The Potential Impacts of Social Media on Your Mental Health

Credit: Daniela Sherer

Stop scrolling; it’s bad for your mental health.

That’s the overriding conclusion from published research that links time spent on social media to a rise in mental health challenges like depression and anxiety. (We’ve shared similar research with similar findings.)

Now, one of the original authors of the study is speaking out, voicing her concern over the increased risk during the current climate of the pandemic, division, and social upheaval.

“During the pandemic, people are feeling isolated from others, so it is only natural to be spending more time on social media in order to connect with other people,” writes Dr. Mai-Ly Nguyen Steers in Swaay.

“In addition,” she continues, “according to a recent Pew study, the majority of Americans now get their news on social media as opposed to traditional print media sources. Thus, social media platforms represent people’s window to the outside world; however, the views nowadays are a never-ending parade of social, political, and economic unrest.”

This constant drumbeat of chaos, with its conflicting messages and unclear guidance, makes things as simple as going to the grocery story fraught with an unhealthy level of anxiety, she believes.

“Moreover, if left unchecked, these perennial flight-or-flight emotions related the chronic stress and anxiety of unlimited uncertainty can lead some people to experience severe anxiety, depression, and burnout,” she notes.

How can we avoid these results? First of all, Dr. Nguyen Steers recommends setting specific limits on social media use (and please, not before bed). Find other ways to be entertained and stay in touch with friends.

“Instead of reading the news, watch an action-packed movie, a romcom/bromance, or discover funny television shows to stream,” she advised. “Follow social media threads that highlight positive or inspiring content.”

Most importantly, mind your mindset. If you are focusing on the negative, your emotions and your mental state pay a heavy toll. Be mindful of your mental state, and train your brain to move to the positive by taking stock of what you can control, and doing the things that bring positive emotions.

This pandemic has proven what so many of us have been saying all along; social media has its uses, but it has incredible power to do harm if unchecked. Recognize you do have control over what you consume — this is NOT 1984; you can turn off the noise.

Once you have gotten your own use in check, help your family and friends. Demonstrate by example and put down the phone. When you do participate on social media, take the positive road. Find and follow uplifting content that speaks to your heart, not your lizard brain. Share only the positive, and avoid adding to the miasma online. Own your social consumption and take responsibility for what it’s doing to us all.

Your mental health may hang in the balance.

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