SHE SEES SELFIES, NOW SHE’S SOCIALLY UNSURE
Six Signs Social Media is Impacting Your Mental Health and What You Can Do About It
The rise of social media hasn’t simply changed our world, it’s changed us. It’s changed the way we interact with others, the way we gather information, and the way we perceive ourselves.
At least for now, the jury is out on whether this change has delivered more benefits than costs. Social media has great potential to do good, of course, providing improved opportunities for connection, education, entertainment, and community building, but - as a raft of studies are beginning to show - it can also do us harm.
If you’ve ever wondered about your social media use (or that of a friend or family member), and whether it might be doing you more harm than good, then here’s six signs that it’s affecting your mental health, and – if it is – what you can do about it.
Six Signs that Social Media is Impacting Your Mental Health:
- You’re spending more time online than you do talking to, and socializing with, real people. On average, we spend a whopping 2.5 hours every day on our phones, with heavy users almost doubling that. For some of us, that’s a problem, because it comes at the expense of real-world connections. These connections are super-important, helping to trigger hormones that alleviate stress and leave us feeling happier, healthier, and more positive. If we neglect them, we are poorer for it, and our mental health can suffer.
- You’re feeling increasingly isolated or lonely. Rather than bringing us together, endless scrolling through social media feeds can instead leave us feeling isolated and lonely. Sometimes referred to as a modern-day plague, loneliness has grown exponentially in our post-COVID, social media dominated world, and can exacerbate mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
- You’re feeling increasingly inadequate. Even though we know that much of what we see on social media is either staged, filtered, or photoshopped, and therefore not truly reflective of reality, the sheer volume of perfect images and seemingly perfect lives that confront us when we switch on our phones can lead us down a rabbit-hole, leaving us feeling either inadequate about our appearance or the way we’re living our lives.
- FOMO is taking over your life. Social media can become addictive, causing us to pick up our phones every few minutes and check out our favourite sites for fear of missing out, even when we’ve got better, more important things to do. This not only affects our focus and productivity, it can lead to unhealthy outcomes, including dangerous driving, inadequate sleep, and relationship neglect.
- You’re becoming increasingly absorbed by your own life and how you’d like others to see you. Self-absorption is unhealthy, and yet social media sometimes seems to champion it, constantly encouraging us to share about our own lives, even when that can lead us to neglect others, and most especially those who are important to us.
- You’re becoming increasingly strident in your opinions. This can be a more subtle result of too much social media, harder to discern, but equally damaging to our mental health and the way we interact with the world. Often, social media algorithms will feed us the kind of content, including ideas and opinions, that they’ve ascertained we want to see. Unfortunately, this can lead to a closed loop, where we’re largely exposed to a particular point of view, shutting us off from different perspectives and – ultimately - making us less tolerant of others; quicker to label, accuse, and cancel. That’s not healthy for us, and it’s not healthy for society as a whole.
And Some Solutions…
If one or more of the warning signs listed above ring true for you, or you’re simply interested in limiting your use of social media, here are eight solutions that can help minimize your exposure and improve your mental health.
- Monitor and limit your social media usage by downloading a mindful living app. There are some great apps available to help you detox from social media, including ‘Forest: Stay Focused, Be Present’, ‘Digital Detox: Focus and Live’, and ‘Space: Break Phone Addiction’.
- Create a list of times and places where you switch your phone off. It can be hard to switch off, but also super-healthy! Some places or times when you switch your phone off and store it away might include dinnertime, when you’re driving, when you’re at the gym or exercising, or at social gatherings with family or friends.
- Leave your phone in another room when you’re getting ready to sleep. A good night’s sleep is incredibly important for our state of mind and general health. Sitting in bed with our phone, or hearing notifications ‘ping’ throughout the night, can adversely affect our sleep patterns. It’s a much better idea to leave our phones charging in another room, where they’re out of sight and out of mind.
- Remove distractions by disabling notifications. Phone notifications can not only be distracting, it’s almost impossible not to check them out. It makes sense then, to disable them, at least when we’ve got an important task or work we need to do.
- Remove social media apps from your phone, so you can only see them when you’re using your laptop or tablet. Our phones are generally with us all day, every day, in a way that our other devices are not. It makes sense then, to remove temptation by deleting from our phones any apps that aren’t strictly necessary in our lives but that we find hard to ignore.
- Feeling bored? Change your focus. Social media is like fast food for our emotions, especially when we’re bored. It offers a quick fix, it fills a space, but it’s not necessarily good for us. Try then, when you’re at a loose end, to switch your focus and satisfy your craving in a healthier way. Instead of picking up your phone, go for a walk, read, or take up a new hobby.
- Tackle FOMO head on. Instead of being dragged down by a fear of missing out, focus instead on what you do have in your life. Remind yourself that much of what you see on social media isn’t real and make a list of everything you’re grateful for. Keep that list near you and turn to it if social media ever leaves you feeling inadequate or disappointed in yourself.
- Spend more time with family and friends. Put aside some of that time you spend on social media and use it instead to connect with family and friends. Reach out, book catch-ups, or maybe even use your phone to ring someone and have a real conversation (yep, it’s a novel idea, but give it a go!). Alternatively, get out and about by volunteering or joining a club.
In the end, social media should simply be a part of our life, not a dominating force. By consciously restricting its use, and by filling our lives with real world connections and other activities, we can begin to engage more positively with social media, ensuring it does not impact negatively on our mental health.Disclaimer: This blog post was written for educational purposes only. It is not designed to diagnose, treat or cure. For individual health concerns The Organic Skin Co. recommends that you consult with a relevant health professional.