How Social Media Affects Your Mental Health

by Julissa Soriano

In 2017, Selena Gomez had the most liked photo in Instagram history and shortly after, she went on a social media sabbatical.

“It had become so consuming to me. It’s what I woke up to and went to sleep to,” said Selena during a Teen Vogue interview.

Let’s face it, most of the time we go on social media and easily scroll through our feeds way longer than the intended time. We know all too well how addicting social media can be but what most people don’t know is its connection to mental health and its ability to cause depression, attention deficit hyperactivity, impulsive disorder, abnormal mental functioning, paranoia, and loneliness.

Nearly 99 percent of all adults in America own at least one electronic device, according to the National Psychological Association. There are 3.196 billion users on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram combined and that number is expected to increase by 13 percent each year, according to the 2018 Global Digital Report.  However, as these numbers continue to soar so does the number of people suffering from mental health-related issues.

The Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health surveyed 1,787 adults in the U.S between ages 19 and 32 and found that more than a quarter of the participants were classified as having “high” indicators of depression from social media. Their research suggests that people who use social media frequently are 2.7 times more likely to have depression. Other studies show that social media is linked to increased rates of anxiety and poor sleep.

So how does social media cause such horrible health issues?

Social media gives us access to any person or company at our fingertips and we are constantly exposed to over glamorized content. In return, a person is left with a scarcity mindset and begins to believe they lack or are less than because their lives don't measure up to those they follow on social media. 

Our constant need to post online is from a need for acceptance. If we post something online that receives likes or comments this reinforces our own view of our self-worth and releases dopamine in our brains that causes us to feel happy. If we don't receive this response, then we feel insignificant. “The short-term dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works,” said former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya. 

Here is the breakdown of what can happen when  we overuse social media:

Ungratefulness > comparison > scarcity > depression > anxiety  

This vicious cycle happens over and over again and can grow over time. Instead of relying on human connection and the things we love, we rely on a virtual facade that encourages isolation and loneliness.

"Anything that promotes feelings of love and intimacy is healing; anything that promotes isolation, separation, loneliness, loss, hostility, anger, cynicism, depression, alienation, and related feelings often leads to suffering, disease, and premature death from all causes,” said Dean Ornish in his book Love and Survival.

You may be suffering from social media related depression if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness

  • Lack of interest in day-to-day life

  • Irritable mood

  • Weight loss or weight gain

  • Insomnia or hypersomnia

  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation

  • Fatigue or loss of energy

  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

  • Headaches or stomach pains

  • Social isolation

  • Suicidal thoughts, actions, or plans

Having an addiction to social media could be hard and suffering from depression and anxiety can be even harder. Here are some practical ways you can prevent yourself from continuing this cycle and slowly gain mental peace again.

  • Turn off phone notifications

  • Use a timer to set limits for social media visits

  • Go on a sabbatical and reestablish your values, goals, and priorities

  • Resort to something productive when you’re bored

  • Delete social media apps on your phone

  • Turn off or stow away phone while in the company of others

  • Set restriction on your phone

  • Live in the now and press into the discomfort during social settings

  • Unfollow or unfriend pages that trigger you to criticize or look down on yourself

  • Set your phone away from your bedside at night

  • Practice self-love by affirming yourself daily (try this in the mirror)

  • Reach out to a friend or professional for help and accountability

Take control of your mental health today and take the necessary steps toward a life that promotes gratefulness, self-love, and happiness. Get into the rhythm  of spending less time on social media and more time doing the things you love with people you enjoy. Stick around those who prioritize a healthy heart, mind, and life. It’s contagious!  

 

Julissa earned a B.A. degree in Journalism from Baruch College. In 2015, she studied in Cuba and covered Cuban Entrepreneurism. After graduating in 2016, she traveled to seventeen countries and worked as a yearlong Humanitarian. Nine months later, Julissa moved to Los Angeles and is a content writer for celebrity trainer and New York Times Best Selling Author, Jorge Cruise. She is also a contributing writer for Wit + Grace Magazine. Julissa admires the works of Giuliana Rancic and Terrence Jenkins and is working towards becoming a television personality in the entertainment industry.