I can’t tell you the number of times over the last 16 years that I have had to talk with clients about issues that have come up from social media. When I started my practice it wasn’t such a big deal yet, but over the years I’ve seen how social media can impact your mental health.
Of course I see the good that social media can bring to connect people and get information, but you do have to weigh the costs and the benefits to see if it’s right for you.
For me personally, there’s been many times I’ve fasted from social media and just needed a break from the impacts it has had. Others I know have had to take it off their phones, so it’s not so accessible. While others have de-activated their accounts all together. I have made many recommendations to clients over the years to consider the same by taking a break from it, and/or setting some boundaries up to help reduce the negative impact.
Do you know how social media can impact your mental health?
Especially in this polarizing season of very public opinions in our society, many people can experience intense anxiety just from getting on their feed. The arguing, negativity, and fear mongering will send anyone with mild anxiety into higher levels. We have to remember that most of what you see are opinions and not necessarily facts. It’s good to do your own research to determine what is true before you spiral into a panic attack from something you’ve seen.
Social media can spark depression for many reasons. It’s hard to engage fully in relationships with people through social media. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a good tool to connect with people you wouldn’t otherwise get to connect with, but it shouldn’t be your ONLY connections. We NEED people in our lives to walk alongside us. Many people use social media to fill the companionship and friendship buckets, but they often end up more lonely and empty from the lack of depth they achieve from all of their social media “friends”. A like and comment on a post is not going to be the same as an hour long conversation over a coffee with a good friend where you can be real and vulnerable.
Comparison and Envy
One thing that can lead to significant depression for clients with is how they compare their lives with others on social media. Seeing many people’s highlight reel in life can make you feel bad about your real life. Envy about all the adventures and fun things people are doing in life can make yours feel boring. Remember that all you’re seeing is what they choose to put on social media, there are messy realities of life that are behind the beauty and perfection you’re seeing.
Body Image Issues
This has been a huge trigger for many of my clients with eating disorders and body dysmorphia. When you see beautiful people and fit bodies over and over again in your feed, it can impact the way that you see yourself and spark your inner critic. I often have to recommend that people struggling with this unfollow someone that brings these issues to the surface.
Social media can have a big impact on relationships. Unfortunately, it has been used as a tool for infidelity, conflict with people who have different opinions, and a way for others to bully and put people down. Friendships have ended. Marriages have been extremely damaged and broken up. And people have chosen to end their lives from the hurtful things said over social media. What is intended for good, has surely been used for evil and has a major impact on mental health and relationships.
Social media can be a temptation for many people to engage in things they wouldn’t normally do when face-to-face with people. People may “harmlessly” say or do something that they think won’t hurt others, but it can spiral out of control. Honestly that’s the story I have heard from many people who have engaged in affairs that started over social media. Also people that have issues with sex and pornography addiction can be easily tempted to indulge in acting out behaviors. Social media may be a slippery slope for people that is not worth it in the end.
Not only can social media trigger people’s addictions, it can also be very addictive itself. It’s EASY to get lost in social media and not notice the amount of time you’ve spent. Social media can be addictive to constantly scroll through, and check to see obsessively if people have ‘liked’ something you’ve posted. It’s good to set boundaries with yourself in order to have a healthy balance.
So don’t get me wrong, social media can be a great thing. It’s just important to be aware of the danger zones. Be intentional to set limits and boundaries with yourself to avoid any of these common mental health struggles.