Social media has helped millions of people around the world stay in touch with friends and family, explore niche interests, share their talents and feel less isolated. But for all the benefits these platforms have brought to our lives, there’s also a dark side to social media.
How Social Media Affects Your Mental Well-Being
Social media use is a naturally self-reinforcing habit. Much like a casino slot machine, apps like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter work on a principle called intermittent reinforcement. When you see an alert that someone has liked or commented on your post, you feel a pleasurable rush of dopamine. The thought of experiencing these periodic, unpredictable rewards keeps users coming back for more. However, the longer you spend using social media, the more likely you’ll be to experience adverse effects like these.
1. A Distorted Reality
Many people share photos of themselves, their pets or family to boost their self-esteem, receive positive feedback and create a sense of social belonging. However, these carefully curated, cropped and retouched photos are only revealing a small fraction of these people’s lives. Your favorite Instagram influencer may spend hours getting the “perfect” shot, carefully adjusting the lighting, filters and framing to ensure their followers only see an idealized image.
Constantly comparing yourself to others – their glamorous getaways or beautifully apple-cheeked children – can give you unrealistic expectations and leave you feeling envious, anxious or depressed. Conversely, viewing some people’s posts might create a false sense of superiority.
2. Less Mindfulness
How many times have you been at a concert, birthday party, wedding reception, sporting event or on vacation and seen the phones come out all around you? You may even be one of the people who habitually documents your experiences through the lens of your phone’s camera.
Many of us are guilty of spending far too much time trying to take the perfect photo or video of a special event or occasion, all while missing the firsthand enjoyment of observing and engaging with all five senses. Spending too much time looking at the world through your phone screen will detract from the experience and make it less enriching and fulfilling.
3. More Stress, Less Knowledge
Overuse of social media has become a particular mental health concern during the coronavirus pandemic. The desire to stay on top of the latest news and keep abreast of changing health guidelines has given rise to an anxiety-inducing phenomenon called “doomscrolling,” where people check social media sites for updates at all hours of the day and night.
While it’s admirable to want to be a savvy, responsible citizen, getting most of your news from sites like Facebook can leave you vulnerable to hoaxes, incomplete information and – in some cases – deliberately misleading propaganda. For a more well-balanced viewpoint, stick to reputable news sources and restrict your social media use to only 15 to 20 minutes a day.
Are You Hooked on Social Media?
If you feel like it’s getting increasingly challenging to put down your phone and engage with everyday life, ask family members and close friends what they think. If they say your social media use seems excessive, try to rein it in by keeping your phone in another room or locked in a drawer of your desk and only using it during specific times of day.
To learn more about improving your mental health and discovering happiness at our women’s-only continuing care program, contact us at Canyon Crossing today. We can help you learn to overcome substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders.