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Scrolling through social media feeds has become a daily habit for many, but could it harm our mental well-being? The rise of social media has been accompanied by concerns over its impact on mental health, with studies showing mixed results. The effects of social media on our mental health are complex and multifaceted. Some studies suggest that social media use is linked to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and other mental health issues, while others indicate that it can be a positive influence. 

Continue reading as we explore the relationship between social media and mental health, looking at the evidence and discussing ways to maintain a healthy relationship with social media.

Social media has become an integral part of our lives. It is how we communicate, share, and consume information. The use of social media apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Instagram, and mental health issues have been the subject of many research studies. 

While it has many benefits, there has been a growing concern about the impact of social media on mental health. Here we will explore five evidence-based reasons why social media can affect mental health.

Social media can lead to comparison and self-esteem issues

Social media has made it easier to compare ourselves to others, which can negatively impact our self-esteem. It’s easy to feel like we don’t measure up to the seemingly perfect lives of others we see online [1]. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy, envy, and depression. Moreover, social media can create pressure to present a certain image, leading to a lack of authenticity and feelings of disconnection.

Social media can exacerbate anxiety and stress

Social media can be a source of stress and anxiety [2]. It’s easy to get caught up in the constant barrage of information, notifications, and updates. This can lead to a feeling of always being “on,” which can be exhausting. Moreover, social media can breed conflict and negativity, leading to further stress and anxiety.

Social media can lead to FOMO and addiction

Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a common phenomenon in social media [3]. We may feel like we’re missing out on something when we see others having fun, and this can create anxiety and restlessness. Moreover, social media has been shown to activate the same reward centres in the brain as drugs and alcohol, leading to addictive behaviours [4]. This addiction can be detrimental to our mental health, leading to neglect of other important aspects of our lives.

Social media can promote negative body image

Social media is a platform where appearance is often emphasized [1]. This can lead to negative body image, especially among young people. Seeing images of unrealistic beauty standards and comparing oneself to them can lead to body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, and depression.

Social media can affect sleep patterns

Using social media before bedtime can affect sleep patterns, leading to sleep disturbances [2]. Moreover, constant notifications and updates can disrupt sleep even when we’re not actively using social media. Sleep is important for mental health, and lack of sleep can lead to mood disturbances, irritability, and difficulty concentrating [5].

Social media can have both positive and negative effects on mental health. While social media can be a valuable tool for connecting with others and staying informed, it is important to be mindful of how much time we spend on these platforms and how they are affecting our mental health. 

By taking steps to manage our social media use and seeking support when needed, we can ensure that social media has a positive rather than negative impact on our mental health.

Social media has become a pervasive part of modern life, with billions of people around the world using social media platforms daily. While social media has its benefits, there is growing concern about the impact it can have on mental health. Here we will explore ten important statistics related to social media and mental health.

  1. 72% of Americans use social media [5]

Social media is a ubiquitous part of American life, with the majority of the population using social media platforms. This widespread use means that social media has a significant influence on the mental health of Americans.

  1. 70% of young adults aged 18-24 have experienced cyberbullying [6]

Cyberbullying is a growing problem on social media platforms, and young adults are particularly vulnerable. The high prevalence of cyberbullying underscores the need for better measures to prevent and address this issue.

  1. Social media use is linked to higher rates of depression [3]

Studies have found that social media use is linked to higher rates of depression. This may be because social media can create feelings of social isolation and inadequacy.

  1. Heavy social media use is associated with poorer sleep quality [7]

People who spend more time on social media tend to have poorer sleep quality. This may be because social media use can disrupt sleep patterns and interfere with the body’s natural sleep cycle.

  1. 56% of young adults report that social media has made them feel more anxious [6]

Many young adults feel that social media contributes to feelings of anxiety. This may be because social media can create pressure to present a perfect image of oneself or because it can contribute to FOMO (fear of missing out).

  1. Social media use is linked to higher rates of anxiety [3]

Like depression, social media use is also linked to higher rates of anxiety. People who spend more time on social media may feel more anxious because of the pressure to keep up with others or the constant exposure to negative news and events.

  1. 43% of Americans have been exposed to false information about the COVID-19 pandemic on social media [1]

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the risks of misinformation on social media platforms. Exposure to false information can create confusion and anxiety, which can harm mental health.

  1. Social media use is linked to lower self-esteem [4]

When people compare themselves to others on social media, they may feel like they don’t measure up. This can lead to lower self-esteem, which can harm mental health.

  1. 28% of young adults report that social media harms their mental health [7]

While many young adults enjoy using social media, a significant percentage report that it harms their mental health. This underscores the need for better education and support around social media use.

