How social media effects our mental health but how it can also benefit us as well
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
We live in the social media age, where our digital lives are unprecedentedly intertwined with our everyday lives. From Instagram to Twitter and Snapchat, billions of us have taken up residence online and connected to one another in unimaginable ways. In fact, nearly 59% of people around the globe use social media. You’re on social media too.
But as we find more opportunities for self-expression through these digital networks, a consequence has emerged: deteriorating mental well-being. Here we’ll uncover digital wellness dilemmas—their causes, effects, and even solutions—to help people become educated on how they can foster a healthier relationship with technology.
We’ll start by looking at social media’s benefits to mental health. Social media can make it easier to connect with others, which is vital to our well-being. But there are also potential drawbacks, including worsened mental health.
We’ll also explore why it’s essential to have social interaction, the effects of isolation on the brain, and the role physical activity plays in maintaining mental health. Finally, we’ll also touch on how much social media is too much and what proactive steps you can take to ensure your digital habits are not damaging.
Have you ever wondered how social media can affect your mental health?
Social Media and Mental Health
Social media plays a unique role in our life. For most people, social media is a fun outlet that provides entertainment throughout the day. However, social media is much more than that for some people.
Furthermore, social media can be vital in many people’s lives.
However, social media can become an addiction, and we may not even know it. In fact, our brain’s reward system releases dopamine, a ‘feel good‘ chemical, whenever we use social media. That means our brain associates using social media as a reward.
With our phones easily accessible, we always have access to some form of social media. Additionally, with various social media apps at our fingertips, it’s easy to dive in for a dopamine release anytime.
Social media’s constant dopamine-triggering notifications and posts can be incredibly addictive, leading to an overuse of these platforms. That’s why it’s easy to fall into the dopamine loop that keeps you craving, seeking, and returning for more social media content. That constant flood of dopamine from social media will keep us coming back.
Social media interaction may sometimes make us happy, but it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are times when social media can be filled with negative news. Seeing consistently negative headlines or media will affect your mental health over time.
That constant stream of negative news or content is called doom scrolling. Doom scrolling can damage mental health over time and is even quite distressing.
From the constant barrage of pessimistic world news to the constant highlight reel displayed on social media pages, we can forget what reality looks like.
Unquestionably, there are some benefits that can help promote healthy well-being through social media usage.
The benefits of social media on mental health
Social media can negatively impact our mental health, but that might not always be true. In fact, social media can benefit us to a certain degree. The content we view and interact with may benefit our mental health when we use social media.
In fact, research suggests that social media can also help our mental health by viewing ‘feel good,’ motivational content that can promote overall well-being.
Social interaction is crucial to living a healthy life. Isolation can hit us unexpectedly, cutting us off from others. From being snowed in by an unexpected blizzard to a worldwide pandemic, social media can be our only source of social connection.
Social media can unite friends, foster connections, and help us find a global community. We can connect with people in online groups with similar interests and hobbies. Much like you would meet new people at an in-person hobby event, you can also virtually meet like-minded people in communities hundreds of miles away.
Sharing our accomplishments and receiving support from close friends can be rewarding. Social media can have its positives, but it should always be understood that social media isn’t reality.
Strengthening and maintaining relationships with people is a great way to stay healthy overall. People with strong friendships, family, and other relationships are less likely to have health problems, are happier, and may even live longer. Taking the time to connect online – whether it’s staying up-to-date on friends’ news or branching out beyond your current circle – can make all the difference!
The negative effects of social media can take a toll on you and your mental health.
The drawbacks of social media on mental health
It’s no secret that spending excessive amounts of time on social media can harm mental health. But did you know that even the physical activity promoted by some social media platforms could contribute to declining mental health?
Studies have shown that the type of physical activity encouraged through social media—such as posting pictures, competing with friends, and being judged based on likes and comments—can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress. Users may focus more on their digital identity and appearance than their physical health and well-being.
Social media can negatively impact mental health by leading you to compare yourself to others, causing FOMO (fear of missing out), depression, anxiety, self-absorption, and possibly a social media addiction.
But really, our social media feed is a highlight reel. We pick and choose what moments in our life we want to post on social media. However, our posts may not reflect the reality of how we are feeling or thinking.
The best moments and the happiest (and maybe even the saddest) parts of our lives can easily find their way to our social media pages. All of the negative aspects of life may not even be thought of showcasing our highlight reel.
The highlight reel of someone’s life is all we see on social media–that is not reality. Social media isn’t bad, but you must take what you see with a grain of salt.
Socialization is crucial for many parts of our mental, physical, and emotional well being.
Why we need social interaction
Interacting with others is crucial for human well-being as it offers mental and physical benefits. By connecting with others, we can better understand ourselves. Socialization can lead us to see how the world sees us–through social interactions.
Regarding our mental health, social interaction can be just as significant as any other part of our well-being. A solid and supportive network and healthy relationships can be crucial in times of difficulty or simply in the day-to-day.
