Social media is a daily reality for millions of people. It is easily the go-to method to connect with family and friends, consume breaking news, buy or sell things, watch videos, and so much more. But like many other technology platforms, social media has its pros and cons and some of the negative aspects like cyber bullying, anxiety, lower self-esteem, and sleep deprivation can adversely affect your mental health. It’s important to recognize these harmful effects and protect your mind when using social media.
Even though social media seems to have been around forever, it only became popular in the late 1990’s when blogging and networking sites first appeared. In fact, Facebook, which is the biggest social network with billions of users worldwide, is only about 15 years old.
As social channels continue to evolve, research studies have shown a link between depressive symptoms and Facebook overconsumption. And according to a survey from the American Psychiatric Association, almost 40% of Americans think social media has a harmful effect on their mental health and believe it leads to loneliness and social isolation.
People who are grieving the loss of a loved one can be especially vulnerable to social media’s side effects. When someone dies, seeing other people post about it on social media can be disconcerting - tragically, some families even find out about the death of a loved one through social media. All it takes to send condolences on Facebook is a few clicks, but sometimes this doesn’t go over well for families in need of real comfort and support.
Although this isn’t always the case, It helps to be aware of how social media can make you feel worse about your personal situation and your life in general. There are various ways you can protect your mental health from social media woes - here are a few examples:
Declutter your Social Media Space
Take a page out of Marie Kondo’s decluttering philosophy and organize your social media home. Examine all your platforms and channels, and mute, unfollow, or unfriend all the people who no longer bring you joy. Your feeds will be more streamlined, and you’ll soon notice lasting benefits from consuming positive content.
Take Extended Breaks
It’s OK to take a break from social media. Many people have successfully managed to digitally detox from their feeds by disabling notifications or deleting social media apps completely. Suspending social media usage can last for a few hours or several months - the length of time is up to you. If you start to feel stressed or anxious when on social media, take a quick break and make an effort to re-center yourself. You can silence your phone and place it face down, or close your computer screen and take a few deep breaths.
Do Not Make Comparisons
If you’ve ever experienced anxiety or “FOMO” (fear of missing out) while using social media, then your mental health has probably taken a hit. It’s best to avoid making comparisons to your own life when you see posts or updates that make you feel “less-than.” Remember that a lot of social media sharing is heavily curated - people show their successes and achievements more often than their failures and disappointments. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others online.
Scrolling through social media channels for hours on end can leave you feeling physically and emotionally exhausted. To avoid a mental burnout, do something offline, e.g., take a walk outdoors, have lunch with friends, visit an art gallery, etc. You can significantly improve your mental health by engaging in activities that don’t require you to take a selfie and post it online, so look for different ways to enjoy life offline.
Social media doesn’t have to rule your life, and there are many ways to protect your mental health from the negative effects of too much social. If you still have trouble coping with social media issues, consider talking to a professional therapist or counselor.
Article Submitted by:
Tim & Alison Dinan, Owners
Cook Family Funeral Home and Cremation Service, and Hillcrest Cemetery
Serving Bainbridge Island, Kitsap County, and the Surrounding Puget Sound Region