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Since the beginning of social media, which started around 1997 with sites like Six Degrees and then later Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, the belief was that greater connectivity to loved ones, friends, colleagues and even strangers would benefit people.
More than two decades later, the prevailing opinion of mental health experts is that moderation is key with social media and too much, well, just isn’t healthy.
“Here’s the bottom line,” Melissa G. Hunt, lead author of a study on social media, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, said in a statement, “using less social media than you normally would, leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness.”
What are 6 Negative Side Effects of Too Much Social Media?
Too much time spent on social media platforms has shown to lead to poorer physical and mental health outcomes. These can include some of the following:
- Low Self-esteem and Poor Body Image, especially from time spent on sites that focus on “lifestyle,” such as Instagram and Snapchat
- FOMO (fear of missing out) is a common sensation for people to have when they see friends posting about vacations, concerts, dinners or virtually any other social activity and that can lead to feelings of loneliness
- Depression and Anxiety are natural results of continued low self-esteem, FOMO, loneliness, envy and constantly comparing ourselves to others who we believe, whether true or not, are living better, more interesting lives
- A decrease in or lack of quality sleep as a result of long late night hours spent scrolling through social media platforms, which results in poorer physical health
- Significant reduction in genuine, face to face human interaction with friends, family and others that only exacerbates feelings of seclusion and isolation
- Cyberbullying, either by harassing or embarrassing other people online, or being harassed or embarrassed by others on social media
Social Media Impact on Children and Young Adults
Some healthcare experts are particularly worried about the effect social media has on the mental health and overall development of children.
It’s easier for older generations, to some degree or another, to dismiss social media because they have a reference for what life is like without it. That’s not the case with children.
“Social media has been described as more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol, and is now so entrenched in the lives of young people that it is no longer impossible to ignore it when talking about young people’s mental health,” Shirley Cramer, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), said in a report put out by the UK based organization.
Best and Worst Social Media Sites for Mental Health
The same 2017 RSPH report held a survey of 1,500 young people and found, in fact, that some social media platforms are actually worse than others when it comes to the mental health and wellbeing of children.
The list ranked social media sites from best to worse, and included the following:
- YouTube (most positive)
- Instagram (most negative)
Limit Social Media Time to Feel Better About Yourself
The solution to avoiding depression, anxiety, loneliness and other negative feelings associated with too much time on social media is a relatively simple fix in our all-too-technical world:
limit daily time spent on social media platforms to 30 minutes or less.
Use the extra time to engage in real life social activities as much as possible.
This can range from volunteering for any number of charities, taking an exercise class, hosting a get together for friends and family or just being out in the actual world – outside and away from a screen where someone else feels the compulsion to post photos and videos of what they’re doing.
“It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely,” Hunt, author of the first study referenced, said in her statement.
“Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens. When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone’s life is cooler or better than yours.”
The good news is, social media can have some positive effects on mental health too. Here are 6 ways to have a positive social media experience.