Social media can be a positive vehicle of connection with new people, exploration of interests and a source of entertainment, unfortunately there is a darker side to it that is plaguing the mental health of Millennials. We all know by now that social media can be carefully curated to display a lifestyle, mood, or even body you may not actually have. The pressure to live up to, or match the lives of your successful-looking friends, influencers, models, celebrities, or even total strangers on your explore page can lead to serious self doubt and an unhealthy state of mind.
From a young age we are taught to take care of our physical health, we’re told to eat our greens, brush out teeth, and get a good night’s sleep. We know how important it is stay away from things that may put our physical health at risk and we’re faced with it every day. From “caution wet floor” signs to anti-smoking ads, we know how we should behave in order to keep our bodies safe. When it comes to our mental health the precautions we must take are much less obvious. We welcome the feelings of stress, frustration, and sadness without considering the toll they may be taking on our mental well being. Mental health encompasses our emotional psychological and most relevant to social media, our social well being. If our mental health is not in check it affects all our feelings, thoughts, and actions and how we handle social and emotional situations. There are biological factors as well as past experiences and history of familial mental illness that affect our own mental health. These are hard to avoid, but there are decisions you can consciously make while navigating through social media that will assist in keeping your mental wellbeing in a comfortable realm.
The confidence you have in your own value and abilities is your self esteem, and depending on your capability of assuring your own worth, it can be influenced by outside variables negatively or positively. The thrill of 100 likes on a photo may make your self esteem skyrocket and equally a perfectly photoshopped post of your ex’s new beau might crush all your confidence in an instant. This is normal but, it is important to become aware of the way these things are affecting you. It becomes unhealthy when you cannot put your phone down, step away from whatever you’ve seen that’s affecting your mental wellbeing and positively re-affirm yourself without the aid of social media. Self esteem can also be affected by the comparisons we are constantly making with curated profiles, a study concluded that whether you believe yourself to be better or worse than a person who’s profile you’re inspecting, the comparison leads to depressive feelings .
It’s in the name. Social media is here to allow us to socialize constantly whether we’re with friends or completely alone. It’s easy to feel connected when you’re constantly viewing your friends’ lives online, through tweets or Instagram posts. If they’re an active user, you’ll feel up to date. The danger is that you’re not actually having a conversation or face-to-face interaction. This can be convenient when it comes to long distance friends or relatives, but it’s important to also include the connection instead of simply following each others lives through posts. Social media also leads to people believing they are being isolated and excluded. Fear of missing out (FOMO) in a digital age is easy to feel. A photo of two of your friends is posted and you begin to doubt and wonder why you weren’t invited. There are extensive studies that conclude that the more social platforms people were visiting daily lead to deeper feelings of social isolation .
If you meet someone who says they are happy all day every day, they’re either lying or have a great doctor. It’s normal to feel negative emotions now and then, and they shouldn’t be pushed down, but the amount of time spent feeling positive should dominate the time spent feeling negative. In a study conducted by PLOS and cited by Forbes, it was found that Facebook was linked to less ‘moment-to-moment’ happiness and less life satisfaction. The issue seems to be the high-speed nature of interactions. You can connect quickly with anyone in or outside of your group of friends but the connection is fleeting and the brief encounters result in feelings of emptiness. It might not be possible to be happy all the time but once you understand that the route of your negative emotions may be coming from an unhealthy amount of time spent online, use your digital interactions to plan real life events rather than only being socially involved digitally.
Most studies will show than an excessive use of social media will lead to lower self worth, less overall happiness, and less real social interactions. The trick to avoiding the negative aspects of social media use is to be aware of your own self deprecation. There is a surprising amount of support to be found online however, and high profile celebrities and influencers frequently speak out about mental health issues, that aren’t necessarily connected to social media. There is definitely still positive things happening on social networks, it’s just important that we remain aware of what’s affecting our overall wellbeing and searching for guidance in the right places, and most importantly knowing when to sign off.
Written by Delfina Forstmann