How we interact with people in today’s world is rapidly changing because of all the advancements in technology when it comes to social media. There are well over three billion of us who use some sort of social media platform and for about two hours each day. Since social media is beginning to play such a huge part of our lives socially, we all might be sacrificing more than just our time, but we also might be sacrificing our well-being and mental health just to stay connected.
Recently Facebook itself did its own research through a series of surveys and various research products to see what the connection might be between social media and one’s mental health. The findings were quite interesting. They concluded that it is not really the technology that is harming people, but instead it is how the social media is being used. Combine this research along with other findings from other independent researchers and there is a lot of proof that social media can influence mental health.
Self-Esteem and Confidence
A lot of social media platforms focus on one’s appearance and giving the appearance that you have a satisfactory and fulfilling life. It seems now, because of this, there are a lot of social media users are starting to suffer from low levels of self-esteem and negative emotions like jealousy and envy of others who appear to have it much better than they do. Social media is starting to alter the way people view themselves and others which creates a false need to try to be perfect in all ways, especially among younger people.
Penn State conducted a study in 2016 that suggested those who viewed other users pictures and selfies seemed to cause them to suffer from lower self-esteem. This is because they were always comparing themselves to pictures of others who seemed to be happier than they were. In another study they discovered that women too often will compare themselves in a negative manner when compared to other women’s content, especially when it comes to selfies. This tends to create a feeling of feeling unattractive and inadequate.
Research has shown over and over again that social media can influence a person’s mental health especially when it comes to depression. However, there has been some positives. Two different studies have discovered that there are times that social media can actually be used to help with positive reinforcement. The studies discovered that students with depressive symptoms who had quality online relations and interactions actually felt better about sthemselves. However, there were higher levels of depression symptoms like worthlessness and hopelessness when users had negtative interactions on social media as compared to those who had positive interactions.
Even though social media for some can build their self-esteem, other studies have shown that social media can have just the opposite effect on the mental health of those who are at higher risk of depression as well as anxiety. For those who use social media a lot tend end up having distorted views of others lives.
Social media can hurt a person’s mental health by causing anxiety and research has shown that feelings of restlessness and worry can often be triggered by using social media. It can also lead to problems with concentrating and even sleeping. One study discovered that people who said they used seven or more social media platforms on a regular or daily basis were at least three times more likely to show symptoms of anxiety than others who used two or less social media platforms.
Current research has discovered that artificial lighting like the blue light that is emitted from smartphones, tablets and laptops can actually inhibit the body’s production of melatonin, which is the hormone that helps people sleep. Lying in bed and using a tablet or smartphone reduces one’s quality of sleep and can lead to restless sleep. Lack of sleep then can lead to poor mental health as well.
The bright lights that are found on these devices have the ability to delay circadian rhythms that are needed for sleep. Some researchers believe that social media can cause physiological arousal before trying to go to sleep and this can delay the brain from winding down properly and getting ready for sleep.
Even though social media seems to connect people more with friends and family it also can be responsible for causing separation between people at the same time. Constantly having a phone present when trying to interact with someone face to face can take away from having stimulating and meaningful conversations with those around us.
Romantic relationships can also be affected by social media. Studies have shown that many women who spend a lot of time on Facebook tend to have higher emotions of envy and jealousy than those who use it less or not at all. This then leads to feelings of insecurity and lowers the quality of their romantic relations. Which in turn can lead to mental health issues such as depression.
When it comes to one’s emotional well-being, social media can stimulate both negative and positive emotions. However, if one tends to be at higher risk of mental health issues, social media can tend to be more negative than positive. It can cause feelings of loneliness, envy, jealousy,, and more. Whether it’s positive or negative, the emotional mood on social media can spread like a wildfire and can cause damage to one’s mental health if it tends to be more negative than positive.
Loneliness and Social Isolation
Even though social media claims to be a way to connect more with others, one mental health issue it seems to influence is the feeling of loneliness. A study conducted by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people who spent the most time social media platforms tended to be twice as likely to feel lonely and socially isolated. This included a diminished sense of belonging and had less interaction with others. This is due to the fact that when they spend more time on social media, they spend far less time with face to face interactions. Human to human contact is vital for good mental health.
Social Media Addiction
Because of how quickly social media can change, it’s difficult to keep track of the different compulsive behaviors that can be associated with using social media. However, some scientists have created their own scale in order to determine the possible addiction among social media users. It’s already been proven that internet addiction is a true addiction disorder and it’s important to consider that it’s possible that there is also social media addiction and those who may seem to be addicted may need to consider mental health help from a professional.
For those who may lack relationships in “real” life may be at risk when it comes to social media and just like any type of addiction, it is not the answer when it comes to trying to fill in the voids of their lives and people should take the idea of social media addiction as something serious that can affect the mental health of those who use and abuse it.