Isn’t it amazing how social media connects people from all over the world for free? What’s more, it gives every single one of us a public platform to voice our concerns and opinions. But like everything in life, it isn’t perfect and comes with a price. Turns out that for all its pros, it has the serious con of being bad for your mental health. Without further ado, let’s take a look.
1. It gets you hooked thanks to instant gratification and FOMO
What happens after you post a picture, a video, or a status update? You sit back and wait for people to react. As those likes and comments pour in, don’t you feel a rush of ecstasy to see your update causing a stir? That’s the high of instant gratification and it’s one of the reasons why you regularly post updates. It’s a basic human need to be seen, accepted and admired, and social media is designed in a way that feeds this need instantly and continuously.
Then there’s FOMO aka the Fear Of Missing Out. FOMO is the reason you can’t stop yourself from checking in to your social media channels several times during the day. You worry that if you don’t check in often enough, you’ll miss an invite to an exclusive event or a message from your friends making plans to hang out. Given the global and 24×7 nature of social media, there’s an endless slew of things you could miss out on at any given time, so there’s a constant pressure to stay connected.
2. It gives rise to jealousy and inadequacy
Here’s something most of us do on social media: we stalk ex-classmates, colleagues, flames, just about anyone we know (and can). And that’s how we can get to know what they are up to in their lives. So far, so good.
The problem arises when we dig deep in their profiles and get carried away by the lifestyles they have curated on their social media. Even though we know that it isn’t an accurate description of their day to day lives, we can’t stop ourselves from getting jealous. It doesn’t just stop there – we compare our real life with their highlight reel. The result? We find our lives falling short on fun, freedom, excitement, glamour. Etc, etc, etc. The list is long and at the end of it, we are face to face with hard-to-ignore feelings like insecurity and inadequacy.
3. It causes sadness, anxiety, and depression
Naturally, if you find your lives to be worse in comparison to others’, you are going to end up feeling sad. Take the comparisonitis too far and you may wind up with anxiety (“how can I match up?”) and depression (“there’s no point of even trying, I can never be as rich and happy as XYZ”) as well.
But that’s not all. There’s another reason for social media-induced anxiety and depression. Just being connected is cause for anxiety because you are listening to—and getting involved with—the opinion, rants, and breakdowns of many people all at once. The cacophony is bound to cause overwhelm and anxiety. As for depression, well, given the crazy times we live in, there is no dearth of shocking news. The constant influx of negative news can and does lead to depression. And of course, even if you don’t get depressed, too much time on social media tends to make one sad, which is also not a desirable place to be in.
4. It disrupts your sleep
Look, even though we know about the effects of blue light, many of us are online on our smartphones late into the night. For the uninitiated, our phones and other electronic devices emit a blue light that makes it harder to fall asleep. For this very reason, experts recommend that we reduce screen time before going to bed.
Now there’s a direct link between poor sleep and mental health. If you have a mental health problem, you have trouble getting the required amount of sleep. Conversely, if you don’t get the required amount of sleep, it has a negative effect on your mental health. Why? When you don’t get the required amount of zzz’s every night, you wake up tired, can barely function to get your daily tasks done, and end the day on a stressful note.
5. It kills your social life and makes you feel lonely
When you are spending your free time on social media instead of meeting up with your friends in person, your social life is bound to suffer. Social media has the ability to connect people, but in no way is it a substitute for in the flesh social interaction. So sure, you can be aware of what your friends are up to by merely looking at their posts. But that is not going to take away your need to have an actual conversation with them. Let’s face it: how many of us even bother to message our friends once we are doing stalking their profiles? A simple like or comment, while extremely good for our egos, is not going to strengthen the best of friendships. Nor can it replace the coziness of long conversations over cups of coffee – and the bonding that occurs as a result of the intimacy. Social media can never add this kind of personal touch and so, even with a ton of “friends” on multiple platforms, it’s easy to feel very, very lonely.
Social media has become such an important part of our lives today that if we are not on it, it’s as if we don’t exist. Plus, there’s no harm in using it in moderation – in fact, thanks to these platforms, we can do amazing things like fighting patriarchy and online activism. The only thing we need to keep in mind is to monitor how much time we are spending on social media so that we do not cross from moderate users to ‘can’t live without social media’ users.
What negative impact does social media have on your mental health? Do share your experiences in the comments section below.