While many of us like to stay connected on social media, excessive use can fuel feelings of addiction, anxiety, depression, isolation, and FOMO. Here’s how to change your habits and improve your mood.
Human beings are social creatures. We need the company of others to thrive in life, and the power of our connections has a huge impact on our mental health and happiness. Being socially connected to others can relieve stress, anxiety, and depression, boost self-esteem, provide comfort and joy, prevent loneliness, and even add years to your life. On the other hand, a lack of strong social ties can pose a serious risk to your mental and emotional health.
While each has its benefits, it’s important to remember that social media can never replace real human connection. It takes face-to-face contact with others to trigger hormones that relieve stress and make you feel happier, healthier, and more positive. Ironically, for a technology designed to bring people together, spending too much time engaging with social media can actually make you feel lonelier and more isolated – and exacerbate mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
Positive aspects of social media
While virtual interaction on social media doesn’t have the same psychological benefits as face-to-face contact, there are still many positive ways it can help you stay connected and boost your well-being.
Social media allows you to:
Find an important social connection if, for example, you live in a remote area or have limited independence, or social anxiety, or are part of a marginalized group.
Find space for your creativity and self-expression.
Negative aspects of social networks
Inadequacy of your life or appearance. Even if you know that the images you view on social media are manipulated, they can still make you feel insecure about how you look or what’s going on in your own life. Similarly, we are all aware that other people tend to share only the best of their lives, rarely the low points that everyone experiences. But that doesn’t lessen those feelings of envy and dissatisfaction when you look at your friends’ photos from their tropical beach vacation or read about their exciting new promotion at work.
While FOMO has been around for much longer than media, sites like Facebook and Instagram seem to amplify feelings that others are having more fun or living better lives than you. The thought of missing out on certain things can affect your self-esteem, create anxiety, and fuel even more social media use, much like an addiction. FOMO can make you pick up your phone every few minutes to check for updates, or compulsively respond to every notification—even if that means taking risks while driving, losing sleep at night, or prioritizing social media interaction. over real-world relationships.
Isolation. A study at the University of Pennsylvania found that heavy use of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram increases, rather than decreases, feelings of loneliness. Conversely, the study found that reducing your use of social media can actually make you feel less lonely and isolated and improve your overall well-being.
Depression and anxiety. Human beings need personal contact to be mentally healthy. Nothing reduces stress and lifts your spirits faster or more effectively than direct contact with someone who cares about you. The more you prioritize social media interaction over personal relationships, the more at risk, you are for developing or worsening mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Cyberbullying. Social media platforms such as Twitter can be hotspots for the spread of harmful rumors, lies, and abuse that can leave lasting emotional scars.