Social media is a prevalent platform that many, if not most, people in our society participate in. Whether you use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, or a combination of them, you know how easy it is to get caught up in the medias and the interactions that you have on them. Social media is perceived to be an outlet that allows us to stay connected with our friends and peers, as an easy tool that allows us to socialize with a couple taps on our phone or device. However, studies are now showing that high usage of social media has the opposite effect on us — it makes us feel more lonely and isolated. There is evidence that social media has a negative impact on our mental health in various ways. This blog post will reflect on Alice G. Walton’s article, New Studies Show Just how Bad Social Media is for Mental Health, and discuss tools for overcoming the negative affects of it.
There are several studies that indicate the correlations between higher social media use and poorer mental health. Walton shares that now there are two new studies that show evidence of causation – evidence that amount of social media usage has a measurable effect on one’s mental health. The first study observed undergraduate students; participants were asked to either continue their normal use, or to limit their use to ten minutes per outlet each day (a total usage of 30 minutes per day). Participants were also asked to fill out questionnaires and follow a specific intervention.
The findings of this study were significant. The study author discovered that using less social media than you normally would leads to a significant decrease in depression and loneliness. The researcher also stated that when we limit our social media usage, we are less likely to engage in social comparisons. Social comparisons happen when we look at others’ profiles and think that their lives seem much better or “cooler” than ours. These comparisons can be particularly detrimental, as they leave us feeling inadequate, depressed, and disappointed.
If you feel that you use too much social media, it may be beneficial for you to lower your usage. First, notice how much social media you use each day. You can track the time you spend on each application under their respective settings tabs and find “track your time/activity”. Tracking your activity will be a clear indicator for how much you use and how much you want to cut down to. For some, using no more than 30 minutes of social media a day may be too drastic of a change. After you get a gauge on your usage, set a daily goal of how much time you can spend on social media. If you typically spend more than four hours, try cutting down to 15 minutes less the next day. Once you set your daily goal, stick to it. Hold yourself accountable and put your phone away for the remainder of the evening. If the urge to grab your device comes up, try to distract yourself with a different activity. Perhaps you can take time for self-care, read through a book or magazine, or watch T.V. As you cut down your usage, notice any changes in your mood and overall well-being.
The second study that Watson discusses is a Canadian study that found that women who were asked to engage with a post of someone who they thought to be more attractive than them felt worse about themselves afterwards. This finding connects back to the social comparison factor that happens when we use social media. It is important to note that any kind of comparison that we make on social media. Whether we compare ourselves to someone we believe is “better” than us or “worse” than us, this ultimately leads to poorer mental health. Another tool for overcoming the negative affects of social media is to reflect on how your usage impacts your mood and attitude. Notice if you feel irritable after you use social media, or notice if you engage in negative self-talk during or after your usage. These behaviors are good signs that may be telling you that you can cut down on social media.
Limiting our social media usage is much easier said than done. Therapy may be a great resource for working through some of the negative affects that social media has had on your mental health. Contact Symmetry Counseling to get connected with one of our talented clinicians!
Some of the information used for this article was referenced from Alice G. Walton’s article, New Studies Show Just how Bad Social Media is for Mental Health.