In recent years, social media’s effects on mental health have been intensely studied. Our experiences on social media are nuanced and vary by age group, but the impact on teens and young adults appears to be more acute. A recent study from the University of Pittsburgh Medical School showed that prolonged social media use among young adults is correlated with increased depression and sleep issues. Read on to learn about the four ways social media could negatively affect your mental health, and what you can do about it.
“Compare and Despair” Leads To Low Self-Esteem
Problem: Facebook and Instagram are platforms where people often share important milestones in their lives. It’s not uncommon to see photos of people’s international travels, engagement rings, weddings and pregnancy announcements. In moments like these, we can contrast our life achievements with those of our online friends and family, and feel inadequate by comparison.
Solution: It is important to remember that most social media profiles are carefully curated, and studies suggest that we often underestimate the discontent of others around us. Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to the person you were 1, 5 or even 10 years ago. How have you grown, changed, or improved since then?
It Can Create Feelings of Isolation
Problem: Social media has helped people connect with loved ones, acquaintances, and strangers around the world, but too much time online minimizes face-to-face interactions. Infrequent or rare instances of in-person socialization can lead to feelings of loneliness or disconnect.
Solution: The key to feeling content in offline life is about balance. Decide how much time you want to spend on social media, and set reasonable restrictions for yourself that you can adhere to. The mobile app for Facebook and Instagram allows users to set daily time limits, and even customize which days of the week those time limits are applicable. You can also disable notifications to keep yourself from checking your phone every time a notification pops up.
Sleep Quality Can Suffer
Problem: Many of us spend time scrolling through social media feeds while we’re in bed, and this can delay sleep for two reasons. First, the emotional factor of using social media often keeps us stimulated. Secondly, the light emitted from our smartphones can prevent the release of melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy. Chronically poor quality of sleep can lead to mood swings, depression, and anxiety.
Solution: Make putting your phone away 40 minutes (or more) before bedtime a part of your nightly ritual. You can also set a blue-light filter to come on at night in your phone’s settings, or through screen dimming apps.
While social media allows us to stay in touch with family, friends and even forge new relationships, it’s important to monitor how much time we spend using it, and to be mindful of how that usage makes us think, feel, and behave. By making small adjustments in our day-to-day habits and setting personal limits for ourselves, we can improve the quality of our lives on and offline.
If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issues, Allegheny Medical is here to help. Our counseling services provide a combination of treatment, counseling, and referrals to offer high-quality, personalized care. Your mental health is our priority. Call us at 412-494-4550 or book an appointment online.