How Social Media Affects Mental Health

May 27, 2024

Social media has completely reshaped society as we know it. It now plays a pivotal role when it comes to human connection. How social media affects mental health is now being studied by various scholars around the globe. Studies have found evidence for both positive and negative effects on mental health. On the one hand, social media promotes connection, helps people form communities around shared interests and lived experiences, fosters a sense of belonging, and can be used to enhance self-esteem. On the other hand, social media can expose some individuals to stress and cyberbullying, increase feelings of isolation, and lead people to compare themselves to others. Read on to find out about the effects of social media on your mental health.

The hand of a man using a phone, out of which several emojis come out
It is vital to learn how social media affects mental health

The Positive Effects of Social Media

Experts believe that quality, rather than quantity, of social media use can greatly affect an individual’s mental wellness. Mindful social media use is key to benefit from the net positives of social media. Some of the benefits of social media for mental health include:

  • Enhanced connection
  • Forming communities around sharing information and experiences
  • Cultivate a sense of belonging
  • Positive effects on self-esteem

Mindful social media use may enhance real-life connections. People can interact online and invite others to meetups and social occasions planned on social media. Some people with mental health conditions such as autism, ADHD, or depression may prefer to communicate on virtual forums because they find in-person settings overwhelming. As long as these interactions don’t replace in-person relating, they are proven to be positive for the mental health of the individuals involved.

One of the most significant positive effects of social media is the formation of online communities and sharing of personal experiences. This has helped to destigmatize various mental illnesses as stories about recovery are shared in the first person. Social media as a phenomenon has allowed communities to gather around common interests and life experiences.

Some uses of social media promote an increase in self-esteem. Some people may find validation for what they feel or see their personal experiences as worthy of other people’s attention. Social media can, in some cases, give people a sense of control over their personal narratives and self-image. This can all be extremely beneficial when it comes to mental health.

a woman looking at the computer, thinking about how social media affects mental health
Among the negative effects of social media use on mental health we can mention sadness and isolation

The Negative Effects of Social Media

Many people feel unwell after using social media for several hours. Some of the downsides of social media use include:

  • Exposure to stress
  • Increased sadness and isolation
  • Pressure to compare oneself to others
  • Exposure to cyberbullying

Increased social media use can lead to a great amount of stress. Exposure to increased information about what others are doing, especially when paired with the pressure to compare yourself to others, can make you feel like you are behind in life. There is also a feeling that you should work harder to catch up with your peers. This leads to the existence of stressors that weren’t there before. Exposure to stress can lead to anxiety disorders.

Sometimes, connecting with others through social media leads to a negative effect on mental health. This is the case when social media interactions replace in-person social interaction instead of complementing it. You may feel like you are making efforts to socialize with others, but you aren’t getting the net positives of putting yourself out there and interacting with others. This is because, as humans, we need in-person connections so as not to feel cast out and lonely.

Several stressors present in social media lead to increased sadness and a worsening of depression symptoms. Indiscriminate social media use can also lead to greater exposure to cyberbullying. This can lead to poor mental health and may even represent a safety risk. However, the good news is that there are a lot of treatment options. If you are feeling unwell due to social media use, there are various mental health services in Arkansas you may benefit from.

a group of teenagers walking
Teens are among the vulnerable populations of social media use because it exposes them to cyberbullying and grooming.

How Social Media Affects Mental Health: Vulnerable Populations

Minors are among the most vulnerable social media users because they are susceptible to various influences. Parents should teach their kids to be smart about social media use to avoid unfortunate events taking place and encourage open communication.

Other vulnerable populations include people with specific mental health conditions like autism, ADHD, depression, and social anxiety. Autistic people and ADHDers may find it challenging to have in-person connections because of how overwhelming (sensory speaking) certain in-person interactions are. Therefore, they may be more prone to replacing interaction entirely with online connection, which is harmful to mental health and can exacerbate their condition. For instance, it can make depression symptoms worse which may lead to the need for depression treatment in Fayetteville AR.

Depressive individuals, as well as those with social anxiety, have been shown to be heavier social media users and may also be tempted to skip in-person interactions entirely in favor of social media use. Social media can enable unhealthy behaviors, such as spending time isolated and alone at home and being exposed to the stressors present in social media, which can make their conditions worse. In case you notice someone close to you has severe anxiety caused by social media use, you may seek assistance at the best anxiety treatment Fayetteville AR offers.

a tablet next to a computer and glass of water on the table
Manage your social media use by staying present while scrolling

Managing Social Media Use

Given the more negative side of how social media affects mental health, it makes sense you want to be more intentional and mindful about it. Here are some things you can do to bring your screen time down and walk away from your social media apps feeling uplifted instead of distressed:

Schedule Time for Social Media

Instead of scrolling through your favorite social media app mindlessly until you no longer feel like it or have to go to work, schedule designated times to scroll, with a limit to how many minutes you are allowed to stay on social media. This will help you be more mindful about the time you spend doing that activity. You can use time block apps to help you stay on track.

Curate the Accounts You Follow

Don’t hesitate to unfollow or silence people who make you feel sad or negatively about yourself. Be mindful to follow accounts that make you feel positive, inspire you, and challenge you.

Stay Present While Scrolling

Stay tuned to your body and mind while scrolling on social media. Pay attention to cues from your body and act accordingly. Dissociating while using social media can lead you down the wrong path, so stay grounded and present.

Be Aware of Social Media Impact

Learning more about how social media affects mental health can help us have a better quality of life. Social media has both positive and negative effects on a person’s mental health. Staying mindful and present while using social media is the key to managing your social media use. If social media use is getting out of hand, you or your loved one may benefit from a mental health retreat in Arkansas. With professional support, learning how to manage your condition and minimize the harmful effects of social media is more than possible.