  1. Social media use is linked to a decline in mental health over time [6]

Studies have found that social media use is linked to a decline in mental health over time. People who use social media heavily may experience worsening symptoms of anxiety and depression as they continue to use these platforms.

Social media provides an easy way to connect with others and stay up to date on the latest news and trends. However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when it comes to social media’s impact on our mental health. 

Many people experience social media anxiety, a phenomenon where social media use leads to feelings of stress, worry, and fear. Here we’ll explore what social media anxiety is, why it happens, and what you can do about it.

What is social media anxiety?

Social media anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder that can occur as a result of excessive social media use. This anxiety can manifest in several ways, including feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information and notifications, experiencing anxiety or panic attacks while scrolling through social media, feeling pressure to constantly check and update social media profiles, and experiencing negative feelings such as jealousy, fear of missing out (FOMO), and low self-esteem as a result of comparing oneself to others on social media. [2]

Why does social media anxiety happen?

Several factors can contribute to social media anxiety. One of the biggest is the constant stream of information and notifications that come with social media use. This can create a feeling of overload, making it difficult to keep up and leading to a sense of overwhelm and anxious. Additionally, social media can often be a breeding ground for comparison and negative self-talk, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Finally, the fear of missing out (FOMO) can be a major contributor to social media anxiety, as people feel pressure to constantly be connected and updated on the latest news and trends. [5]

What are the effects of social media anxiety?

Negative effects of social media include social media anxiety. It can lead to feelings of jealousy and loneliness, as well as negative body image and low self-esteem. Additionally, social media anxiety can interfere with sleep and overall well-being, making it difficult to relax and feel calm. [7]

What can you do about social media anxiety?

Several strategies can help manage social media anxiety. One of the most important is to set limits on social media use. This might mean taking a break from social media altogether or setting aside specific times of day for social media use. 

Additionally, it can be helpful to cultivate a more positive relationship with social media by unfollowing accounts that make you feel negative, focusing on positively connecting with others and using social media for activities that bring you joy, such as following your favourite hobbies or interests. [9]

Research suggests the negative effects of social media on mental health and body image, especially among younger people through various well-researched mechanisms [1]. Here we will discuss five biological mechanisms that explain how social media affects mental health and body image.

Changes in brain structure and function

Research has shown that excessive social media use can lead to structural and functional changes in the brain, including a reduction in grey matter volume in the amygdala, which is involved in emotional regulation. This can make individuals more prone to low self-image, including body image, anxiety and depression.

Dopamine Release and Addiction

One of the main biological mechanisms that explain how social media affects mental health is the release of dopamine in the brain [2]. Social media platforms are designed to keep users engaged, and every like, comment, and notification triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. Over time, users may become addicted to the pleasure of receiving these social rewards, leading to low body image.

Reduced Physical Activity

Social media use is also linked to reduced physical activity, which can lead to weight gain and other physical health problems. Spending time on social media often means spending less time being active, which can lead to a sedentary lifestyle [5]. This lack of physical activity can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.

Disordered Eating

Social media use has been linked to disordered eating behaviours, such as binge eating and restrictive eating [6]. Images of thin, idealized bodies on social media can contribute to body dissatisfaction and a desire to attain these unrealistic beauty standards. This can lead to the development of eating disorders and body image issues.

Activation of the sympathetic nervous system

Finally, scrolling through social media feeds can activate the sympathetic nervous system, particularly in youth prone to body image issues. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, stress, and tension. [4]

  1. Help Guide. Social Media and Mental Health. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/social-media-and-mental-health.htm
  2. McLean Hospital. The Social Dilemma: Social Media and Your Mental Health. https://www.mcleanhospital.org/essential/it-or-not-social-medias-affecting-your-mental-health
  3. Medical News Today. What to know about social media and mental health. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/social-media-and-mental-health
  4. Middle Georgia State University. Is Social Media Bad For Your Mental Health? https://www.mga.edu/news/2022/06/is-social-media-bad-for-your-mental-health.php
  5. Etactics. 40+ Frightening Social Media And Mental Health Statistics. https://etactics.com/blog/social-media-and-mental-health-statistics
  6. MIT Management Sloan. Study: Social media use linked to decline in mental health. https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/study-social-media-use-linked-to-decline-mental-health
  7. Social Media Mental Health Statistics 2023. https://blog.gitnux.com/social-media-mental-health-statistics/
  8. Forbes. 6 Ways Social Media Affects Our Mental Health. https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/06/30/a-run-down-of-social-medias-effects-on-our-mental-health/?sh=1d6f4a512e5a
  9. The Effects of Social Media on Mental Health. https://www.lancastergeneralhealth.org/health-hub-home/2021/september/the-effects-of-social-media-on-mental-health

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