Social Media & Its Affect on Mental Health

As humans, most of us yearn to be around others because it brings us purpose and meaning. Have you heard the saying ‘humans are social creatures’? We are considered social by nature because we want to have relationships and be a part of society. Through relationships with our friends and families, we gain knowledge and learn new life skills as we grow. Because we are social by nature, we rely on cooperation and togetherness to survive and thrive. We need the companionship of others, and the strength of our connections play a vital role in our mental health as well. Being around others is known to alleviate stress, decrease anxiety, and boost self-esteem. Not only that, but it also helps to increase productivity, sustain happiness, prevent loneliness, and prolong life.
​As many of my readers may know, my father suffered a terrible stroke in January of this year before COVID-19 became pandemic. When it was declared a pandemic around the beginning of March, all visitations to hospitals and rehabilitation centers in New York stopped. When this occurred, my father’s health declined drastically.  He did not see any of his family, he was isolated, and no “restorative therapy” was provided. No music or television was playing in his room to help stimulate his mind. As a social creature, not being connected to others made it difficult for him to thrive. If we lack secure social connections, it can pose a significant risk for our emotional health and mental health as it did for my father.

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SOCIAL MEDIA’S ROLE IN MENTAL HEALTH

​By definition, mental health is where you can function effectively in your daily activities. It is the foundation for thinking, communication, learning, resilience, and self-esteem. It is also vital in maintaining relationships, adapting to change, coping with challenges, engaging in productive activities, and promoting emotional well-being.

Society has come a long way in how we can communicate and stay connected with friends and family. It is also a platform for us to be entertained, which is something we all enjoy. There are many social media platforms that we rely on to stay connected: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, and many other platforms. Each of them has its benefits in providing social networking and connections.

 


THE POSITIVES OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media has paved the way to keep us much more connected than before. We can send a text and see friends and families within a matter of seconds. Social media helps you to stay connected while helping to support your well-being:

  • It helps you to communicate and stay up to date with your friends and families
  • It helps you to build and maintain new friendships/relationships
  • It creates a world where you can find new friends to network and communicate with
  • It helps to foster and strengthen empathy
  • It can help to motivate you to strive for greatness
  • It helps to provide a platform for empowerment
  • It helps to provide social awareness and kindness
  • It promotes awareness on many important issues
  • It allows you to communicate with others immediately
  • It helps to encourage creativity and self-expression
  • It helps to increase self-confidence

THE NEGATIVE IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA

There are so many positive and beneficial things about social media in our society, so how can it possibly be detrimental to my mental health?  Despite these benefits, it is essential to remember that social media can never replace the in-human connection. You need human contact/connection to trigger certain hormones responsible for relieving stress, making you happy, healthy, and positive.

Social media is design to help bring people closer and keep connections. But have you ever heard that saying “too much of a good thing is bad for you?” Well, you can apply it here as well. Spending too much time engaging on social media can negatively impact your mental health in many ways.

It throws off your sleep cycle

How many of us are guilty of this?  As soon as we wake up, we check our social media platforms. Right before bed, we check our news feed for the latest update, and in between sleep, we check our phone when we hear our notifications going off.Such practices can damage sleep patterns and end up harming your performance at work or school. At night, when you are looking at the phone, the blue light from the screen indicates to your brain that it is morning and that it should be up and running. The blue light from the screen is known to cause eyestrain and tension headaches after long periods, which and end up affecting your sleep. If you are on your phone before bed and checking your phone between sleep, your mind will never be at a restful state, and this needed daily to help maintain your mental health.I rarely spend a lot of time on social media, but on those occasions where I spend an excessive amount of time scrolling through my news feed at night, my eyes eventually start to hurt, and it becomes hard for me to fall asleep. My husband is fast asleep while I am up trying to count sheep.Does this happen to you? Let me know in the comments section.

It creates feelings of inadequacy

I am sure you are aware that many of the pictures that you look at on social media are often enhanced and manipulated. Even with this knowledge, it can sometimes leave you feeling insecure about how you look, what you have, and what is going on in your life at the present moment.

But why is this the case? You see all these fantastic pictures of your friends or people having fun, shopping, buying the latest car, starting their business, and simply living their best lives. Sometimes you may even say to yourself, “wow, they have it all and are so happy”.

But guess what? Many people tend to share the highlights of their lives and rarely show the lows that they experience. So continually looking at these kinds of pictures can subconsciously create feelings of sadness and dissatisfaction. You may feel that what you have in your life is not good enough as you scroll and read about a person’s traveling experiences, new car/home, or new job promotion.

It creates feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation

In-human contact is needed for us to thrive because it helps to reduce stress and boost our mood. But if you spend more time on social media over person-to-person contact, you can become at risk for developing or exacerbating mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.

Social media can cause anxiety because there is a need to want to keep up to date with the activities of those in your social circle. There is also a Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), a popular concept that refers to getting an “anxious feeling when you feel there is a more exciting prospect that is happening elsewhere – and unfortunately, you are not there.”

There may be a desire to always want to be continually connected with what others are doing. This desire can be linked to lower mood and life satisfaction because you are more aware of what others are doing in your absence. In return, it can cause isolation and create feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and depression.

