Human beings are social beings.
We require the company of others to thrive in life, and the strength of our bonds has a significant impact on our mental health and happiness. Being socially connected to others can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, boost self-worth, provide comfort and joy, prevent loneliness, and even add years to your life. On the other hand, a lack of strong social connections can be detrimental to your mental and emotional health.
In today’s world, many of us rely on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram to find and connect with others. It takes in-person contact with others to activate the hormones that reduce stress and make you feel happier, healthier, and more positive. Spending too much time, despite the fact that it is designed to bring people closer together, can make you feel more lonely and isolated, as well as exacerbate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
If you spend too much time, you may experience feelings of sadness, dissatisfaction, frustration, or loneliness. It might be time to reconsider your online habits and strike a better balance.
Positive Aspects of Social Media
While virtual interaction on social media does not provide the same psychological benefits as face-to-face contact, it can still help you stay connected and support your well-being in a variety of ways.
Social media enables you to:
- Communicate and stay up to date with family and friends around the world.
- Find new friends and communities; network with other people who share similar interests or ambitions.
- Join or promote worthwhile causes; raise awareness on important issues.
- Seek or offer emotional support during tough times.
- Find a vital social connection if you live in a remote area, have limited independence, social anxiety, or are part of a marginalized group.
- Find an outlet for your creativity and self-expression.
- Discover (with care) sources of valuable information and learning.
Negative Aspects of Social Media
Because social media is a relatively new technology, there has been little research to determine the long-term effects, positive or negative, of its use. Multiple studies, however, have found a strong link between excessive social media use and an increased risk of depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal ideation.
Social media may promote negative experiences such as:
Inadequacy in your life or appearance
Even if you are aware that the images you see on social media have been manipulated, they can still make you feel insecure about how you look or what is going on in your own life. Similarly, we are all aware that other people tend to share only the high points of their lives, rarely the low points that everyone goes through. But that doesn’t make you feel any less envious or dissatisfied when you’re scrolling through a friend’s airbrushed photos of their tropical beach vacation or reading about their exciting new job promotion.
Fear of missing out (FOMO)
While FOMO has existed far longer than social media, sites like Facebook and Instagram appear to exacerbate feelings that others are having more fun or living better lives than you. The feeling that you’re missing out on certain things can lower your self-esteem, cause anxiety, and drive you to use social media even more.
FOMO can drive you to pick up your phone every few minutes to check for updates, or to respond compulsively to every alert, even if it means risking your life while driving, skipping out on sleep, or prioritizing social media interaction over real-world relationships.
According to a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, excessive use of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram increases rather than decreases feelings of loneliness. In contrast, the study discovered that limiting your use of social media can make you feel less lonely and isolated, as well as improve your overall well-being.
Depression and anxiety
To be mentally healthy, humans require face-to-face contact. Nothing relieves stress and improves mood faster or more effectively than making eye contact with someone who cares about you. The more you value social media interaction over in-person relationships, the more likely you are to develop or worsen mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Approximately 10% of teens report being bullied on social media, and many other users receive offensive comments. Twitter, for example, can be a hotspot for spreading hurtful rumors, lies, and abuse that can leave long-lasting emotional scars.
Sharing endless selfies and all of your innermost thoughts on social media can lead to unhealthy self-centeredness and a disconnect from real-life connections.