Think social media is just a convenient way to stay in touch with friends and family? Think again. An emerging body of research suggests that social media may actually undermine your mental health. Here’s what you need to know.
Social Media Can Undermine Self-Esteem
Social media does not represent reality. Instead, it allows people to craft a carefully honed portrait of themselves. For some people, this means sharing everything. For most, it means sharing only the good things—career successes, fancy vacations, engagement rings. This false positive impression can leave social media users feeling bad about their lives by comparison. After all, you know your own weaknesses, so if you only see other people’s strengths, feeling like your life is inadequate is a virtual inevitability.
Social Media Can Make You Feel Depressed
Social media can make you depressed, particularly if you compare yourself to other social media users. The risk is especially high in teenagers, who may not fully understand that social media is a fantasy world. The more time you spend on social media, the more likely you are to become depressed. This might be because social media can be addictive, pulling you away from more substantive, meaningful activities.
Social Media Contributes to Relationship Turmoil
It’s happened to just about every social media user: you friend a mild-mannered acquaintance on social media, only to witness them bullying everyone on their Facebook page. Social media creates opportunities for conflict that never would have occurred in real life. Many people have lost friends or instigated conflict with family members over the contents of social media. This creates wholly unnecessary conflict that can make life significantly more difficult than it needs to be.
Social Media Exposes You to Bullying
More than two-thirds of social media users have been bullied, and bullied can have serious consequences for mental health. Some social media sites do little to protect users. In other cases, users find that bullies follow them offline and begin calling them or stalking. Sharing your life online exposes you to people who might be unkind, and gives them the information they need to harm you.
How to Intelligently Use Social Media
This doesn’t mean you have to avoid social media altogether. Particularly for people who feel isolated or who have many loved ones they would like to keep up with across long distances, social media can be a great source of comfort. Some tips for positive use of social media include:
- Limit your use of social media to only a few times per day. Constantly checking your account, particularly on your phone, creates a distraction and can interfere with healthy relationships.
- Create privacy filters so that you only share things with people you know.
- Think carefully about what you share on social media, and know that it can be made public and permanent with the press of a button.
- Choose your social media friends carefully.
- Use social media to stay in touch with others or promote your career, not to fight with others.
If social media has become a problem, Three Seas can help. Internet addiction is increasingly prevalent, but therapy works.