Social media has become a part of our everyday lives. Be it Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or TikTok; everyone uses some type of social media platform.

In the UK alone, there are approximately 57.6 million active social media users – that’s almost 85% of the population. When you consider the amount of time people spend, the average comes to about 108 minutes a day, or 1 hour and 48 minutes. 

Numerous studies have found that social media usage is bad for our mental health, with there being a strong correlation between heavy social media usage and the increased risk of developing anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, feelings of loneliness and self-harm practices. 

Now, this isn’t to say that social media is all bad – it gives us access to information and the ability to stay in touch with friends and family across the world. However, it’s clearly important to establish whether your use of social media is affecting your mental health and know what forms of help exist if it is.

Why Do I Keep Going Back To Look At Social Media

Have you ever caught yourself picking up your phone to look at your social media, even though you were on it a little while ago? It happens a lot. In fact, a survey of 2000 smartphone users found that people pick up their phones more than 1500 times a week – that’s over 214 times a day. 

But what is it that keeps us going back to our phones and scrolling through social media? Every time we open up a social media app, our brain’s reward centre gets activated, releasing dopamine into the body. This is the hormone that is linked to pleasure, such as when you have social interaction, have sex or eat good food.

Our brains now know that looking at social media will result in this feel-good hormone, so we start to look at social media more and more in order to activate the reward centre. 

How Can Social Media Negatively Impact Your Mental Health? 

Social media has not been around for long, so it’s difficult to determine whether it will have positive or negative effects in the long run. However, as mentioned above, many research studies have found that heavy social media usage can affect our mental health in various ways. 

Depression & Anxiety

Humans are social beings; we crave social interactions. However, many people are prioritizing social media interactions over face-to-face ones. This behaviour increases the risk of depression and anxiety. 

Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)

FOMO is not necessarily a new thing tied only to social media; it’s been around for ages. However, the fear of missing out on what others are doing often leads people to look at their phones more often. This then results in people developing self-esteem issues and anxiety. 

Feeling Isolated 

When feeling lonely or bored, many people reach for their phones and connect with people via social media apps. They believe this will make them feel less isolated, but in reality, it does the opposite. 

Creates Insecurities Or Feelings Of Inadequacy 

Most people manipulate the images they post on social media in some way or another, and the majority of people who scroll through social media know this. Despite this knowledge, it doesn’t stop people from developing feelings of envy and insecurities. 

Sleep Issues

Studies have found that using social media (as well as other screen-based items) before bed can negatively impact your sleep. This is due to the effects of blue light emitted from your screen as well as the fact that social media offers endless opportunities to take in new content and interact with others. 

How To Combat The Negative Impacts Of Social Media

While social media isn’t all bad, it can have serious negative consequences for some people. However, you have the power to take control of your social media usage and actively work towards improving your mental health. 

Here are some simple ways you can combat the negative impacts of social media on your health: 

  • Take a break from social media – This will give your mind time to rest and stop craving the stimulation it receives when you’re scrolling through social media. 
  • Be careful of who you interact with – In real life, we have the choice to let people into our lives or not. The same goes for social media. Don’t feel obliged to accept every single follow request.
  • Change your perspective – Instead of becoming jealous when you see a friend with something new on social media, try to be happy for them and things about what you feel good about in your life, because there will be something. We can all choose to have a more positive outlook on life. 
  • Have a reason for the social media platforms you use – If you only want to use Instagram for the purpose of staying in touch with friends, then do that. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in all the other content out there.
  • Turn your notifications off – This is a simple and effective way to minimise the desire to go on social media. Rather have dedicated times of the day when you’re allowed to go on your social media apps. 

Conclusion

Social media can be a very useful tool in today’s world. However, it can negatively impact our mental health in many ways. Luckily, there are many simple actions you can take to minimise your social media usage and its effect on your mental health. If you still have concerns about your mental health, feel free to get in touch and book a free consultation with one of our psychologists.