Social media and your mental health: Mental health is incredibly important to maintain, and there are many sources that say social media could be impacting our mental health in a negative way. Even Facebook has expressed concern that excess use of social media could be detrimental to people’s health. So what is healthy use of social media, and what are the consequences of not sticking to a moderate level of use?
The benefits of social media
Social sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow a degree of connectivity that has never been available before. People can keep up to date with friends in other countries, receive information about current events, products and services, and communicate with new people to learn things and express ideas.
For many people, social media allows them to find like-minded people and feel connected to the world around them. It gives them a chance to express their thoughts, opinions and ideas, and even to seek help. Facebook and other sites can be a great place to share exciting news, and to ask for support when needs arise.
It’s not all good news.
Some studies have shown links between the amounts of time spent on social media and negative body image, difficulty sleeping, symptoms of depression, and eating issues. Some people are even partially blaming an increased suicide rate on the prevalence of social media.
Social media can activate the reward centres of the brain, meaning users can become addicted to getting “likes”. It can also lead to envy and unhealthy comparison between users. Online bullying and trolling experienced via social media can be extremely detrimental to mental health, and there is a flood of information online with little way to verify whether it is true or not, causing people to change their world view based on false assumptions.
What can you do to keep social media use healthy?
Social media doesn’t affect everyone in the same way, so you will have to have an honest look at how your use affects you personally. However, there are some key things everyone can do to make sure social media use doesn’t have a negative impact on their mental health
- Turn off your phone: There is some worrying data emerging about blue light coming from phones and human health. There is little doubt that it can negatively affect your sleep, and checking social media when you should be sleeping is worse. Make a firm cut-off a few hours before bedtime, and stick to it.
- Be careful of comparison: It has been said that social media is comparing someone else’s highlight reel to your everyday life. Many people only put the absolute highlights for others to see, so social media is not a good baseline for reality. Comparison is the thief of joy, so don’t let it get you down.
- Communicate with others: Ultimately social media is designed for people to connect together, so use it for its intended purpose! Use your time on social media to communicate with people and groups that are trustworthy and build you up. It’s good to follow current events, but try to add some light-hearted pages that make you laugh to offset too much bad news.
- Limit your time: It is definitely possible to have too much of a good thing. Find a balance in your life where you are able to be present, instead of constantly getting lost in social media. If you find yourself checking Facebook, Instagram, then back to Facebook, it might be a sign you need a break. If loved ones are telling you that you spend too much time on your phone – listen to them. If you need help regulating your time, there are plenty of apps that can help you track and/or restrict your usage.
Social media can be very positive if it is used in the right way for a limited amount of time. If you feel caught in a spiral, or if you want to talk to someone about your mental health, your GP is a good place to start. The online world can be a great place, but don’t forget to balance that out with plenty of time in the real world as well.