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Social Media and Mental Health: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Blog / Sep 13, 2021

Social Media and Mental Health: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Andy Demjen
Strategist

Social media is where we can stay connected with loved ones across the country – or on another side of the world. For some of us, social media isn’t just a hobby or boredom buster. It’s also a crucial part of our jobs (shout out to the world’s content creators and digital marketers).

Those who don’t dabble in marketing will still understand what we mean when we say it’s easy to form a love-hate relationship with social media. It can bring us both joy and pain – sometimes within a few seconds.

Emotional whiplash isn’t fun for anyone. Studies show us that social media can become a monster of a problem for people of all ages but especially younger generations. Some have found it to lead to anxiety and depression. Others call it a public health crisis. Researchers have learned it can cause addiction, feelings of loneliness, self-centeredness, and stress.

Of course, social media isn’t all bad – when used healthily. Today, we’re exploring both the good and bad effects of social media on our mental health. And by mental health, we’re referring to the “state of well-being in which people understand their abilities, solve everyday problems, work well, and make a significant contribution to the lives of their communities” (NCBI).

The Positive Aspects of Social Media

We all know the list of negatives is right around the corner, so we want to highlight the positives first. When individuals have a healthy relationship with social media, it can offer several super-cool benefits.

Enhanced Communication

Humans are social creatures, whether we like to admit it or not. Connecting with other people can help relieve anxiety, sadness, and stress (NCBI). With 72% of Americans on social media today, it can be a great place to stay connected with the people in your life. During the pandemic, social media became a vital tool for families and friends.

Source: Pew Research

Growing Your Business

Modern businesses can successfully grow by building brand awareness, increasing reach, and sharing knowledge on social media. Virtually any type of business can develop a loyal following, share creative content, and sell products and services through various social media platforms.

Creative Expression

Different channels, like TikTok and Instagram, allow brands and individuals to get creative and share their talents with the world. For example, Instagram is an excellent channel to share artwork, writing, and photography. TikTok is a wonderful outlet for self-expression, empowering users to find a unique niche and grow a massive following simply by having fun and being authentic.

Increased Dopamine

Social media can activate dopamine, the “feel-good chemical” in our brains, to get us to keep coming back. While this can have negative consequences, it can also lead to positive experiences.

Self-Esteem Boost

Self-esteem is another positive consequence of growing an engaged and loyal following on social media. When people relate to your posts and react positively, it can be gratifying.

The Negative Effects of Social Media on Our Mental Health

It’s easy to succumb to the harmful effects of social media. Most of us who use online platforms regularly have probably had at least one of the following experiences at some point.

Lower Self Esteem

We just mentioned that social media can lead to higher self-esteem. Unfortunately, it also has the power to do the opposite. It’s way too easy to compare yourself – your life, business, and relationships – with others when they’re constantly sharing their best moments online. We can quickly begin feeling inadequate, insecure, dissatisfied, and even jealous.

Depression and Anxiety

Numerous studies have indicated that prolonged use of social media may be related to depression, anxiety, fear, and stress (NCBI). Social media can put a lot of pressure on users, pushing us to be better, fulfill stereotypes, and crave popularity. In other words, it can make us feel inadequate, anxiously trying to become something we may not ever be.

Addiction

Social media can quickly create a vicious cycle. Needing validation, having a fear of missing out, and craving belonging and desired outcomes (e.g., likes) can keep users coming back to check their profiles. Posting something and hoping for positive feedback (that hit of dopamine we mentioned) and instant gratification can quickly become addictive.

Source: HelpGuide.org

Self-Absorption

Sharing photo after photo of yourself or your achievements, along with your thoughts and opinions, can naturally lead to self-absorption. Focusing too much on your online presence may take the place of connecting with people in real life. It can also lead to feeling the need for validation and positive feedback. If you don’t get it, it can be disappointing, leading to self-doubt and self-esteem issues.

Hiding or Coping

Social media can become a place to hide behind uncomfortable, real-life situations. Many of us will turn to our phones when things get awkward or when we’re in an uncomfortable social situation. Ironically, facing people and building relationships can ease that stress and social anxiety.

It’s also easy to start using social media as a coping mechanism when we feel distressed, bored, or lonely. Anyone can create an idyllic persona online. It can make us feel worthy. It distracts us and helps us avoid facing honest thoughts and feelings (when we should really be working through them).

Cyberbullying

Pew Research Center conducted a study on U.S. teens. They found that 59% of teenagers have experienced cyberbullying. Abusive behaviors include:

  • Being called offensive names
  • Spreading false rumors
  • Receiving explicit images without asking for them
  • Constantly being asked what they’re doing, where they are, or who they’re with (by someone other than a parent)
  • Sharing explicit images of them without their consent

Source: Pew Research Center

The Fear of Missing Out

FOMO is real, especially on social media. It will make us want or feel like we need things immediately. Whether it’s the perfect job, home, family, partner, vacation, or outfit – we can feel like we’re out of the loop if we don’t have what others are raving about online. Social media posts can also make us feel like we must engage in conversations or share posts if we don’t want our relationships or jobs to suffer.

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How to Tell If Social Media is Affecting Your Mental Health

Have you succumbed to the effects of social media like many of us have? Here’s how you can tell (according to Verywell Mind).

  • It distracts you from work or school or is affecting your relationships.
  • You spend more of your time on social media than with people in real life.
  • You use it when you’re bored.
  • You hop on social media when you start feeling lonely.
  • You spend more time on social media than with friends in person.
  • Someone is trolling or bullying you online.
  • You often compare yourself with others online or become jealous of what they share.
  • Your symptoms of depression, anxiety, or loneliness seem to be increasing.
  • You don’t get enough exercise and sleep or spend enough time on activities that include self-reflection and mindfulness.

Source: Verywell Mind

Tips for Building a Healthy Relationship with Social Media

Not all is lost! There are several ways we can improve our relationship with social media and heal the adverse effects we’re feeling. It’s imperative to make changes and protect ourselves and our kids from short- and long-term health problems.

Here are several tips to get us moving in the right direction.

  • Set time limits to reduce time online each day.
  • Turn your phone off when you want to be 100% present and avoid distractions.
  • Remove social media apps from your phone.
  • Call or visit connections in person rather than messaging them online.
  • Remember what you’re thankful for by keeping a gratitude journal, volunteering, or practicing mindfulness.
  • Embrace awkwardness around strangers or people you don’t know well.
  • Practice techniques to help overcome insecurity and build relationships.
  • Monitor, limit, or restrict your child’s social media usage.
  • Encourage healthy offline activities.
  • Set a good example for those around you by putting your phone away first.

Want to Get Social Media Off Your Plate?

We LOVE social media here at Kubbco. It’s our jam. But we also know how to create a healthy balance between our work and personal lives (which are incredibly precious to us). We understand the effects social media can have on our mental health and take it very seriously.

If you’re ready to hand off your social media to a business that lives and breathes the stuff (on the job, of course), we’d love to partner with you. Our bold, forward-thinking agency has a friendly and ambitious team that can’t wait to get you the results you’re seeking.

Contact us anytime to get the ball rolling.