Social media is a technology that has so many amazing benefits. It allows people to share and connect, receive news and information, and even meet new people. But it can also have a downside, especially for young adults of college age who grew up in the world of screens.
Social media platform Instagram made headlines last year for suppressing likes in an effort to prevent comparisons and hurt feelings associated with linking popularity to sharing content. But do these efforts combat mental health issues, or are they merely putting a band-aid on the wound?
Social media use has been linked to depression, anxiety and loneliness. Recent studies referenced by The Child Mind Institute and The National Center for Health Research show that people who frequently use social media feel more depressed and less happy with life than those who don’t. Huh. Spend more time on screen related activities.
How Social Media Can Negatively Affect Our Mental Health:
1. Very Addictive
Social media apps and websites have the same effect on the brain as operating a slot machine. Since you don’t know the content you see until you open the app, spontaneous results actually create a feeling of “reward” by releasing dopamine—the same chemical associated with other pleasurable activities, such as sex and food.
2. Focus On Interactions
More trouble can arise when you place too much emphasis on the amount of conversation (or not) of the content you share. For example, if you post a photo hoping to get likes or comments and you don’t get the feedback you want, you may feel disappointed or invalid.
You may also get disappointed when you compare your posts to others. All of this can lead to low self-esteem, distraction from other tasks, and even feelings of anxiety or depression.
3. Filters Are Fun… But Also Fake
Filters exemplify how social media can be both positive and negative. Sure, silly filters can be great for laughs, but the ability to easily whiten teeth, airbrush body parts, and hide imperfections can create false illusions.
Even if you know the posts are filtered and carefully selected, it can be impossible to live other people’s lives constantly watching other picture-perfect highlight reels. Try out filters to see what they are—a fun tool to make yourself stand out online, but not something that needs revamping.
4. Feeling Lost
The fear of missing out, or FOMO, is another reason why scrolling through social media is so tempting. When your friends and classmates are using social media, you may worry about missing a message, an inside joke, or other information that connects you to your peers.
However, constant checking and scrolling can have a detrimental effect on school work and studies. Distractions can lead to procrastination, low retention of information, and high levels of stress. When you see posts from others enjoying a good time, you may also experience feelings of exclusion, loneliness, or anxiety.
Keeping the entire digital world at your fingertips can hinder venturing out with real social connections and in-person interactions. Whenever possible, take the opportunity to see friends in person instead of chatting behind a screen.