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  • Writer's pictureLaryssa Levesque

How Does Social Media Affect Your Mental Health?

We are willing to bet that you're one of the thousands (maybe even millions?) of people who spend time on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter. Social media has become an integral part of our everyday life. We use these platforms to share, learn, browse, connect, and laugh...but unfortunately, there can be some negative effects on our mental health with the use of these platforms which we will uncover in this article, so keep reading to learn more!


how social media affects your mental health

Here's 5 Ways Social Media Affects Your Mental Health


Social media can have a huge impact on our mental health, both positive and negative, and has been a topic of ongoing research and debate for a number of years. While social media can be a great tool for connecting with others and provide some light-hearted entertainment, it can have negative effects on our mental health when it comes to issues such as self-esteem, body image, sleep, misinformation, cyberbullying and anxiety.  


We aren't suggesting that you should never use social media again, but rather to be aware of the damage it can cause so that you can use it more intentionally and effectively. Here are some ways that social media can negatively impact your mental health to be on the look out for!


1. Social Media Can Undermine Self-Esteem and Body Image


One way that social media affects mental health is through its impact on self-esteem and body image. Many people use social media to compare themselves to others, particularly when it comes to their physical appearance, achievements, and lifestyle. This constant comparison can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem, as people start to believe that they don't measure up to the idealized images and messages they see on social media.


Social media can also affect body image, particularly among young women. Many social media platforms are filled with images of seemingly perfect bodies, which can lead to unrealistic expectations and a distorted view of what is considered "normal" or "healthy." This can lead to things like body dissatisfaction, disordered eating habits, and even the development of more serious eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.


2. Social Media Use May Increase Stress And Anxiety


Another way in which social media can affect mental health is by causing an increase in anxiety and stress. Many people use social media as a way to stay connected with friends and family, but this constant connection can also lead to feelings of pressure and anxiety. People may feel like they always need to be available and responsive to messages and notifications, especially for the people-pleasers of the world and for those who have social FOMO (fear-of-missing-out).


Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook often revolve around likes, comments, and shares. Chasing external validation in this way can add to or create an unrelenting pressure to perform and a fear of judgment, which can lead to a distorted sense of self-worth and contribute to heightened anxiety. The constant need for external validation can also detract from genuine moments of joy and accomplishment. The fixation on the approval of others shifts the focus from intrinsic motivation to external validation, perpetuating a cycle of anxiety and dependency on the fleeting highs of social media. 


3. Social Media Comes With The Risk Of Cyberbullying


Social media, despite its potential for positive interactions, has become a breeding ground for cyberbullying—an often hidden issue that preys on individuals' vulnerabilities from behind the screen. The anonymity afforded by being behind a screen enables perpetrators write hurtful comments and harass people without facing immediate consequences.


The victims of cyberbullying experience not only the emotional weight of the attacks but also the pervasive nature of the online world, where escaping the torment is not as simple as logging off. This persistent exposure can lead to heightened stress, anxiety, and, in extreme cases, contribute to depression and suicidal ideation.


4. Social Media Platforms Can Spread Misinformation


Social media can also contribute to the spread of misinformation. Social media algorithms, designed to display content based on user preferences, inadvertently create echo chambers that reinforce existing beliefs. People also naturally tend to follow and interact with individuals who share similar views. 


While this may seem harmless, it contributes to the polarization of opinions, lack of exposure to alternative perspectives, and a distorted view of reality. This can increase feelings of anxiety, stress, and frustration as people may struggle to understand alternate views and feel like they are constantly under attack or that their beliefs are constantly being challenged. Social media essentially acts as blinders to the real-world.


And not to mention, much of the information spread online isn't even accurate. So for those who tend to believe what they see online, it can fuel anxious or depressive symptoms depending on the nature of the content.


5. Social Media Use Can Disrupt Your Sleep


Have you ever stayed up late just scrolling through your social media feed? If so, you’re not the only one! Unfortunately, habits like this can lead to poor sleep quality. The blue light emitted by screens and the continuous stimulation from social media content have been linked to sleep disturbances.


The frequent use of smartphones and tablets, especially before bedtime, interferes with the body's natural circadian rhythm, disrupting the sleep-wake cycle. Sleep deprivation can also worsen conditions such as anxiety and depression. The constant accessibility to social media can keep us from unwinding and disconnecting, contributing to a cycle of sleep disturbances and compromised mental well-being.


The Takeaway


There’s no doubt that social media can have positive effects on mental health, such as providing social support, promoting mental health awareness, and improving access to information. But it can also have significant and wide-ranging negative effects, creating issues regarding self-esteem, body image, anxiety, sleep, and many others. To minimize these negative effects, it's important to be mindful of how we use social media, to limit our exposure to negative content, and to seek out support and resources when we need them.


If you or someone you know believes that therapy or counselling could be useful, Inner Growth is here to help! We have many caring and compassionate therapists available for both virtual and in-person counselling in Barrie, ON. Our therapists in Barrie can help you explore and address a variety of mental health concerns such as anxiety, stress, low self-esteem and many others. Contact us to set up your free initial consultation or to book a full session with one of our therapists. We’re here to help and are happy to answer any questions you may have.


 

Our team of online and in-person counsellors and psychotherapists in Barrie provide quality and effective mental health counselling services near you in Barrie and virtually across Ontario to individuals (6+), couples and families. We also offer an Affordable Therapy Program that provides counselling services in Barrie to individuals (12+) who are facing financial challenges that need mental health support.

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