Social media provides ease of communication in the world we live in today. It has provided us with a whole new dynamic for human interaction and is one of the most used platforms we use to communicate with each other. Social media is now an integral part of our lives, but with this comes a host of other problems.
There have been numerous surveys conducted to see if there is a correlation between our social media use and our mental health. New evidence seems to have determined the main impacts, ranging from low self-esteem to FOMO. But why is something that was created to bring us together having the opposite effect?
Social media provides us with the instant gratification we all crave. Getting something quicker is better than waiting, right? So if we can experience a dopamine hit just by uploading an image and receiving a few likes and loves from our peers, then why not? Turns out this is more detrimental than we think. The constant need for gratification means that when we don’t get as many likes and comments as we expect, we start to doubt our abilities.
Was my post not funny enough? Did I offend someone? These are all questions we may ask ourselves when we don’t receive the attention we want to for our posts. After all, we are posting opinions for the world to see, and when the world ignores it, it makes us feel bad. Especially when other accounts are getting thousands of comments.
There was a stage on social media when every image or post you viewed was the epitome of perfection. People on social media post pictures of their ‘perfect’ weddings, holidays, relationships, jobs, fashion, figures and faces. The effect this has on our mental health continually makes us feel like we aren’t good enough. We begin to question why we don’t have all these things.
What we don’t see is everything that is going on behind the scenes of these people’s lives, pictures can be edited, and people choose what they do and don’t post on social. There has recently been a rise of ‘body positivity’ influencers on Instagram. People who pride themselves on being truthful to their followers and showing ‘real’ bodies to try and improve the impact social media has on our mental health. Seeing people who look more like us, free of filters and editing opens our eyes to the fact that social media isn’t always as it seems.
Social media only shows the things we are missing out on, and our anxiety increases by trying to stay up to date with activities and events in our social circles. The concept of ‘FOMO’ is defined as ‘pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent’. Thanks to social media, we have become more aware of what we are missing out on. Knowing your friends are bonding without you is hard enough without having photos of them enjoying themselves showing up on your newsfeed.
It’s well known that sleep quality and depression go together. When you are sleeping well you are less likely to become depressed. Some of us spend all evening scrolling social media, resulting in difficulty sleeping. This could be due to feeling stressed or anxious about what they’ve seen, or just overthinking, as well as the fact that screens have a tendency to keep us awake if we are looking at them before bed!
Sleep loss works in a vicious cycle of reinforcement with mental health.Loss of sleep due to night time social media use can lead to poorer mental health, and poor mental health can lead to intense night time use and sleep loss.
There is no denying that social media can have a negative effect on mental health. But does it come down to the accounts we follow and how we use it? Limiting use to a few hours a day and not scrolling before bed are all steps we can take to still enjoy social media, but enduring we don’t overdo it. There has also been a rise in body positivity and mindfulness accounts taking over our feeds. Maybe the tables are beginning to turn, and we can finally use social media for the better.
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