Research has shown that feeling connected can help to reduce anxiety and depression and may even improve our empathy, self-esteem, and our trust in relationships. This could be anything from having regular coffee dates with a friend to joining clubs and organizations that align with your interests.
Social interaction varies among individuals, yet there are always opportunities for everyone to participate. We all need a community or social group to which we feel we belong.
Connecting with other people is essential on a deeper level than we may initially think. Much like drinking water and eating food daily to survive, we need social interaction for our mental well-being.
There are numerous ways to stay physically active and maintain social well-being. Examples include attending a dance class or participating in group walks with friends. These activities can help us stay connected with those around us.
Exercise and movement are great ways to stay healthy and benefit our mental health.
Social interaction is essential for our psychological and physical well-being. It helps us stay connected with others and build relationships, which can lead to a sense of purpose and belonging.
The brain can be impacted in many ways by isolation.
Effects of isolation on the brain
The effects of isolation on the brain can be severe and life-threatening. Unsurprisingly, human interaction is such an essential aspect of life. We naturally crave connection and conversations, whether it be with close friends or strangers.
Even if we don’t always recognize it, the need for others is deeply embedded.
During times of isolation, it is essential to make an effort to reach out and connect with people in real life whenever possible to maintain mental and physical health. Isolation can increase anxiety and depression symptoms, causing worsening mental health, diet changes, and feelings of suicidal ideation.
The brain can become starved for social interaction. Isolation and feelings of loneliness have been linked to faster cognitive decline than those who weren’t isolated. Our mental health relies on other people, whether we know it or not.
Aside from mental health impacts, isolation can raise someone’s risk for heart attack, stroke, chronic inflammation, depression, anxiety, stress, and further loneliness. Physical activity over social media can be beneficial in its own way: participating in virtual workouts or playing online games can help keep people active during periods of isolation.
But ultimately, social media isn’t a complete substitute for actual interpersonal contact—it can even have an isolating effect on the brain if used too much.
A brief chat with a friend or family can positively affect the brain. It’s essential to counteract the isolation effect by engaging in meaningful conversations and activities that involve physical interaction, no matter how small.
Humans need social interaction. Social interaction is crucial to our mental health, whether through family, friends, or coworkers.
Mental health can be impacted positively in many ways from physical activity.
Physical activity on mental health
Whether it’s how we exercise, how we look, or what we eat, we are all different in a unique way. There isn’t just one way to be healthy and be physically and mentally well.
It’s no surprise that physical activity positively affects our mental health. Exercise can also provide an outlet for pent-up energy and stress, making you feel more relaxed.
If you want to improve your overall mental health, making time for physical activity is a great place to start. Find something you enjoy doing, like biking or taking a dance class, and make it part of your daily or weekly routine.
Physical activity is terrific for the mind and body. While that doesn’t mean physical activity is a cure for mental health, it can help alleviate the symptoms.
Exercise has a positive effect on the body. Thankfully, exercise does not need to be strenuous, exhausting, complex, or rigid. In fact, brisk walking for 2.5 hours per week can lower your risk for depression.
Exercise can raise the production of endorphins, a ‘feel good’ hormone in our body. Endorphins are great for our well-being by helping us reduce stress, ease minor pain, and increase our sense of well-being.
At the end of the day, we are all wonderfully unique. So be healthy and active in a way that is beneficial for you.
The amount of time that we spend using social media is important, and you may not know that there is a number that we should limit our social media usage to.
Establishing Social Media Limits
Social media use can have its downsides, but there is a healthy limit to social media. For example, instead of spending hours scrolling on social media, find other activities, like reading a book or walking.
While we may be socializing through a screen, we can be missing out on actual socialization. As we know, high social media usage can be
Research studies suggest that the acceptable limit for daily social media usage is 30 minutes, which may be hard to believe. In fact, as of January 2023, the average amount of social media use is 2.5 hours daily– drastically above the recommended limit.
While the average person may use more than the recommended limit, some issues can tag along with increased social media use. In fact, high social media usage (like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram) was associated with increased feelings of loneliness.
1. Be mindful of how much time you spend on social
There are many apps out there that can help you gain a better understanding of how much of your time goes to social media. The most critical first step is slowly decreasing your social media usage. There are already features that may be part of your phone to help us manage our digital well-being.
2. Fill your time with other hobbies
As fun, as social media is–and trust me, I understand, we need to find things that excite us in the same ways. From gardening to a regular date night can help fill your time.
3. Give yourself time
Social media is fun, I’ll admit it. But all fun things have to come in moderation. Otherwise, we can be caught scrolling our days away.
Social media has become an integral part of our lives and can play a significant role in our mental health. Though there can be some benefits to using social media platforms, such as staying connected with friends and family or getting access to helpful information, we must also be aware of the potential adverse effects of these platforms on our mental well-being.
It is essential to regularly assess our use of social media and recognize when it’s necessary to take a break from spending too much time online. We should establish boundaries to prevent social media from negatively impacting our mental well-being.
Finally, don’t forget that life is happening here and now – not just on our phones! Take some time away from your screens occasionally and experience the world outside.