Social Media and Your Mental Health
It’s difficult to imagine growing up without social media - it’s become such a vital and consuming part of our lives that it’s almost impossible to fathom going even a day without it. But with all the good and the bad that comes with using social media, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate how these platforms have impacted our mental health.
Of course, social media has both positive and negative aspects. On one hand, social media keeps us connected like never before - to our friends, family, the news, celebrities, and total strangers. It allows us to share information, memes, news, photos, art, and everything in between. On the other hand, it allows us to show everyone only the aspects of our lives we choose to present - which is oftentimes just a highlight reel of the parts of our lives that are great. Not many of us choose to post about our bad days or our worst experiences.
It becomes almost impossible not to start drawing comparisons between your own life and the lives of others on social media, and it’s easy to feel inadequate. Even when we know social media does not equal reality, it’s easy to forget that.
Multiple studies have found links between social media use and depression, anxiety, sleep problems, eating issues, and increased suicide risk. Additionally, applications such as Instagram that place such an emphasis on physical appearance, contribute to creating a generation of young people with body image issues. This can be very detrimental, especially when individuals start using at such a young and vulnerable age.
Ironically, social media can also cause social isolation, and the more time people spend on social media, the more socially isolated they may feel. Forbes says, “Unsurprisingly, it turned out that the more time people spent on these sites, the more socially isolated they perceived themselves to be. And perceived isolation is one of the worst things for us, mentally and physically.”
Of course, social media also has positive effects as well. It allows us to share our lives with our friends and family, and keep us connected around the globe.
It’s important to note that the relationship between social media and mental health is complicated, and there are plenty of other factors that may contribute. Further, social media may impact people differently, as some people may be more susceptible to the negative impacts social media may have.
At the end of the day, it’s important to recognize and be cognizant of how social media is affecting you personally. Take a step back and consider if social media is making you feel isolated, anxious, or overall more negatively about yourself. If it is, try doing a social media detox, or deleting accounts and people who make you unhappy. Social media is not more important than your mental health, and it is important to evaluate how it may be affecting you personally.
We asked you how social media has impacted your mental health, both positively and negatively. Here are your responses:
"Honestly, a bit of both. I am a plus sized teenager, and growing up being on social media that was hard. I was bullied at school a lot and when I went to social media for a break, all I saw was people that I’m not. It became a place of envy and self hatred. I started to harp on things like how many likes I get, what my feed looks like, and who is following or unfollowing me. Over the past year or so, I’ve seen a change in social media, where plus sized women are better represented. It has become more of a community to me where I can see people with common interests and similarities between eachother. I’ve really found my voice, and social media has helped. I love instagram especially because I can find such amazing people and organizations (such as yourself) that can help me make that voice louder. Much love"
"Positive: I have begun a lifestyle change that was necessary and scary with the help of a woman
I’ve never met. I began following a young 20 something girl who had lost weight and gained muscle on her own. (@marillewellyn) Mari’s positivity and transparency about her ups and downs with working out, eating healthy, AND mental illness made me inspired to finally budget enough to get a gym membership and work with a trainer. She’s 5’11 so am I, I can’t begin to explain how much this impacted my motivation. For once I saw representation from someone my size who did it. This was huuuuge for me. I’ve now been working out and feel proud of my strength that’s been developed. The beauty of social media is you can find representation far more than you can on normal media. There’s also a lot of inexpensive alternatives for learning new crafts, beauty tips, workout blogs etc.
Negative: Always feeling 15 years behind people my age or younger + the competition of business.
I just turned 26 and the flood of images from people posting trips to Chochella or Dubai are very disheartening. As a person working full time plus doing freelance photography on the side I cannot figure out how people afford it. It’s fomo but worse. Because you feel inadequate, I feel like total trash. I think maybe if my photography was as popular as ____ account then I could do that too. Which alters how you edit and what you shoot taking away from my artistic style.
You want to be yourself, but other peoples success or wealth makes you scared to compete. Let’s be real - the influx of social media we see can impact our self worth positively or negatively so I hope if it’s 90% negative for some people out there they get off of it or find their own Mari’s to inspire them."
How have you noticed social media impacts your mental health? Let us know here.