Human beings are social creatures, who thrive by the companionship of others. Lacking strong social connections can be detrimental to our health. Social media platforms offer easy accessibility to find and connect with others, and while there are many benefits, it is important to remember that social media can never replace real-world connections.
While many of us enjoy connecting with others through social media platforms, excessive use can fuel psychological cravings, increase anxiety, depression, isolation, and FOMO (fear of missing out). Although there are benefits to social media use, it is important to remember that it can never be a replacement real-world human connection. Direct in-person contact with others is what triggers the hormone that alleviates stress and can make you feel happier, healthier, and more positive.
Social media platforms are designed to hold your attention, keep you online, and have you repeatedly checking for updates. Similarly, to a gambling compulsion or an addiction to substances and alcohol, social media can spark psychological cravings. Receiving a like, or a comment on a post can trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, the “reward” chemical. The more you are rewarded, the more time you are likely to spend on social media, even if it becomes detrimental to other areas of your life.
Social media use can promote negative experiences related to inadequacies about your life or appearance. Even if you are aware of images being manipulated or distorted, they still have the capability of making you feel insecure about your body image or what is going on in your life. Fear of missing out (FOMO) also has the potential to negatively impact your self-esteem, trigger anxiety, and increase social media use to check for updates. There is also a greater risk for cyberbullying with increased social media use. Platforms, such as Instagram or twitter, can be hotspots for spreading hurtful rumors, lies, and abuse that can emotionally scar young impressionable minds. Mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression, can be exacerbated by frequent social media interaction over in-person relationships.
Signs that social media is impacting your mental health:
It may not be realistic to drastically cut back on social media use, however, even reducing use by 30 minutes a day can improve mental wellness. A 2018 University of Pennsylvania study found that reducing social media use by 30 minutes a day resulted in a significant reduction in levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, sleep problems, and FOMO. The following tips can help you with reducing your screen time: