Mental Health: A Systematic Review. Cureus. Retrieved January 6, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7364393/
- V.Hogue, J., & S.Mills, J. (2018, November 12). The effects of active social media engagement with peers on body image in Young Women. Body Image. Retrieved January 6, 2023, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S174014451730517X#
- Lee, J. K. (2022). The effects of social comparison orientation on psychological well-being in social networking sites: Serial mediation of perceived social support and self-esteem. Current psychology (New Brunswick, N.J.). Retrieved January 6, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7556555/
- Vannucci, A., Flannery, K. M., & Ohannessian, C. M. (2017). Social media use and anxiety in emerging adults. Journal of affective disorders, 207, 163–166. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2016.08.040
- Steers, M.-L. N., Acitelli, L. K., & Wickham, R. E. (n.d.). (PDF) Seeing everyone else’s highlight reels: How Facebook usage is … Guildford Press Periodicals. Retrieved January 6, 2023, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/267029087_Seeing_Everyone_Else%27s_Highlight_Reels_How_Facebook_Usage_Is_Linked_to_Depressive_Symptoms
- Xu, X. (n.d.). The influence of social media on sleep quality: A study of … Research Gate. Retrieved January 6, 2023, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281359220_The_Influence_of_Social_Media_on_Sleep_Quality_A_Study_of_Undergraduate_Students_in_Chongqing_China
- Koessmeier, C., & Büttner, O. B. (2021, November 8). Why are we distracted by social media? distraction situations and strategies, reasons for distraction, and individual differences. Frontiers. Retrieved January 6, 2023, from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.711416/full