Social media has become an integral part of daily life for many people around the world. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow us to stay connected with friends and family, share life updates, and engage with like-minded communities.
However, an overreliance on social media for social interaction and constant comparison can negatively impact mental health and well-being if not used mindfully.
Spending excessive time scrolling through curated highlight reels or following debates online may increase feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression, and inadequacy.
While social platforms undoubtedly have value in moderation, an unhealthy relationship with social media is linked to worsened symptoms for those already struggling. Here are some concerning ways social media can impact your mental wellbeing.
#1 Issues of Strong Interpersonal Abilities
From a young age, humans have an innate drive to interact with and understand other people. Babies intensely study faces to learn social cues and recognize emotions.
As we grow, hearing tones of voice and noticing body language teaches us how to communicate our feelings and ideas effectively. Gaining these interpersonal skills is a complex ongoing process.
In the digital age, many interactions occur through screens rather than in person. While technology connects us in new ways, solely using social media for communication can hinder development, especially for young minds. Facing others allows reading subtle signals that messages miss.
Meeting eye-to-eye helps interpret intentions and tone beyond words. These tacit lessons from real exchanges improve our ability to engage and comprehend people positively.
If online takes priority over live discussions early on, one may not fully learn and practice vital social abilities. Strengthening interpersonal competency requires directly experiencing the nuances of human contact.
#2 The Fear of Missing Out
For much of history, people have felt left out of events or worried that others were experiencing things without them. Nowadays, social media platforms can sometimes make these fears worse.
Sites like Facebook and Instagram frequently show highlights from others’ lives that may give the impression friends are constantly participating in more exciting activities. This idea of potentially missing out can negatively impact one’s self-image and trigger feelings of anxiety.
The fear of missing out, or FOMO, may then compel constant phone checks for updates or compulsive responses to alerts. While aiming to keep abreast of others’ experiences, this ongoing social media engagement. Ironically, it causes its own form of missing out. Instead of fully focusing on driving, sleep, or face-to-face interactions, priority gets placed on digital connections.
FOMO highlights how social platform design can unintentionally detract from real-world experience by activating worries of being left out of virtual shared moments. Making a conscious effort to limit compulsive checking may help alleviate FOMO and its unproductive effects on well-being.
Recent research from the University of Pennsylvania explored the relationship between social media engagement and feelings of loneliness or isolation.
Contrary to expectation, the study found that higher usage of platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram correlated with increased, rather than decreased, reports of loneliness.
People who spent more time engaged with social networks actually felt more isolated and lacking in social connection. Interestingly, the reverse was also found – participants who reduced their social media usage overall experienced less loneliness and better well-being.
#4 Feeling of Inadequacy
Features like counts of “likes” and “shares” enable constant comparison to others’ engagement metrics. Receiving fewer likes than friends on posts may induce feelings of being less popular or somehow inadequate. This taps into primitive instincts and can contribute to deriving self-worth from superficial metrics rather than intrinsic qualities.
Basing self-esteem on fluctuating social approval may not provide enduring confidence. While pursuing connection through sharing life moments, many platforms are designed to drive engagement by invoking social competitiveness.
With physical cues like body language removed, it becomes easier for insecurities to thrive. Although not inherently harmful, social media environments could be made more conducive to health. This could be achieved by de-emphasizing obsession with popularity contests and normalizing a wider diversity of real human experiences.
What Impact Does Social Media Have on the Mental Health of Teens?
Social media serves as a platform for teens to construct online identities, engage in communication with others, and establish social networks. These networks can offer crucial support, especially for teens facing exclusion, disabilities, or chronic illnesses.
In addition to serving as a means of self-expression and entertainment, social media platforms expose teens to current events. They also facilitate interaction across geographic barriers and provide educational opportunities on various subjects, including healthy behaviors.
Humorous or distracting content that fosters a meaningful connection to peers and a broad social network may even contribute to helping teens avoid depression.
Despite these positive aspects, social media use can have detrimental effects on teens. It can lead to distractions, disrupt their sleep, and expose them to issues such as bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic portrayals of others’ lives, and peer pressure.
The extent of these risks may be linked to the amount of time teens spend on social media. A 2019 study conducted in the United States with over 6,500 12- to 15-year-olds found that individuals who used social media for more than three hours a day may be more susceptible to mental health issues.
In another 2019 survey conducted in England, more than 12,000 teenagers aged 13 to 16 were found to use social media more than three times a day. Teens with poor mental health and wellbeing were predicted by this.
TorHoerman Law states that some people have suffered from serious mental health issues as a result of being exposed to risks like cyberbullying and unfavorable social comparisons.
The creators of Facebook and Instagram, Meta, are being sued for allegedly increasing the risk of mental health problems in their users, including Facebook lawsuit cases. According to the allegations, the company designed algorithms to generate content that was addictive and led to despair, social media addiction, and various other mental health issues.
While social media platforms provide value through communication and connection, excessive usage and reliance on these sites for social interaction and validation can negatively impact mental well-being.
Too much time spent engaging with curated highlights and comparing online experiences rather than real-world interactions poses concerning risks. These risks range from difficulties developing strong interpersonal skills to increased feelings of loneliness, FOMO, and inadequacy.
Further research continues to reveal links between higher usage and worse mental health outcomes. Maintaining a mindful balance between online and offline socialization appears crucial for well-being.