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Social Media and Mental Health

Social Media & Mental Health: Is Social Media To Blame for Your Depression?

Over the past decade, there’s been a massive emergence of different social media platforms that allow us to not only paint the vision we have for our lives but also view how others present their own.

Despite bringing us closer to global connectedness, it’s apparent that social media does not always foster a positive experience. In fact, your constant social media use might be a primary reason behind your anxiety and even depressive symptoms.

To come, I’m going to discuss some potential reasons why social media use might be influencing your mental health and how you can begin to develop a new relationship with it to bring yourself closer to your best self.

Is Social Media Addiction To Blame?

Emerging mental health research is revealing that regular social media use is sometimes associated with heightened anxiety and depression (1-7).

Additionally, scientists also now believe that many people display addictive tendencies towards social media use, which presents a possible reason behind its effects on mental health (3, 4, 5).

Scientists also now believe that many people display addictive tendencies towards social media use, which presents a possible reason behind its effects on mental health.

For instance, one group of researchers surveyed roughly 560 people between the ages of 18 and 22 to understand the potential relationship between daily social media use and symptoms of anxiety (7).

In addition to showing that heightened social media use was associated with higher anxiety-related symptoms, they also discovered that these individuals were on average using various social websites for more than six hours every day (7).

Of course, that’s not to say that everyone who uses social media becomes addicted, uses it for this length of time, or experiences the potentially adverse side effects.

However, there’s a genuine possibility that you’ve felt the pull to use social media and also the feeling of reward when someone (or many people, for that matter) positively interact with your social media presence through likes and comments.

Why Social Media Could Be To Blame

When you sit back and consider the possible effect of social media, it’s not hard to understand why using it more often could lead to a negative image of the self or lead to heightened feelings of worry.

Through being involved with the fitness industry, I’ve seen first hand how people manufacture a perfect image of their bodies and lives to present to their followers.

While these images can provide motivation and a sense of what could be, they can also lead to unfavorable comparisons and reduced self-worth through the feeling that others are happier or have some secret you’re missing out on.

Additionally, websites like Twitter present the possibility of directly negative interactions with other users, which, according to some researchers, could be one of many reasons behind social media’s influence on anxiety and depression (7).

When considering the impact of social media, it becomes clear that using it is potentially not as harmless as many of us believe.

What You Can Do To Foster A Better Experience With Social Media

Through personal experience with addiction and overcoming the pull of social media, there are a few recommendations that might be helpful. If you believe that your social media use has become a negative experience, consider the following tips.

Be Honest

Arguably the most challenging aspect of dealing with a potential addiction or mental health issue is, to be honest, and recognize there could be a problem. This honesty is especially important if you believe that using social media is at least partially to blame for your anxiety or depressive symptoms.

In reality, you might not even consider that social media could be a reason behind your anxious or depressive thoughts since these platforms widespread and commonly accepted. Additionally, the effect of social media is subtle, which makes recognizing it as a personal problem all the more challenging.

If you think there’s a potential connection between how you feel and your social media use, be honest and recognize this problem so you can move forward with fixing it.

If you think there’s a potential connection between how you feel and your social media use, be honest and recognize this problem so you can move forward with fixing it.

Evaluate What You Gain From Social Media

If you think that your social media use is connected to your troubles, I recommend evaluating what value using it brings to your life.

Close to a year and a half ago, I made the connection between social media use and my own anxiety and needed to understand if removing it from my life would make a difference.

At first, I told myself that social media was an essential way to stay in touch with friends, but after a careful evaluation, I realized that wasn’t why I was endlessly scrolling. I used to satisfy a craving and to escape boredom.

After that evaluation, I gambled that removing a popular social media feed from my life would benefit me, and it paid off. Had I avoided uncovering the reasons behind my social media use, the changes I needed to make might not have ever occurred.

Create The Relationship You Want With Social Media

Dealing with a potential addiction that’s adversely affecting your life is hard, and most people think that overcoming addiction requires removing the vice from daily life altogether. While that might be often be true, it isn’t necessarily a requirement.

If you think that social media is causing your anxiety or depression but want to keep using it, try to build a better relationship by consciously monitoring how much you use it and recognizing when you’re feeling anxious or depressed.

Try to build a better relationship by consciously monitoring how much you use it and recognizing when you’re feeling anxious or depressed.

For example, if you use social media all day and do so whenever the thought arises, try to control how often you use it each day by limiting each use to 10 minutes. If you can, limit your use to once or twice per day while keeping that 10-minute timeline.

Through this experience, take note of how it changes your feelings and try to adjust your use until you find the strategy that makes you feel the best.

Keep Trying

For addiction, most attempts to overcome them fail, but that doesn’t mean you’re a failure.

If you have addictive tendencies towards social media, you’ve probably spent months or years using it whenever you want, multiple times each day. To completely remove it from your life on your first attempt would be a pretty big accomplishment.

From experience, each attempt to better yourself will ultimately push you towards that goal regardless of finding ultimate success. You’ll learn what’s effective and what isn’t, and eventually, you’ll make the change that you so badly desire.

Steps To Build A Better Relationship With Social Media

  1. Be honest and determine if your social media use is potentially to blame for your anxiety or depression.
  2. Determine if social media is benefitting you or doing more harm than good.
  3. Adjust your social media usage based on what you believe will improve your relationship. That could mean going “cold turkey” or merely limiting your use.
  4. Keep trying your attempts to build a better relationship. Most efforts aren’t successful until you learn what works best for you as an individual.

Final Thoughts

Despite appearing harmless, research suggests that many individuals are becoming addicted to social media and as a result, experiencing more anxiety and depression. Fortunately, though, overcoming this addiction on a path towards optimal health is attainable.

However, while possible, making the necessary changes requires an honest assessment, courage, and consistency.

By Sam Biesack


References

  1. Andreassen, C. S., Billieux, J., Griffiths, M. D., Kuss, D. J., Demetrovics, Z., Mazzoni, E., & Pallesen, S. (2016). The relationship between addictive use of social media and video games and symptoms of psychiatric disorders: A large-scale cross-sectional study. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 30(2), 252.
  2. Shensa, A., Sidani, J. E., Dew, M. A., Escobar-Viera, C. G., & Primack, B. A. (2018). Social media use and depression and anxiety symptoms: A cluster analysis. American journal of health behavior, 42(2), 116-128.
  3. Liu, Chang, and Jianling Ma. “Social media addiction and burnout: The mediating roles of envy and social media use anxiety.” Current Psychology (2018): 1-9.
  4. Blackwell, David, Carrie Leaman, Rose Tramposch, Ciera Osborne, and Miriam Liss. “Extraversion, neuroticism, attachment style and fear of missing out as predictors of social media use and addiction.” Personality and Individual Differences 116 (2017): 69-72.
  5. Hawi, Nazir S., and Maya Samaha. “The relations among social media addiction, self-esteem, and life satisfaction in university students.” Social Science Computer Review 35, no. 5 (2017): 576-586.
  6. Dhir, Amandeep, Yossiri Yossatorn, Puneet Kaur, and Sufen Chen. “Online social media fatigue and psychological wellbeing—A study of compulsive use, fear of missing out, fatigue, anxiety and depression.” International Journal of Information Management 40 (2018): 141-152.
  7. Vannucci, Anna, Kaitlin M. Flannery, and Christine McCauley Ohannessian. “Social media use and anxiety in emerging adults.” Journal of affective disorders 207 (2017): 163-166.

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