The link between social media use and mental health

The link between social media use and mental health Brighter Life Therapy

Social media is a very influential and important part of modern life. Although it was originally just created as a tool of communication, social media is becoming increasingly embedded into everyday life. For example, many job roles now involve social media use, such as posting on behalf of a company you work for, or even using social media to find and apply for new roles!

Of course, there are many positives to social media, such as those mentioned above. However, the impact it has on mental health can not be disputed, and should not be ignored. So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of social media use? And how can we use it in a healthy way?

The pros and cons of social media

The positives of social media

There are positives to using social media. It helps keep us connected with loved ones, and allows us to reach out to others around the world, instantly. This is especially important when seeking emotional support and social connection. Likewise, you can meet new people with similar interests to you and join online communities, providing you with a platform to share ideas, opinions and engage in self-expression.

The negative mental and physical impact of social media

  • Becoming self-absorbed/ having low self-esteem. We are encouraged to post pictures, especially photos of ourselves. This can lead us to feel slightly fixated or worried about our appearance. We are also bombarded with unrealistic notions of beauty through filtered and edited photos. This can massively knock our self-esteem and confidence with regards to how we look.

  • Fear of missing out (FOMO). FOMO is a common experience when using social media, as you are provided with a very narrow view of what others are doing. You may see people go on holiday, or spend time with friends, and in response worry you are not doing enough with your day, and feel you are missing out on opportunities. This can bring up feelings of guilt and shame, or even inadequacy.

  • Exacerbate mental health symptoms. When feeling low, anxious or stressed, one way to easily alleviate these feelings is to go on social media. It can act as a great distraction from whatever is is that was troubling us. However this does not make the issue go away. In fact, social media use in this way can make things worse by distracting us from accessing help, or facing what is causing us pain.

  • Concentration and ability to focus. It can distract people from getting work done. It has also been suggested that using social media a lot takes up mental resources involved in attention, making day-to-day concentration more difficult.

  • Physical difficulties. Constant social media use is linked to people being generally less active. Longer screen-time can also lead to to eye-straining, headaches, and disrupt your sleep when used late at night.

Why is social media so addictive?

Unfortunately, there are still several negatives around using social media, especially if in constant use. One of the main issues of social media is how addictive it is, so daily reliance and even addiction is not uncommon, especially in young people.

Certain features are particularly responsible for how addictive social media is:

  1. Social media is available at whatever time, day or night. This means there is a constant flow of information and stimuli, designed to target the user specifically to maintain their interest, and thus use, of the platform.

  2. The ‘unknown outcome’ aspect. Anytime we make a post or comment, we’re waiting to see other people’s responses. How many likes will we get? How many people will see it? What will be people think? This curiosity, coupled with the wish to be accepted, pushes people to check their apps regularly.

  3. Social media use releases a small amount of dopamine. That’s why we have the urge to check our phones when we get a notification.

Signs of unhealthy social media usage to watch out for

The link between social media use and mental health Brighter Life Therapy

As we have said, social media isn’t all bad. But there are certain signs to look out for that may indicate unhealthy online habits, that could lead to difficulties like those listed above:

  • Constant use and checking
  • Missing out on face-to-face contact
  • Motivated to use social media because you’re bored or lonely
  • Comparing yourself unfavourably to others online
  • Engaging in risky behaviour for likes
  • Are experiencing sleep difficulties
  • Missing out on hobbies
  • Distracted from work and /or school

How can we change our relationship with social media?

Sometimes just being mindful of its negative impact can lead to safer and healthier social media use. We can become less motivated to use certain apps, and less impacted by its influence. Here are some other steps to consider and try out:

Consider what you use social media for. Ask yourself why you are using the apps. Is it just to relieve boredom or stress? Are you on it to check likes and views on your posts? Using social media to genuinely connect with others and share experiences, would be considered a healthy way of using social media apps. Passive scrolling and excessive checking on the other hand, is less good for you.

Take practical steps to reduce how long you spend on social media. This sounds like an easy solution, but can be easier said than done.

  • Use an app-tracker. This can show you how much time you are spending on different apps. Recognising how long we spend on these apps can highlight the importance of reducing our time on them.
  • If you have an iPhone, you can set time limits for apps. You can read how here.
  • Turn off notifications. This can help stop the temptation to check all the time.
  • Set a specific timeframe for using social media, instead of just throughout the day.
  • Delete apps you don’t need or use as much.

Try to reconnect with others. Are there any friends or family you haven’t seen in a while? Try to organise seeing them in person. As social animals, interacting with people is important for our mental wellbeing. Interpersonal relationships are really important, and one-to-one contact can be more beneficial when maintaining these relationships.

How can we help?

Sometimes these steps aren’t enough as a primary solution when experiencing mental health difficulties, may require support from a professional is need.

If you believe you require professional help, feel free to contact us. We provide fast access to CBT and counselling treatment, which you can read about here. Please do not hesitate to contact us on 0118 40 50 108, or by emailing info@brighterlifetherapy.co.uk.

You can also follow us on our Instagram and Facebook for more information about this topic and other mental health discussions.

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