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How social media affects our mental health ?

Social media has become an essential part of life for the majority of the people. We use it to communicate with friends and family, share ideas and information, host events, share pictures and videos, and much more. While social media has allowed for increased communication and connection, it has also caused new and significant mental health challenges society is still learning to navigate. In many cases, people are beginning to realize the deep impact that social media has on their mental health, both good and bad. Some research shows that it leads to a rise in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and eating disorders.

We have to admit that nowadays social media has become an integral part of our lives. It’s like an imaginary world where we can post pictures, post statuses, share things and get to know what’s going on around the world. We can also create a new identity for us without anyone knowing. So that social media is a double-edged sword which we should use in the right ways.

Social media has many appealing qualities. You can control what you share, socialise when you choose, and delete or leave out the parts of yourself you don’t like. But for people who are socially anxious, interacting online can be fraught with challenges, making them feel as self-conscious as they would face to face.

Social media has been pointed to as a major factor in the increasing amount of mental health conditions being diagnosed today. Because social media allows people to post an altered, filtered, or surface-level reality about themselves or others, it’s easy to get caught up in comparison, bullying, being bullied, fear of missing out, and dissatisfaction with the state of one’s life. It’s impossible to see what someone’s life looks like beyond edited snapshots in time, leading to the idea that some people have perfect lives while others do not. This leads to an ongoing pursuit of satisfaction, which is often defined and determined by others.

Dependence. People also go to social media to cope with the negative aspects of their lives rather than constructively managing their emotions in healthy ways. Because social media provides a comforting dopamine fix, and each progressive post can distract you from negative thoughts and experiences, it becomes a way for people to medicate their pain. Depression and anxiety are often linked, which could mean that dependence on social media is also causing any anxiety challenges you have to become worse.

Abuse and harassment. One of the biggest problems with social media is its proclivity for allowing abuse and harassment. Many people experience some variation of cyberbullying or harassment from individuals intentionally trying to make them feel bad. Those who aren’t direct targets can still be negatively affected by slurs and offensive language used by other users in public comment feeds

Anxiety and loneliness. There’s also sufficient evidence to suggest that despite its intention to make us more connected and more confident, social media use actually stokes feelings of anxiety and loneliness. Why is this the case? There are many factors that are likely to be in play here. For example, you may suffer from a “fear of missing out” (FOMO), witnessing other people have a good time when you’re on social media and constantly wanting to check social media when you’re off it. Due to the open transparency and constant accessibility of social media, you may also feel anxiety related to a lack of privacy. On top of that, social media often gives us the sense that we’re socializing without actually allowing us to socialize the way we do best—with in-person, direct conversations.

Echo chambers. Users on social media tend to self-isolate in some respects, unfriending and unfollowing sources who say things they don’t agree with and seeking out people who do agree with them. This facilitates the development of echo chambers, where only one narrative is constantly recycled. In turn, this limits our ability to remain open minded to new ideas, causes us to demonize people we don’t agree with, and in some cases, allows us to continue believing untruths.

Cyberbullying. From the report about 10 percent of teens report being bullied on social media and many other users are subjected to offensive comments. Social media platforms such as Twitter can be hotspots for spreading hurtful rumors, lies, and abuse that can leave lasting emotional scars.

Self-absorption. Sharing endless selfies and all your innermost thoughts on social media can create an unhealthy self-centeredness and distance you from real-life connections.

Modifying social media use it to improve mental health

Chloe McGeehan
Sources: American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, CNN, and PR Newswire

Reduce time online

-Use an app to track how much time you spend on social media each day. Then set a goal for how much you want to reduce it by.

-Turn off your phone at certain times of the day, such as when you’re driving, in a meeting, at the gym, having dinner, spending time with offline friends, or playing with your kids. Don’t take your phone with you to the bathroom.

-Don’t bring your phone or tablet to bed.  Turn devices off and leave them in another room overnight to charge.

-Disable social media notifications.  It’s hard to resist the constant buzzing, beeping, and dinging of your phone alerting you to new messages. Turning off notifications can help you regain control of your time and focus.

-Limit checks.  If you compulsively check your phone every few minutes, wean yourself off by limiting your checks to once every 15 minutes. Then once every 30 minutes, then once an hour. There are apps that can automatically limit when you’re able to access your phone.

-Try removing social media apps from your phone so you can only check Facebook, Twitter and the like from your tablet or computer. If this sounds like too drastic a step, try removing one social media app at a time to see how much you really miss it.

Change your focus

Many of us access social media purely out of habit or to mindlessly kill moments of downtime. But by focusing on your motivation for logging on, you can not only reduce the time you spend on social media, you can also improve your experience and avoid many of the negative aspects. If you’re accessing social media to find specific information, check on a friend who’s been ill, or share new photos of your kids with family, for example, your experience is likely to be very different than if you’re logging on simply because you’re bored, you want to see how many likes you got from a previous post, or to check if you’re missing out on something. Next time you go to access social media, pause for a moment and clarify your motivation for doing so.

Are you using social media as a substitute for real life?  Is there a healthier substitute for your social media use? If you’re lonely, for example, invite a friend out for coffee instead. Feeling depressed? Take a walk or go to the gym. Bored? Take up a new hobby. Social media may be quick and convenient, but there are often healthier, more effective ways to satisfy a craving.

Are you an active or a passive user on social media? Passively scrolling through posts or anonymously following the interaction of others on social media doesn’t provide any meaningful sense of connection. It may even increase feelings of isolation. Being an active participant, though, will offer you more engagement with others.

Does social media leave you feeling inadequate or disappointed about your life?  You can counter symptoms of FOMO by focusing on what you have, rather than what you lack. Make a list of all the positive aspects of your life and read it back when you feel you’re missing out on something better. And remember: no one’s life is ever as perfect as it seems on social media. We all deal with heartache, self-doubt, and disappointment, even if we choose not to share it online. 

All of this is not to say that there’s no benefit to social media. Obviously it keeps us connected across great distances, and helps us find people we’d lost touch with years ago. But getting on social media when you have some time to kill, or, worse, need an emotional lift, is very likely a bad idea. And studies have found that taking a break from social media which is called “ social media detox” helps boost psychological well-being. If you’re feeling brave, try taking a little break, and see how it goes. And if you’re going to keep “using,” then at least try to use in moderation.

Did social media affect your mental health? What do you think? Please share your opinion down below.

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