Social media has had a huge impact on society, especially on a person’s mental health over time. It’s changed the way we communicate and the way we frame the narrative of our lives. There are many positive aspects of social media, but there’s also a darker side to the endless scroll that keeps coming back for more.
Social media can often harm one’s mental health. It can cause depression and anxiety and can lower self-esteem. In teens alone, depression rates range from 13-66% with increased social networking usage.
With over three billion users, social media is likely to continue to play a huge role in our society. As such, it’s important to continue studying social media’s impact on both groups and individuals so we can continue enjoying the positive aspects of our favorite platforms while also safeguarding mental health.
What Is Social Media?
Social sites are platforms that are largely user-created. A developer sets up the framework of the platform, but users fill out the site by sharing their thoughts and media and interacting with one another.
Some of the biggest social sites include:
Each of these platforms has its unique features, but issues with social media use and mental health are often the same across sites.
How Does Social Media Evolve Over Time
Social media is constantly evolving, especially since it’s primarily user-created. While social sites were initially created for college students, overtime usage has grown to people of all ages. Anyone from children to older adults is now on social media.
Social sites have also become a much more prevalent part of people’s lives. Users spend an average of two hours and 20 minutes on these sites each day, which amounts to a little over 1/12 of their lives.
These platforms also play a different role in people’s lives. Many people now rely on these sites for communication, news, and for finding like-minded friends. Use is now far beyond the realm of simple entertainment.
What Drives Social Media Use?
People use social sites for a variety of reasons. For many, it’s a way to stay in touch with people they don’t see frequently. Others use these sites for networking or to find others who share similar interests.
For some, particularly teens and young adults, social platforms are not just a way of sharing with friends. It’s also a form of entertainment and something of a popularity contest. Many users in this age bracket base their self-worth on how many friends and likes they can gain on these platforms.
How Different Generations Use Social Media
Social media varies greatly by generation. Older generations, particularly baby boomers, use these sites (notably Facebook) to keep up with family and friends they may not have seen in a while. It’s a place to share and see pictures of their grandchildren and sometimes a source of entertainment.
Members of Gen X use these sites in similar ways, although they may be more tech-savvy than their baby boomer parents. They also tend to be on these sites more often and may use them for inspiration for new projects and solving problems.
Millennials are on social sites even more and tend to use several sites beyond Facebook. They often use the platforms in ways that are similar to their parents and grandparents. Millennials are also more likely to use these sites for networking and dating purposes. They often use these platforms to find groups with similar situations or like-minded beliefs.
Gen Z-ers use only a few platforms and many tend to switch platforms and focus on one primarily as it grows in popularity. Many have more than one account on the same platform and may segment friends, family, and the public into different accounts.
They use these sites to keep up with friends and share their own lives and interests. Gen Z uses social platforms more than any other group and their social lives are often more linked with these sites than the lives of other generations.
Social Media: Pros and Cons
There are many positives and negatives to social media use. Since it’s clear social media is here to stay even as it evolves, it’s important to embrace the positive effects of social media and understand the negative effects of social media. This knowledge will help us learn to use these platforms for the right reasons and avoid problems with social media and mental health.
We often only think about the bad that goes along with social networking, but there are many great effects of social media on people of all ages. The most obvious positive effects of social media focus on communication and socialization. These sites help us keep in touch with people we may not regularly see, call, or text.
Social networking also allows users to meet people they may not have otherwise met. Even if a person has a niche interest, they can find their community online. These platforms are often a way for people who may be introverted to make friends. For many, it can help to alleviate loneliness and depression.
There’s also the convenience factor. It’s easy to get in touch with a large group of people at one time. Users can share information quickly and effectively. This power becomes even more evident in times of crisis when users can report themselves safe and ease the worries of their friends and loved ones.
Social platforms can also allow people to precipitate social change on massive scales. Users can share ideas and experiences and even organize to affect change.
While the positives are great, it’s equally important to acknowledge the negative effects of social media. One of the biggest concerns is that social media use can lead to poor mental health, particularly in young adults. Features like infinite scroll and algorithms designed to continue showing related interests keep people on these sites as long as possible. As with any obsession, people sacrifice much of their time for social media and mental health suffers.
Social media use can cause a lot of insecurities, especially in teens. Kids follow famous people on these sites and set unrealistic expectations for body image. Seeing people who are often popular and considered beautiful can give teens a negative body image. A negative body image can lead to low self-esteem and even eating disorders.
Young adults and millennials are often bombarded with images and videos of influencers who appear to be living picture-perfect lives. They fail to realize that presenting these perfect images is how these people make money and develop unrealistic expectations of what happiness should look like. When their own lives fall short, they may experience loneliness and depression.
Since people spend so much time online, they often suffer from information overload. While information is good, too much information can lead to confusion or even a lack of factual evidence. Information overload can have far-reaching ramifications and can even influence how people vote.
Signs That Social Media Is Affecting Your Health
You should always be cautious when it comes to social media and mental health. Watch for these signs to ensure you’re not experiencing some of the negative effects of social media.
- Constant feelings of inadequacy: Feeling like you aren’t enough, particularly around body image and success factors.
- Feelings of isolation: Spending more time on social platforms than in the real world
- Cyberbullying: Engaging in cyberbullying or being the victim of cyberbullying is one of the worse effects of social media
- Fear of missing out: Feeling like your life isn’t enough, often leading to anxiety and unhappiness
- Obssession: Turning down other invitations and activities in favor of spending time on social platforms
- Narcissism: Overwhelming need to share photos of yourself and feeling like life events are meaningless if you don’t share online
Tips for Social Media and Mental Health
There are many ways to emphasize the positive effects of social media and reduce the negative effects of social media. First and foremost, you should limit your time on all platforms. Limit the number of times per day and how long you’re allowed to use each platform.
You should also be aware of how you’re using each platform. You should spend the majority of your time keeping up with people you know in some way. If you follow influencers, try to stick to people who inspire you rather than lowering your self-esteem. Keep in mind that influencers are curating their lives to make money and aren’t showing the messy parts of their lives.
If there are accounts you follow who make you feel inadequate or that your life isn’t enough, then it’s time to unfollow. Stick with following people who give you positive feelings. If it’s someone you know in real life, you can simply block their posts without unfriending them.
If you feel your mood slipping while online, then it’s time to put your down your phone and find something to do in the real world. Go outside, get some exercise or spend time with a loved one.
You should always engage in healthy communication. If someone is putting you down, it’s time to block them, and possibly report them if their comments are offensive or dangerous. If you find yourself being anything less than nice, then it’s time for you to take a break and assess whether that platform brings out the best in you.
Getting Help When Social Media and Mental Health Are Affecting Your Life
If social media and mental health are having an overwhelming effect on your life, it’s time to seek help. If you’re ready to take back your life contact us and discuss our treatment options regarding social media and mental health.