Social Media and Mental Health

While social media can benefit us in our lives by helping us connect to other people, it can also have some negative effects on our mental health.  

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Many times we tend to compare our life to that of someone we follow, and feel as if we fall short.  The important thing to remember is that people are only putting the positive sides of their lives on social media. It would not be fair to compare your own whole life, with all its ups and downs, in to these carefully selected snippets of someone else’s life.  

For example, you may go on Instagram or Facebook and see your friend’s pictures of their adorable new puppy.  Seeing these may make you want to get a dog of your own.  While these pictures are extremely tempting, what your friend doesn’t show are the shoes and furniture that are chewed, or the messes on the floor that need to be cleaned up.  The point is not to avoid getting a new pet, but to make sure that you look at the whole picture, the whole situation, in order to make an informed decision.  Don’t trust the limited information on social media to decide if pet ownership is right for your lifestyle.  

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Checking our social media accounts could also become an obsessive behavior if we are not careful.  We may become anxious or angry if we are denied the time to check our feed.  It may affect our social lives, and our commitment to our responsibilities.  You should make sure you have a reason to go onto your social media account before opening it up.  Keep it a mindful activity and not one you do without thinking.

“What is interesting is the power and the impact of social media… So we must try to use social media in a good way.”

Malala Yousafzai

Younger people are in danger of experiencing cyber-bullying through social media.  It is easier for someone to be mean when they are not face-to-face with you which makes this a perfect opportunity for people to treat others cruelly.  If this is happening to you, seek help from someone you can trust.

A major reason most of us are connected on social media is FOMO – fear of missing out.  Many times we are afraid that we won’t be included in a joke, invitation, or event.  This fear can cause mental anguish.  Seeing the posts of others and knowing we weren’t included in the activity can also cause us anxiety or depression.

Sometimes this reaction can turn into a physical health issue.  The anxiety can turn into nausea, headaches, muscle tension, and tremors if we are not careful. 

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There are some healthy ways we can enjoy our technology while at the same time looking out for our mental health. 

  • Remain positive and kind online – be careful of your tone of voice, use social media to support other people and give positive comments to others.  Re-read your message before clicking “post” to make sure it relays the sentiments you intend.  
  • Analyze the message – be sure to think critically and check the facts when reading something from your social media account.  Use common sense and trust your instincts.  If it sounds crazy, it is probably a fictitious post aimed at causing hatred and mistrust.  
  • Take a break – have some time where you put away your phone or tablet.  Unplug from the internet and have a conversation with the person you are with.  Take a deep breath and enjoy your surroundings without the buzzing of your device.

“When it comes to social media, there are just times I turn off the world, you know. There are just sometimes you have to give yourself space to be quiet, which means you’ve got to set those phones down.” 

Michelle Obama

There are many people who have deleted their social media accounts in order to avoid the negative effects these platforms have had on their lives.  This is totally understandable given the unpleasant posts we are all subjected to on a daily basis.  If, however, you want to remain active in social media, you need to make sure you maintain your mental health.  It is important to pay attention to the feelings you get before, during, and after your participation in social media.  

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