Social media and mental health

Social Media and Mental Health: The good, bad and the ugly

There is a strong connection between the use of social media and mental health. Studies reveal that 72% of the American population uses social media in some form or the other. And this excessive reliance and use of social media, therefore, impacts a huge section of the population.  

This overwhelming popularity of the internet and networking platforms has some serious repercussions on its users and the psychological effects of social media on youth are believed to be a bigger cause of concern.

Let’s understand how these new ways of connecting with others are taking us away from our inner peace.

The Journal of Education and Practice throws light on some ground realities about the trends and agendas of social media.

It states that the overuse of networking platforms has resulted in a shift of focus topics from politics and the environment to technology and entertainment. This report calls social networking websites an ‘international phenomenon’ because it is treated as a way of life by several users and has become an addiction.

The concept of social interactions through networking websites has reduced the natural and personal socialization that existed in society prior to this trend. This change has created an all-new way of communicating with others.

It is also believed that the impact of social media on the mental health of students is causing anxiety, depression and a deep sense of loneliness.

Let’s explore some of these physical effects of social media on youth in detail

  • Sleep deprivation:

As per the BBC, teenagers delay their bedtime because of addictions to social networking sites and one out of 5 teens spend almost 5 hours on Instagram, Facebook and Whatsapp. These habits are injurious for the quality and cycles of sleep. Psychiatrists suggest refraining from these activities at least one hour before sleep time. 

  • Reduced physical activities:

The use of networking sites is also linked with reduced physical activities. Researchers have found that internet users often have a sedentary lifestyle with very few walking activities.

The heavy use of social media has health-related implications because the users start

to prefer an inactive lifestyle.

In reality, social media in itself is not that harmful. But its overuse hinders other physical activities like exercise.

Other than these physical aspects, the pros and cons of social media on mental health have some other psychological implications-

  • Psychological distress:

The negative impact of social media on the mental health of students is mostly in the form of psychological distress. Social networking addiction leads to lower life satisfaction in teenagers and also deprives them of their ‘positive mind space’ which makes them more unhappy.  All in all, it is believed to create issues like anxiety.

  • Emotional problems:

With the growing use of networking websites, teens have also developed an extremely unhealthy sense of comparison.

The constant knowledge of other’s lifestyles often makes teenagers insecure and
worrisome about themselves. These comparisons also lead to lower self-esteem due
to appearances.

  • FOMO experience:

FOMO is an apprehension of missing out on good things that others are experiencing. It creates a problematic attachment to social media.

Users who have the fear of missing out, experience gratification through social media
and its feeds.

Experts believe that the use of social media gives a hit on dopamine levels, which is the chemical in our brain that feels pleasure, rewards and desires, etc.

This chemical in turn inspires us to take action to meet our needs and this chain of desire and contentment gets all the more entangling. FOMO is directly related to mental health, as it is a phenomenon that creates a feeling of exclusion and the users get into a wild goose chase for greater connections.

It is clear that this addiction can create a host of issues for the users. But is it right to believe that the use of social media has only negative implications?

Not at all! There are some positive effects of social media on mental health as well-

  • Makes up for social interactions in a busy schedule-

The first positive aspect of using social media on mental health is that one can find the warmth of relationships even in a hectic life schedule, as users cope up with the everyday stress and challenges of a busy life.

It deprives them of quality time with friends or family. Through this new way of communication, they can stay in touch with their loved ones and share a bond that matters the most.

  • Social capital leads to better self-rated health:

Social capital covers aspects of social intercourse such as empathy, sympathy, goodwill, etc. and fortunately, the modern ways of establishing connections help in improving the indicators of self-rated health in users. This is indeed one of the most positive effects of social media on mental health. Now let’s understand more about self-rated health.

Self-rated health is the general perception of one’s overall health. As per BMC Public health, social networks have increased attention related to individual health. Social networking platforms have increased awareness in the areas of health that needs more attention, both physical and mental health, which has, in turn, led to a considerable improvement (especially amongst middle-aged and adults).

These advanced ways of communicating have nurtured habits for healthy ageing because it has acquainted people with leisure like physical activities and mindful nutritional intake.  

  • Safe space for support:

The impact of social media on the mental health of students has another positive dimension. It gives them a secure platform to ask questions and look for necessary help.

With online communication, there are numerous opportunities to join forums and
gain insights from the big shots of various industries.

Besides, it is also easy to raise grievances and look for support/guidance. The best part is that all this is readily available at almost no extra cost.

Social media provides moral support in times of need, as people find like-minded
people and gain knowledge of resolving issues through real-life experiences.

The negative psychological effects of social media on youth can be minimized through a balanced approach. Let’s understand how to train our minds and practice the mindful use of these platforms.

The first step towards practicing moderation in the use of social media is to
understand the importance of digital well-being. It means that we need to relate our
use of social media platforms with our overall health and stick to only its healthy
use.

Some easy ways of ensuring digital well-being are as follows-

  • Staying in a safe limit:

Firstly, it is important to acknowledge internet addiction and its possible mental health impacts. This knowledge can help a user to stay away from all-day surfing and excessive scrolling through these platforms.

The easiest way to reduce this unnecessary screen time is to replace it with physical activities like walking, gyming, running, dancing, yoga, etc. and create a positive lifestyle change in your life. Top online learning platforms and accredited online schools guide their students towards these better ways of managing physical and digital wellbeing.

  • Using social media for the ‘right reason’:

Limiting device and platform use have a number of benefits because it reduces eyestrains and sedentary lifestyle tendencies effectively. Loads of information is available on the internet but it is important to understand that not everything has a utility value.

Social media and mental health are closely related. Hence accessing social media platforms should be limited for valid reasons. It’s better to fix the number of hours in a day for these activities and remember that these platforms should never be used to fill idle time.

It is always great to use social media and networking websites to stay updated with current affairs and to connect with people meaningfully.

Final thoughts –

Technology has immense potential to improve our lives. But at the same time, it is important to safeguard our minds from a flood of information that we cannot or need not absorb.

Technology’s blessings are mixed in nature, they give us a novel pathway to connect with the world. But at the same time, there are some negative implications of overusing these to the extent of addiction.

So now that you possess the right knowledge, just define your limits and enjoy a healthy social media experience!

Thanks for reading!

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