Written By Pearl Tsui / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
Using social media has its benefits – it can help you stay in touch with friends, keep up to date with the news or even help you showcase your hobbies and talents.
However, using social media excessively can have its downsides on your life as well. You might have a constant sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) whenever you’re not connected. Or, you feel overwhelmed by the amount of negativity flooding your online feed.
If you’re looking for more than just anecdotes on how social media affects our mental health, you’re in the right place. We’ll be breaking down what various studies say about the effects of social media, one by one.
Overall, this study aimed to seek out and examine distinct patterns of social media usage as well as to assess the associations between these patterns with depression and anxiety symptoms.
There were five variables that they used to categorize individuals – time, frequency, multiple platform use, problematic social media use (based off an adaptation of the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale) and social media intensity (AKA a strong (or not) emotional connection to social media and integration in day to day life).
They found that individuals with high problematic social media usage, high social media time, high frequency, multiple platform use as well as high social media intensity were strongly associated with elevated symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Individuals with such patterns of social media usage were categorized as “wired” by the researchers.
As such, wired social media users may be constantly occupied with attention seeking behaviors like constantly posting or checking their statuses/posts for likes. Consequently, when these individuals don’t receive the positive feedback or responses they’re looking for, they may experience some depressive symptoms.
In the same area of thought, wired users may have a constant fear of missing out, which can manifest into anxiety. For example, such individuals may find it difficult to be away from their smartphone for too long in fear of breaking their Snapchat streak.
Individuals that had high social media time, high frequency, multiple platform use as well as high social media intensity but low problematic social media usage were also found to have elevated symptoms of depression and anxiety, but to a lesser degree than wired individuals. Such individuals were categorized as “connected.”
This study used a survey to collect information about how social media (in particular Instagram) influenced the mental health of individuals.
Overall, they found an association between more frequent Instagram use and a higher level of social comparison (comparing yourself with those you think are better in a particular aspect).
Consequently, with increased social comparison, they also found increased social anxiety and decreased self esteem, from not being able to match up to others’ appearance, ability, popularity, and social skills.
Think about it this way: when people see that they don’t match up with the trends or norms on social media, they tend to be harsh on themselves and isolate themselves, hence decreased self esteem. Or, they might fixate on constantly trying to imitate what they see on their Instagram feed, hence such individuals experiencing increased anxiety.
This study focuses on the effects of social media in the young adult population.
Overall, the researchers found that there is indeed an association with high frequency of social networking service usage, a large network size and poor mental health. However, these associations are influenced by perceived emotional support, which is defined as the amount of empathy and advice during times of trouble that you feel you receive from important others and family (it’s different from the amount you actually receive).
For example, women with a high perceived emotional support amount were found to have less detrimental effects to their mental health from having a large network size than those who did not.
It’s a little one-sided to say that social media is completely detrimental to our health – this study looked at how individuals with mental health issues use and value social media as a support mechanism via an online survey.
After analyzing the data from the surveys, the researchers had a number of findings – for one, a number of participants stated that social media was an easy way to access information and support. Additionally, many individuals also found that it was easier to communicate with strangers online rather than close family and friends.
In part, this finding is due to online gatherings of mental health-oriented groups and pages being less judgemental, meaning individuals feel more comfortable communicating and seeking out help.
For many, using social media was empowering and provided otherwise isolated individuals a sense of community and hope, which can prevent against worsening mental health symptoms.
To end, let’s look at an article that balances both the benefits and risks of social media to mental health.
One major benefit of using social media was for facilitating social interaction – with social media, you can connect and interact with others, regardless of what time of day it is or where you are. That’s particularly useful for individuals working graveyard shifts, or for people who have difficulties interacting face to face.
Another benefit is social media provides access to a peer support network – often, as we’ve mentioned earlier in this post, individuals find it easier to talk to people online than in real person since they can be anonymous and mitigate feeling like they’re constantly being judged.
Through social media, individuals can provide emotional support as well as share coping mechanisms to a wide array of people. In short, social media networks help people feel less alone in their experiences.
From another perspective, social media can be quite isolating – for individuals who experienced rejection on social media, this is the case. It’s important to note that since there is a degree of anonymity online, there’s a potential for people having to deal with a multitude of hostile posts or harassing comments, more than they’d ever have to face in real life.
Additionally, social media isn’t a complete replacement for face-to-face interaction or other hobbies – people who spend a significant amount of time accessing online platforms are more at risk of poor wellbeing and health as well as greater depressive symptoms.
In summary, how social media affects your life isn’t a black and white subject – using online platforms in moderation seems to be key in avoiding negative impacts on your mental health in addition to building support outside of online communities.
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Pearl Tsui is a writer for Rank-It.ca as well as a nursing student from Alberta, Canada. When she’s not writing or learning in a hospital, you can find her taking nature walks and feeding outdoor cats cat treats.
Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash