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Social Media Use and Your Mental Health

Social media can be an excellent way to stay connected to friends and family, but sometimes too much social media can contribute to stress, depression, and anxiety. This article explains how social media

might be harming you and how to set boundaries with social media use.

Social Media Isn’t Necessarily Bad

Websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have gotten a bad reputation, especially for their impact on the self-esteem of youth.

However, social media has become an important tool that allows you to stay connected globally. You can stay up to date on news, remain connected with long-lost friends or family far away, learn about other experiences and cultures, and make friends through common interests.

When Social Media Is Excessive

While there are many benefits of social media, excessive use can have a negative impact on your mental health. Social media has been reported to lower self-esteem, increase stress, spread misinformation, and even cause internet addiction. Social media use can be considered excessive if you spend too much time online, if it negatively affects your mood, or if you find yourself compulsively checking your social media feeds.

How to Know When It’s Time for a Break

Lowered Self-Esteem

Social media can damage your positive sense of self. You may often compare yourself and your life to others on social media. You might see someone with the perfect life, and wish you had that. Perhaps you also compare your physical appearance to others on social media. Maybe you see a particular person receiving admiration, thus impacting you in a negative way.

What people post on social media does not often represent reality, however. People tend to paint themselves in a beautiful light when they post on social media. They might edit photos, take pictures in great lighting, and only post the positive part of their lives, even if everything else is not so glamorous. If you feel your self-esteem taking a hit because you feel like you do not measure up, then you might be spending too much time on social media instead of around real people in person.

The Urge to Doom Scroll

Social media did play a positive role in the pandemic by keeping everyone connected, but it also played negative roles. In 2020, “doom scrolling” became a common term as many stayed on social media to find news about the ongoing pandemic, civil unrest, and presidential election. Doomscrolling is when you spend a long amount of time scrolling through social media during a stressful or catastrophic event.

Doom scrolling is similar to those who are glued to the T.V. during a national or global crisis. The purpose is to stay informed as a way to alleviate anxiety, despite the fact that this action does not provide you with any new information, and only makes your anxiety worse.

Feeling Like You Can’t Stop

Social media is designed to keep you scrolling as long as possible. Social media is funded through advertisements placed in feeds. The longer you scroll, the more revenue a social media company can get if you see a sponsored ad. To keep you scrolling, social media developers use a method called variable ratio reinforcement schedule, or VRRS. It is a type of programming that is popular with gambling games, but it has been applied to social media.

The idea is to keep a person interested through action and reward. The reward releases dopamine, a pleasure chemical, causing you to want to continue the action because it feels good. In this case, the action is social interaction through likes, comments, and shares.

If you find yourself unable to stop scrolling for this reason, it is recommended to log off. Social media and other internet sites can be especially dangerous if you are affected by activities that release dopamine, especially those with disorders that cause dopamine deficiency. These disorders can include ADHD, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and OCD.

Good Social Media Practices

Setting Screen Time Boundaries

Limiting screentime is not just for your kids. Adults should set limits, too. Set time limits on your phone for social media apps and change the settings on your work and home computer. Some computers can allow you to block websites after a certain amount of time. Limiting your use can help you make sure you do not spend too much time scrolling.

Digital-Free Days

Take a day, or even a few days, and remain unplugged. Dedicate one day out of the week away from technology. Spending time away from technology can be great for your vision, which can get strained by blue light. It can also be relaxing to stay away from the stresses of tech.

Getting Over the Fear of Missing Out

Another reason why you may spend too much time on social media is that you are afraid of missing out on other people’s posts and comments. You might want to know what is going on. Before social media, it was normal not to hear about things instantaneously. Now, you may worry that you are missing out on all of the latest updates. It is okay if you do not know what is going on in your friends and family’s lives every minute.

Set Communication Expectations

You might feel pressured to constantly be online because others also expect this of you. If you do not respond to a message right away, your friend might ask you why you have gone silent or are not responding right away. Before any form of instant messaging, it was normal to not hear back from someone for hours. People were not worried about a minute going by without contact – people typically had more patience. While other people might hold this expectation, you are allowed to use your time however you choose.

Social media can be an amazing tool to keep us connected, however, there is such thing as too much social media. As internet use becomes more normalized and integrated into our lives, it's important to set boundaries between you and your devices.

By setting boundaries, keeping track of how being online makes you feel, and taking breaks, you can improve your mental health while still taking advantage of all the positives social media can bring. Practicing digital self-care is growing to be an important part of wellness for both adolescents and adults alike.

Many of us might tend to focus on younger people and how they interact with technology, but it's important to pay attention to how adults interact with technology, as well. If you would like to learn more about safe social media and internet practices, call us today at (435) 222-5225.

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