You may become self-absorbed & addicted to instant gratification

Sharing endless photos about your entire life and inner thoughts may create an atmosphere of self-absorption where you are preoccupied with your feelings, interests, or activities.  You can become so absorbed that you may even develop a need for instant gratification from those who follow you on social media. When you post a picture, you are waiting for those likes and comments, and you are waiting for your followers to view your stories. Sometimes this happens to me as well whenever I post a picture or video. We are all humans and wish we can have everything we want right now.

This self-absorption and need for instant gratification will give you satisfaction, but in reality, it can provide you with a false sense of importance.

It creates distance from real-life connections

Excessive social media usage can end up can distancing you from your connections with your friends and family in real life if you are not careful.  Have you ever notice some people struggling to hold a conversation with you in person, but online they are continually posting pictures or videos of their lives, inner thoughts, and what they do?  What causes this disconnect? I would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments section.Constant use can end up making us less social beings and contribute to high levels of self-isolation and low levels of well-being.

 

It can create emotional pain that leads to emotional scars

As we all know, the social media platform is known to become a hotspot for spreading abuse, lies, and hurtful rumors. Many times when I scroll through the comments section on posts or videos, the comments can become pretty brutal. Granted we are all entitled to our thoughts and opinions and have freedom of speech, the emotional pain that comes from comments or even direct messages can leave a person is feeling emotionally scarred for months or even years.

Envy and Jealousy can creep into your relationships

Posting pictures on social media can lead to unnecessary misunderstandings in relationships. About a year ago, I encountered such a situation. A very close friend posted a photo of themselves and me laughing. This said photo ended up creating an unwarranted conflict with another person. Pictures can say a thousand words, but simultaneously, it can create envy in others.Envy in a relationship often arises because of insecurity and sometimes confusion. It can create jealousy in relationships as well. When someone posts a picture hanging out with others, eating at an exotic restaurant, or going on a road trip, others can become subconsciously envious of a person’s lifestyle.

SIGNS TO LOOK FOR THAT WILL INDICATE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH IS AT RISK

Everyone is different and unique in his or her way. Your view on social media will differ from others. How often you use social media will vary to others as well.  How long you spend on social media, how regularly you check for updates, and what you post is not an indication that your use is unhealthy. Your mood and how you feel is what is essential in indicating whether your mental health may be at risk when it comes to social media usage.

Here are some signs that may indicate that social media is negatively impacting you:

  •  You are spending more time on social media than with persons in real life
  • You are experiencing cyberbullying
  • You are continually comparing yourself to others
  • You begin to experience low self-esteem
  • You start to engage in risky behaviors to gain likes, views, and comments
  • Your sleep is disrupted
  • You experience high levels of anxiety or depression
  • You are constantly distracted and not able to complete any tasks or work

 


TIPS FOR PROTECTING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH AS YOU USE SOCIAL MEDIA

 

Social media has excellent benefits for all of us. If you read my ‘about me’ page, you will see that I’ve lived in 3 other countries as a child growing. Because of social media, I can stay connected not only to my immediate friends and family but also with my friends and families in other countries. It is a great feeling to be able to keep in contact. I can quickly send a text, video call/facetime, or check out their social media to see what they are up to in life.

Even though this is great, excessive usage can sabotage your happiness and energy, and that is something you want to avoid at all costs. You do not have to deactivate your accounts and quit social media altogether. What sense will that make, especially during a time like this where there is a pandemic.

 

Understanding why your mental health is important and protecting it from the negative impact social media can give is vital. Here some helpful tips:

  • Find out what is driving your social media use
  • Set a time to detox from all social media platforms at least once a week and engage in self-care. Silence those notifications from time to time.
  • Set certain times for you to check your notifications.
  • Spend time reflecting on positive things in your life and things that you are grateful for
  • Do not compare yourselves to others
  • Remember that everyone goes through highs and lows (what you see on social media is just a portion of someone’s life)
  • Enjoy the moment by being present in the moment
  • Spend more time with friends and family in person
  • Practice mindfulness and meditation
  • Learn a new craft or skill that will help to keep you occupied
  • Take a break from apps that you notice contribute to feelings of inadequacy.


Your mental health is important, and no one or thing should jeopardize that. Take care of yourself.

Rebekah Charles

Rebekah Charles

4 Responses

  1. Great advice on using social media to our advantage. There is a lot of toxic positivity on social media, being mindful of this is so important. Maintaining a good balance between real & online communication is so vital.

  2. I need to find time to not be on social media as much as I am. One thing I’ve started doing recently is turning off my notifications the night before. This way, I don’t see them and I’m not tempted to go on my socials right when I wake up. It really does help a lot. I still have to work on limiting my time, but I’m headed in the right direction!

    1. Thanks so much for your feedback Deandra. And indeed you are, baby steps is better than no steps. My phone is always on silent, I prefer it that way because those notifications can become overwhelming from time to time! Keep at it and it will become easier as time goes by.

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Hello & Welcome!

HEY! I’m Rebekah, but everyone calls me Bekah or Becky.

I work for adults who suffer from Mental Illnesses and/or have Intellectual Disabilities. I provide Behavioral Therapeutic Services, among other services to this population.

I am a proud Black Caribbean girl who loves a good drama TV show and trying new foods. I love looking for great deals at HomeGoods, & TJ Maxx Stores. My favorite snack is popcorn!

I love love love Psychology and the work that I do.  It’s a humbling and rewarding experience.

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