Social media has become such an integral part of our lives. We log on, and we're hit with what seems like a flood of recent life events from “friends," including engagements, job promotions, home purchases, pregnancies, births, vacations, and even breakups. This can be overwhelming and can lead us into a vortex of jealousy, competitiveness, and depression before we even realize it. It’s easy to get caught up in the image of a person or life that social media presents, and it can lead to envy, rejection, and subconscious comparisons among our friends.
Recent studies show that 63% of American Facebook users log on to the site daily, while 40% of users log on multiple times each day. If you think it doesn't affect you, think again. Here are four ways that social media affects your mental health and mental wellness.
- Social media is addictive
Social media is used for many different reasons. However, it usually serves, on some level, the same basic purposes: distraction and relief from boredom. “Likes” and "comments" are positive reinforcement for posting information, making it difficult for a person to stop. Researchers have found this so common that they created a scale to measure this addiction: The Berge Facebook Addiction Scale.
- Social media compares our lives to others
Fear of missing out, also known as FOMO, is a relatively new term coined from the fear we feel of missing out caused by social media. Often, what we see on social media is an idealized version of a person’s life. What we see is curated by an individual to influence how others view them. If things are going particularly well for someone in your newsfeed when you're having a bad day, it can negatively affect your mood even more.
In fact, in 2012, a team of researchers in the UK surveyed users, 53% of whom said social media had changed their behavior; 51% said it was negative behavior because of the decline in confidence they felt due to unfair comparisons to others.
- Social media gives way to cyberbullying
It's no secret that social media can be a breeding ground for online bullying. Whether you're a teenager or an adult, on social media, it can happen to anyone. An organization that aims for Internet safety, called Enough is Enough, conducted a survey that found 95% of teenagers who use social media have witnessed cyberbullying, and 33% have been victims themselves.
- Social media glamorizes alcohol and drug abuse
Social media tends to glamorize or promote drug and alcohol use, especially among teens and young adults. The red solo cup is a trademark correlation with underage drinking. In fact, 40% of teens admitted that they had been exposed to pictures of people under the influence via social media, suggesting a correlation between the two factors. Although a correlation is all it is, it makes sense that social media would amplify the amount of peer pressure to which teenagers are exposed.
With these things in mind, it’s important to remember that social media isn’t always negative. Taking a step back and looking at your own social media habits can help you control the amount of time and energy you put into these accounts. Set some ground rules. Put your phone away during work, while you're eating meals, when you're spending time with loved ones, and especially while you're driving. If you know you're addicted, consider deleting the app(s) from your phone. Following these few tips can lead to a better relationship with your phone and social media and provide the mental clarity you might be seeking.
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