Social media and your mental health

By Sarah Wylde

We use social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and more to keep in contact with family and friends who are far away. We also follow actors, musicians, and many others in the public eye that we admire and are fans of. But somewhere along the way, the purpose of these platforms became lost and twisted.

When we only had access to them on our computers, it wasn’t as bad. In 2007 when smartphones were introduced and social media became available to us at our fingertips, it influenced our mental health. The cons and adverse effects are also depended on the amount of time spent. Unfortunately, you do not have to search long to uncover the dangers and warnings that surrounds social media use for adults, but especially for youth. Other negative links that have been made include mood changes, anxiety, low self-esteem, cyberbullying, and more.

With this portal to see into our friends’ lives, we see how they spend their time more and more. Watching them going to concerts, conventions, traveling, relationships, and more creates the fear of missing out (FOMO). With that, it sees people spending more time watching and wishing they had someone else’s life instead of going out and enjoying their own. Being bombarded by those photographs and videos can bring on jealousy, depression, feelings of failure, and suicidal thoughts because your life isn’t as “perfect” as what you see on social media.

That brings up the topic of low self-esteem from comparing yourself and how you are living with what you see on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Those insecurities from seeing pictures that have been photoshopped and from ads showing an impossible ideal that has especially young girls believing that is what they must look like to be happy. Those comparisons are bringing up unwarranted insecurities and that your sense of worth is dependent on how everyone else perceives you. It is heartbreaking.

Another mental health aspect is poor human connection. Sitting out in a coffee shop when you look around, chances are over 50% of the people there have their heads tilted down and looking at their phones or computers. As humans, we need and require real connections with people, not just digitally. Spending more time with your technology and not the people in your life could create serious mental health problems.

Now, don’t get me wrong; there are positive sides to social media. It can be empowering, help build awareness, find role models, reconnect with family and friends from away, and finding supportive groups/people. I am not telling you to quit the social media platforms you are part of, but if you find stepping away or limiting your time spent on them helps. Here are some steps that you can take to ensure the practice of good social media use and what you can do when you feel like you need to step away from it.

Turn off notifications. Most of us have our phones volume and ringer on so we can hear incoming calls, texts, or emails that we are waiting for, but with that, we can also hear when we get a notification from the social media platforms, we are part of. When you listen to them, you may think, “oh, I will just take a quick peek,” next thing you know it has been three hours later.

Have phone-free time before you go to bed. Don’t use your phone as the alarm clock – I am guilty of this one. When you are getting ready and doing your nighttime routine, include turning your phone off an hour before bed. Some of us, including myself, are on our phones while lying in bed before sleeping. Doing that makes it harder to fall asleep because of the blue light that is emitted from the smartphone. Our brains think the blue light is daylight, so we suppress the hormone that helps us fall asleep, melatonin.

Whatever platform you use and interact with, be mindful of what you share, how often you are on it, and importantly remember that you are communicating with real people. Our words have effects and consequences.

Until next time.

Sarah Wylde