The effects of Social Media on Mental Health

Switching off can be a struggle in general life with or without social media, depending on many factors. How many of you have struggled to switch off during a time in your life? This could be in terms of your job, children, relationships or something else. Being able to unwind and ‘switch off’ from the often chaotic life around us is essential for us to establish some kind of order and balance into our lives. Being unable to switch off can come in waves and in many cases, could be attributed to the use of technology and social media.

Social media could be seen to be more harmful to the younger generation, simply because they grew up when social media was evolving and it became embedded in their lives, whether they wanted it to or not. MSN and MySpace, followed by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and more recently, Tiktok. The list grew as they did.

Being able to use social media is a privilege, as we have the ability to voice our opinions, exercise our freedom of speech, share our lives with others and guess what? It’s free (with paid internet access). However, amongst its many advantages comes a hugely harmful impact on our wellbeing, if not careful or used in moderation.

A huge part of the negative impact of social media could be considered as stemming from peer pressure – in many ways. The pressure to get rich, be thinner, be better looking, smarter, happier and most of all, to ensure you are sharing all of this with your followers. If you aren’t sharing it, clearly you aren’t very successful, right? We all have successes and achievements in life, every single day and some of them may not seem worthy of sharing online like making it through a day without getting anxious, holding down a job, teaching your kid to swim, the list could be endless. The truth of the matter is, we don’t need to share our ‘success’ to prove we are successful. We don’t need to be a size 6. We don’t need to have a mortgage, marry and have children by the time we are thirty – in that order. There is no ‘right’ way or order to live.

You don’t owe social media anything and it certainly doesn’t prove anything. It can portray an unrealistic expectations of what our life ‘should’ be looking like by a certain age/period of time. As a result, it can cause us to feel depressed because we can feel unsuccessful, unworthy and lacking what others have on their feeds. Additionally, social media can be highly addictive. Much like most of technology, the hours can be wasted and fly by scrolling, flicking, double-tapping and clicking and unfortunately, not much is achieved in that time. You spent 5 hours on Tiktok? Doing what? Watching funny videos? It can also keep you awake at night and disrupt your sleeping pattern, which isn’t beneficial for anyone’s wellbeing.

What can you do to improve the harmful effects of social media?

  • If you must use social media each day, set yourself small chunks of time and set yourself boundaries with them.
  • Unfollow ‘toxic’ and ‘negative’ accounts or people who drag you down. Follow and focus on positive, helpful, educational and useful people/accounts on your feed.
  • Swap social media for blogging or writing as an effective way to communicate with others.

Stay safe!

How do you manage your mental health?