Thanks to social media, today we are way more connected than ever before. Such a network had never been established across any historical period. But, with the pros of social media, also come its cons. Often we’re so blind-sighted by the glamorous appeal of social media, we fail to realize the negative effect it has on our life.
An average adult checks their phone approximately 32 times a day. Spending an average of 5 hours of their day on their phones every day. These are not statistics that represent a healthy lifestyle.
We often find experts saying, “sitting is the new smoking”.
What does this mean?
Given the number of diseases that are linked to sitting and the number of people who have lost their lives to such diseases, experts believe constant sitting is one of the worst things we can do to our health. But, this hasn’t stopped anyone from spending over half their sitting. Perhaps what’s more harmful than the act of sitting is the activity we perform while spend more than half our day sitting.
We’re referring to the constant scrolling we do on our phones and computer screens. Any minute you have to spare, your hand automatically reaches your phone to scroll through Instagram or Twitter.
Research has shown that mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds every time we have a few minutes or a few hours to spare, is an extremely unhealthy habit.
While social networking sites do have their benefits, using them too frequently can cause long term negative effects on both your physical and mental health. Especially mental health. Increased social media use has led to severe cases of unhappiness and isolation.
Risks are Always There
Social media has a reinforcing nature.
When you use social media, you are activating your brain’s reward center. The reward center is the part of the brain that is responsible for releasing dopamine. A chemical that is released anytime you participate in any kind of pleasurable activity. Most commonly while exercising, eating your favorite meal, having sex, etc.
As you frequently use social media you crave more and more of it. When in reality this is a sign of your body craving dopamine.
This is how an addiction is formed. This is a problem many are noticing in their life. A survey by Pew Research Centre reported that 71% of adults and 89% of teens in the US use social media frequently. This puts a large amount of the population at an increased risk of feeling anxious, depressed, or ill over their social media use.
The constant barrage of perfectly filtered photos that appear on Instagram is bound to knock many people’s self-esteem, while obsessively checking your Twitter feed just before bed could be contributing towards poor quality of sleep.
These are only some ways in which social media can impact your mental health. Continue reading to know more in detail about how social media impacts mental health.
6 Ways Social Media Affects Your Mental Health
Here are 6 ways in which social media is probably affecting your mental health without you even realizing it.
Can be highly addictive
Over the years experts have not been in total agreement regarding the legitimacy of social media addiction and internet addiction. But, there is enough proof that suggests that both addictions do exist. Studies have confirmed that, once a frequent social media user quits social media, they display similar withdrawal symptoms similar to drug addiction.
Social media can be compared to a slot machine. Both hold very similar characteristics. People continue playing with slot machines because they’re aware that there is a sum of money to be won at the end.
If they knew they’re never going to win anything, they’d all stop playing. Similar psychology is used by social media sites.
Once you post a picture, you don’t know how many like it’s going to get or who is going to like the picture. The specific person you posted the picture for, are they even going to see it? The uncertainty of the outcome keeps you hooked on the site. This paid with the reward system functioning can make social media highly addictive.
Decreased attention span
Social media not only affects the subconscious of the brain but also your concentration power when you’re awake.
While social media and the internet provide us all sorts of information at our fingertips, they have also made us extremely distracted. As a result of this, we are easily distracted. We also have a lower attention span to focus on things. Social media has provided a means of constantly giving in to the temptation of instant, easy-access entertainment.
This is both a boon and a bane.
If you’re unable to not check your phone for at least a few minutes, then you’d do well to practice exercising your willpower on occasion.
Can trigger sadness and depression
Experts have found that the more we use social media, the less happy we seem to be. One study a few years ago found that Facebook use was linked to both less moment-to-moment happiness and less life satisfaction—the more people used Facebook in a day, the more these two variables dropped off.
This is mainly because social media isolates you from society. Which is ironic considering it helps you keep in touch with friends and family across the world. Interacting with people you like improves your mental wellbeing. But, interactions on social media are having the opposite effect on both digital and mental wellbeing. Especially amongst the younger generation.
The Pew Research Centre’s survey showed that 34% of teens in the US agreed that social media was having a negative impact on their mental health.
In the last couple of years, there has been an increase in depression rates among teens and experts believe social media is to be blamed for this.
As humans, we all have our fair share of insecurities. We speak about some and hide some. Fearing judgment. The more we hide our insecurities, the more toxic our environment becomes.
As everyone tends to put their best foot forward on social media, these insecurities tend to increase by tenfold. While scrolling through our Instagram feed, we can’t help but compare our life with the perfect aesthetic Instagram photos our friends and family are posting. This causes a sense of self-doubt and self-pity that in turn has a negative impact on your self-esteem.
It births a vicious cycle of jealousy and envy.
Because of this nothing satisfies you.
Messed up sleep schedule
In our extremely fast-paced and dynamic life, getting a good amount of sleep is extremely important. But we spent too long on digital platforms before bedtime. Countless studies have shown that social media affects the sleep cycle in an extremely negative manner.
The light from the device only inches away from the face paired with the envy and sadness we previously spoke about, keeps you from falling asleep. In many, this has even lead to severe cases of insomnia. It is best to not use your phone for at least an hour before going to bed.
This allows your brain to relax and enables quality sleep.
What Can Social Media Platforms Do Better
We can’t deny that social media does have some very positive aspects. From bringing us together as a community to helping us share our idea with the world, it has helped us tremendously. Taking this into consideration, it would be an extremely wrong decision to ban social media.
But, what can be done is improving social media and converting it into a much healthier place, in the favour of everyone’s digital wellbeing.
In the recent past, social media platforms like Instagram have taken some important steps towards creating a healthier online community. For example, no longer displaying likes, letting us know why we are shown certain ads, and shutting down trolls and bots.
This sure has reduced the toxicity, but we still have a long way to go.
In addition to this, social platforms consider decreasing mass sharing altogether. They might function more as messaging services by highlighting one-on-one communications. Regardless of how likely social media giants are to change their ways, though, we as individuals can take control of their own behavior.
Ultimately, we are in charge. You don’t have to completely stop using social media, instead, you can download SocialX an app that will help you limit your social media use and lead a healthier life both online and offline!