Social media has become a necessity in many aspects, even though it can be detrimental to our mental health. Want to stay in touch with your friends and family? Get on Facebook. Want to share what you had for breakfast? Instagram. Are you a freelancer trying to grow your brand? You better do both, and then some.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s a fantastic marketing tool, and you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t promote your business on social media. You can still participate in the marathon and use traditional channels, but your competitors will probably reach their goals first. Just saying.
However, social media can negatively affect your wellbeing and distract you from your personal goals. Why? Because the highlight reels make us fall deep into the comparison hole.
Social media and mental health: a vicious circle
A staggering 60% of users report a decrease in their self-esteem due to social media. It means most of us feel like our lives are inferior compared to others, as if it was a competition.
I’m sure we can all relate to it in some way. We’ve all felt jealous because someone else’s life looks so perfect on Facebook. They always seem to be on exotic holidays, going out to fancy dinners, or getting lots of attention while your latest selfie barely got a like from a cricket. No wonder it makes you feel like your life is uninteresting and your achievements less significant.
On the flip side, you might be brilliant at the social media game. Perhaps you’ve created an illusion that you’re incredibly successful, which makes you feel pressured into living up to that expectation. The algorithms take over your sense of self-worth, which can seriously affect your mental health.
Research suggests that excessive screen time can lead to depression, anxiety, and — ironically — loneliness. The more you connect digitally, the more you obsess over that notification bar. Social media has even been linked to higher rates of self-harm and suicide amongst vulnerable young adults, which is a topic I’ve explored recently at HealthyPlace.
Moderate and curate social media content
It may seem like social media is pure evil, and we should quit it once and for all. But you don’t need to go cold turkey just yet. Here’s what you can do:
- Whenever you feel like social media is taking over your life, go offline. Take a walk, read a book, or cook a meal. If you can, stay away from your computer or mobile devices for a day or two to clear your mind.
- Try apps like RescueTime, Freedom, or Forest to get your productivity levels back on track. You’ll be surprised how much time you’re wasting every day on various digital distractions.
- Take a more mindful approach to your social media consumption. Is someone bringing you down with their content? Unfollow. Are their posts rude or abusive? Unfriend. You don’t need to be ‘friends’ with everyone, even if you hang out in real life.
- Tailor your feed and follow profiles that inspire and motivate you. Take control of what you consume; you don’t need content that drags you down. I personally like motivational posts, productivity hacks, and tips on sustainable living. Oh, and cat videos. Lots and lots of them.
Finally, remember that what you see are merely snapshots taken out of context. Nobody’s life is perfect all the time, and somebody out there might be jealous of you, too. Focus on your goals and milestones, and not those of others. Be happy for your friends’ achievements — there is room for everyone.
Does social media affect your mental health? Let me know in the comments section below!