4 Signs Social Media Is Hurting Your Mental Health

Hey, Psych2Goers! Have you ever been scrolling through your social media and noticed that you feel worse after a while? Do you find yourself thinking, “Everyone else’s life seems so fun and glamorous. They’re popular, good looking, and have the things I lack. Why can’t I have what they have?” Social media itself is neutral. But as humans, we can fall into the trap of using it in ways that are detrimental to our mental health. This video will help you recognize the harmful ways that you might be using social media so that you can stop those unhelpful habits and use it in a more healthy, positive way. Here are 4 signs social media might be hurting your mental health.

1. You compare yourself to others

If you find yourself looking at photos and thinking, “This person’s life is better than mine” or “That person looks better than me,” over time, these thoughts can have a negative impact on your mental health. Upward comparisons – that is, comparing yourself to people on social media who you believe are “above” you – are associated with lower self-esteem (Vogel et al., 2014). If you catch yourself doing this, try to remember that people are probably only sharing the best parts of their lives online. You can’t know everything that’s going on behind the scenes just by looking at someone’s social media. It’s not a fair comparison because you’re comparing your lowlights to their highlights. Do you ever compare yourself to others on social media? If so, how do you feel when you do? Share your thoughts in the comments!

2. You have a fear of missing out (FOMO)

When you see that your friends posted a picture together at an event that you weren’t invited to or couldn’t make it to, how do you feel? If you find yourself getting FOMO because of social media, it might be hurting your mental health. FOMO is related to lower life satisfaction and mood. It’s also strongly associated with social media use (Przybylski et al., 2013). When you’re feeling left out or like you’re missing out on things that others are experiencing, it’s a good idea to take a step back and see how social media may or may not be related to these negative feelings. For example, are you experiencing FOMO because you’re using social media or because of another factor, like the quality of your friendships?

3. You think you might be addicted to social media

Have you ever spent several hours scrolling on your phone and wondered, “Am I addicted to social media?!” There’s nothing necessarily wrong with using social media often. But if you have a hard time staying off social media even at times when it can be distracting, like when you’re out with friends or at bedtime, it might be hurting your mental health. And if you have depression or ADHD, you may be at higher risk for internet addiction (Spies Shapiro & Margolin, 2013). If you’re questioning whether you’re addicted to social media, it might be helpful to start tracking the time you spend on it and decide for yourself if it’s too much. An easy way to do this is to go to the settings in your phone and look at your Screen Time. This provides you with a breakdown of which apps you use and how long you spend on them. Check your stats at the end of this video! Were you surprised by the results? Share your screen time in the comments.

4. You feel worse about your appearance

In the era of filters and photoshop, there are a lot of unrealistic expectations out there when it comes to appearance. Social media use has been strongly linked to negative body image, and comparison plays a big role in this association (Fardouly & Vartanian, 2016). When you come across someone on social media who you think is attractive, remember that their beauty doesn’t take away from yours! You can acknowledge someone else’s beauty while still feeling confident in your own, although sometimes this is easier said than done. If you find yourself feeling worse about your looks over time, it can be beneficial to monitor whether or not your social media use is contributing to this. Do you think social media affects the way you feel about your appearance?

Final thoughts

It’s important to note that social media is not necessarily bad for everyone’s mental health. There is conflicting evidence on this topic. While social media has been linked to negative outcomes such as low mood in some studies, the causes of these associations are unclear, and different factors may play a role. Other studies have found no evidence for the link between mental health outcomes like depression and social media use (Cataldo et al., 2021). So, researchers haven’t reached a consensus on this topic.

Like most things in life, social media isn’t black and white. It can be beneficial if used in a positive way, but harmful if used in a detrimental way. We encourage you to pay attention to how you feel before and after using social media, and monitor the effect it might be having on your mental health. Awareness is key! Based on your personal experience, what are your thoughts on this topic? Do you think social media is harmful or beneficial to your own mental health? Feel free to discuss this in the comments below! As always, thanks for listening, Psych2Goers. If this video helped you in your mental health journey and you’re interested in learning more about psychology, don’t forget to hit the like button and subscribe below!

References

Cataldo, I., Lepri, B., Neoh, M. J. Y., & Esposito, G. (2021). Social Media Usage and Development of Psychiatric Disorders in Childhood and Adolescence: A Review. Frontiers in Psychiatry11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.508595

Fardouly, J., & Vartanian, L. R. (2016). Social Media and Body Image Concerns: Current Research and Future Directions. Current Opinion in Psychology9, 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.09.005

Przybylski, A. K., Murayama, K., DeHaan, C. R., & Gladwell, V. (2013). Motivational, emotional, and behavioral correlates of fear of missing out. Computers in Human Behavior29(4), 1841–1848. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2013.02.014

Spies Shapiro, L. A., & Margolin, G. (2013). Growing Up Wired: Social Networking Sites and Adolescent Psychosocial Development. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review17(1), 1–18. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10567-013-0135-1

Vogel, E. A., Rose, J. P., Roberts, L. R., & Eckles, K. (2014). Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem. Psychology of Popular Media Culture3(4), 206–222. https://doi.org/10.1037/ppm0000047

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