The power and influence of social media today are so great that they have penetrated under our skin and the development of new technologies has changed the world we live in — our habits, behavior, and communication. Special target, the prisoners of new ways of communication and social networks are young generations, especially teenagers. Social media has become the simplest way to communicate with each other and to exchange ideas, information, photos, and statuses. Since the social media entered into our private lives, we can freely say that they have a significant influence on our mental health.
So let’s see in which ways social media affects our mental health.
It can be addictive.
It’s obvious that social networks have a negative impact on our mental health, but it can easily become an addiction. According to Dr. Shannon M. Rauch at Benedictine University in Arizona, when your online posts are rewarded with comments and “likes” it serves as reinforcement, which can quickly develop into a habit that’s hard to break. Authors of a study from Nottingham Trent University conclude that there is a specific Facebook addiction disorder. It can cause a neglect of personal life, mental preoccupation, escapism and mood-modifying experiences. Also, people who excessively use social networks tend to conceal the addictive behavior. The addiction to social media especially depends on the time we spend on it. The more we use social networks, the more we stimulate the pleasure centers and dopamine production in our brain.
It causes a bad mood.
Social networks affect our mood and trigger more sadness than well-being. For example, Facebook allows people instant connection. “Offline” communications powerfully enhance well-being but interaction on Facebook may predict the opposite result for young people. It can cause social isolation which is the worst thing for our mental and physical health. One study includes a team which looked at how much people used 11 social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat, and Reddit. In the end, it turned out that the more time people spent on these sites, the more they perceived themselves as socially isolated.
It enhances comparison factor and jealousy.
This includes comparing our lives to others which are mentally unhealthy. We often scroll through our feed and comment to ourselves others statuses and photos, for example: „Look at what she got, it’s so cool!“ or „WOW, he’s in Portugal, I want to go there!“. In fact, we make judgments about how we measure up and we become jealous of other people. One study looked at how we make comparisons to other’s posts — are we feeling better or worse than our friends? It turned out that even feeling that another person is better than you makes you feel bad. Also, when we feel jealous we tend to post more and more just to present our life much better. It’s circle with no end. Jealousy and envy can lead to feelings of depression.
We feel that social media helps us.
When we use social media we think that it is good for our mood but we actually don’t feel very good. There is a disorder called FoMO (Fear of missing out). It’s a social anxiety characterized by a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing and we think that is good to know all that stuff. It’s like an addiction to drugs or cigarettes. When people use drugs they think it will fix their problems but it’s just going to get worse and worse. In one study, one group of people were using Facebook, and other groups were doing some other activities. When they were done, the group who were using Facebook felt much worse than other groups. The key is that they thought they would feel better but, in the end, they didn’t.
This is totally incorrect. We can’t be more social if we have more friends on social media because it contains virtual friends and virtual communication which can’t be compared with real communication. If we use social media often for conversing with our friends, we can feel lonely. Loneliness can’t be fixed with more friendships on social media, because virtual friend time doesn’t have the therapeutic effect, as does time with real friends.
All of these facts show us that we live in an enchanted world. But that doesn’t mean that social media doesn’t have its benefits. It allows us to connect with people around the world or with friends we had lost touch with. Also, there are social networks where we can find a job or read about things in areas of our interests, but getting on social when you are bored or you need an emotional lift is a very bad idea. We have to learn to control the usage of social networks. It’s a great idea to take a break from social media — turn of the notifications, just to see how long you will endure, and how that would affect your mood. If you think you can do it, go on!
How Social Media Affects Our Mental Health was originally published in Digital Reflections on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.