In recent years, social media has become a huge part of our everyday lives. Many people find themselves checking their social media at every break in their day. Social media certainly has had its benefits- granting many people the ability to connect with loved ones around the world, giving a voice to those who would otherwise not have one, and allowing people a chance to see things from a variety of different perspectives. Social media doesn’t come without its faults, though. With every benefit of social media comes issues that can adversely affect one’s mental and physical health, social relationships, and overall quality of life. So, are the risks worth the reward?
Social media platforms are designed to keep their users coming back for more. When one logs into their social accounts, their brain releases dopamine, otherwise known as the “feel-good” hormone. Dopamine is typically released after pleasurable activities, such as eating a delicious meal. Our brains love dopamine. Because of this, they will keep craving the dopamine release often associated with logging into social media. Every like, comment and direct message fuels our brain’s desire to continue using social media.
The downside to this is that the more often dopamine is released, the more addicted to social media we will become. The more we use social media, the more dopamine we need to feel good. This becomes a cycle that can begin to adversely affect your overall mental health, causing issues like depression and anxiety. As we fall deeper into our social media addiction, our real life will begin to appear as though it is not enough.
When we are constantly scrolling through other people’s highlight reels, it can be easy to fall into the trap that is comparison. With social media accounts dedicated to expensive homes, luxury vacations, and the “perfect” body, it can be easy to begin to feel as though your life and all that you have in it are not enough.
Social media can begin to have a huge impact on one’s self esteem, contentment, and overall happiness. As we watch other people post the best pieces of their lives, we may find ourselves wishing we can be them. Social media has a way of leading people to build the habit of constant self-evaluation.
People may find themselves viewing other’s highlight reels and thinking things like, “Am I pretty enough?”, “Am I behind on my achievements?”, or “Why doesn’t my partner love me that way?”. Things that used to be enough for us seem to begin to fade in value as we watch other people’s highlight reels on an everyday basis.
Excessive use of social media, paired with constant comparison, can begin to cause mental health issues like lower self-esteem, increased social anxiety, and feelings of loneliness.
Speaking of loneliness, social media can certainly have its effects on our social health and wellbeing. Social media can be a great band-aid fix when you are missing somebody far away or feeling lonely. However, nothing compares to face-to-face interactions. When social media relationships begin to replace in-person relationships, problems will begin to arise.
Social media can be great for connecting with others, but it holds no match to the deeper, more personal relationships we can form in person. Social connections are crucial to a person’s overall health and wellness. The most glaring evidence of this comes from studies that have shown that people who are more socially connected have a lower mortality rate than those who are not.
What is it about social connections that are so powerful they even affect the mortality rate? Social connections control a person’s behaviors, perspective, and quality of life. When a person is surrounded by people who make them feel happy, healthy, and connected, they begin to behave in a happy, healthy, and connected manner.
Attempting to feel connected with others through social media can take away from these important interactions. More people are bringing social media into every moment of their day. They find themselves grabbing their phone first thing in the morning, scrolling through their social feeds at every meal, and finishing their days off with one last social media check.
This behavior prevents us from interacting with the people around us. It leaves us inside our own world feeling isolated and alone.
Social media doesn’t have to be all or nothing. While it can begin to negatively impact your mental, physical, and social health when used in excess, it can be extremely beneficial to those who use it sparingly. So, how can we create a healthy relationship with social media?
If you feel as though your mental health has been adversely affected by social media and believe you need help, reach out to a mental health professional. They can help you figure out why you are feeling the way you are and teach you ways to get through negative emotions.