Social media is a big part of our lives today. Think about it, when was the last time you checked your Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp or Snapchat? Not too long ago I bet. According to statistics, about 40% of the world’s population uses social media and spends an average of about 2 hours a day. That’s a lot of time if you think about it. Social media seems to have turned into an unhealthy obsession for society and many studies are coming out highlighting the negative effects of social media and how it is affecting our mental health.
In this article, we will be diving into the negative effects of social media that most people maybe would not realize, so we can take better measures to take care of ourselves.
The Negative Effects of Social Media
Studies have shown that increased use of social media can have a negative effect on your quality of sleep. That’s due to the fact that phones, laptops and tablets emit blue light, which reduces your melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone in your body that regulates sleep. Low levels of melatonin make it difficult for you to fall asleep and can keep you awake. So it’s best to avoid checking your social media before going to bed if you want to ensure you get a good night’s sleep.
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
Fear of missing out (FOMO) is one of the most common negative effects of social media. It happens when a person views others’ activity and lives on social media and feel that they are missing out on the fun or emotions that someone else if getting. FOMO has shown to be linked to higher usage of social media, as the more time you spend on social networks, the higher the chance will be that you will feel like you are missing out when you are not online.
Unrealistic Body Image
Body image is an issue for many people today, both male and female. Young women especially, develop body image issues because of social media they take in on a daily basis. When you go on Instagram, for example, it’s filled with pictures of beautiful, fit, model-like girls working out, or posing in fashionable outfits, it’s no wonder people have started idolizing that as their ‘ideal’ body type. What they don’t realize is that most of those pictures have been edited or photoshopped and those body types are not realistic at all.
Anxiety and Depression
Research shows that spending more than 2 hours per day on social media could be adversely affecting your mood and you would be more likely to report poor mental health, including symptoms of anxiety and depression. A study found that depressive symptoms, such as feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness were linked to the type and quality of online social media interactions. Another study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology demonstrated that people who decreased their social media usage to 30 minutes a day, reported reduced levels of depression and loneliness.
Social Media is Addictive
Some say that social media falls in the same category of addiction as cigarettes and alcohol. Researchers have found that the same parts of the brain that are activated when people eat ice cream or win something are also activated when you see the ‘likes’ or ‘comments’ on your photos. Essentially, what this means is that when we receive online ‘likes’ the reward center of the brain, the nucleus accumbens, lights up and makes us feel good. With continued use of social media, this interaction trains the brain to release dopamine, which makes us feel good and we want to keep getting that feeling, again and again, similar to drug addiction.
So, not sure if you’re addicted to social media? What was the longest you’ve gone without checking your social media platforms? Do you feel loved when people ‘like’ your posts and rejected when someone unfollows you? How would you feel if all of your social media platforms disappeared tomorrow? Think over these questions and determine what you have to do to reduce your social media intake and ensure you aren’t addicted.
What the creation of social media and everything now being done online, bullying has also shifted from something once done face-to-face, to now being done online on social media platforms. Statistics show that 59% of US teens have been bullied or harassed online, and girls are generally more likely than boys to experience different forms of cyberbullying. Bullying, whether online or in-person, that takes place during childhood can be a major risk factor for one’s mental health and social relationships, and can even have long-lasting effects that can be prevalent up until adulthood.
Envy and Jealousy
Ever looked at photos of someone on their Instagram and wished that you were living their life? Social media is said to make people feel more negative emotions, due to them feeling envious and jealous of other people’s happiness or luxurious lives as we tend to compare our lives with others’. Feeling jealous from social media can make a person want to make his or her own life look better and post jealousy-inducing posts of their own, which seems to go on in an endless cycle.
Reducing the Negative Effects of Social Media
Limit Your Social Media Usage
- Try to reduce your social media usage to no more than 30 mins a day. Try to divide that time between platforms if that helps. For example, 10 mins on Instagram, 10 mins on Facebook and 10 mins on Twitter.
- Commit to not checking your social media during meals with family and friends
- Turn off social media notifications or your phone so you don’t get distracted when working or studying.
Try Doing a Social Media Detox
- Set aside one day during the week where you step away from your phone and computer and take a break from social media. Studies have shown that taking breaks from social media can lead to lower stress levels and higher life satisfaction.
- If you find it to be too difficult to do, try doing it together with a friend or family member for extra support and motivation.
Use Social Media in a More Positive Way
- Be more mindful during your social media sessions. Follow people and brands that make you feel good, and unfollow ones that elicit feelings of jealousy or envy or make you feel not good.
- Follow more inspirational accounts such as ones that post quotes, or life tips or even funny memes.
- Use social media as a way to plan face-to-face meetings as those tend to be more meaningful.
It doesn’t seem like society’s obsession with social media will be going away anytime soon, but hopefully, you are now fully aware of the dangers social media can have on our health and take the necessary steps to ensure you take care of your well being. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide if there’s more harm or help in social media for you.