How social media poses a serious risk to our mental health

Alison Blackler, mind coach from Wirral-based 2minds, highlights some of the negative impacts of social media on our well-being.

mobile phone, anxiety, worry, stress
The urge to keep checking our phones for social media updates may be harming our mental health

 

Thanks to the rise of social media people across the world are more connected than we have ever been in the history of civilisation. However, our reliance on social media can have a detrimental effect on our mental health.

This increase in virtual communication could mean an increase in social introverts and a huge issue with national social skills. The constant use and dependence on social media could the creation of social recluse’s unable to speak and communicate outside the virtual interaction safety net rather than talking to individuals.

The impact is a lowering of social intellect and social intelligence.  Did you know?

  • There are 2.3bn active social media users worldwide.
  • 91% of large corporate brands have two or more social media platforms.
  • 65% of all individuals feel uncomfortable and uneasy when they are unable to gain access to their social media profiles.

The urge to check social media may be linked to both an instant gratification, the need to experience fast, short term pleasure and dopamine production which is the chemical in the brain associated with reward and pleasure. The desire for a hit of dopamine, coupled with a failure to gain instant gratification, may prompt users to perpetually refresh their social media feeds.

Here are six ways that social media could be negatively affecting your life without you even realising:

Self-esteem

We all have our fair share of insecurities, some that we speak about openly and others that we prefer to keep to ourselves. As we are connected to a wider community creates a risk of comparing yourself to others. Being more aware of the amount of time you spend scrolling through other people’s online profiles could help you focus more on yourself and boost your self-confidence.

Human connection

We are social beings. As humans, it’s so important for us to be able to communicate and forge personal connections with one another. Using a phone to connect means we are not associated with real-life personas. There is a lack of emotional connectivity and there is a much greater risk of misinterpretation without other clues that we rely on.

Memory

Social media provides a set of memories we can look back on. However, it can also distort the way in which we recall events because we are stuck behind the camera. We are less focused on the actual experience with our own two eyes because our attention is on getting the perfect shots to upload rather than enjoying the experience in real time.

Spending too much time on our phones will detract from those other aspects of the experience, undermining the happiness we could be gleaning from them.

Alison Blackler of 2minds
Wirral transformational mind coach and therapist Alison Blackler of 2minds

 

Sleep

Having enough sleep is of paramount importance. Many people use their phones when they know they are tired making it harder to doze off.

Getting anxious or feeling envy from what we see on social media keeps the brain on high alert, preventing us from falling asleep. Plus, the light from our mobile device just inches from our face can suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps us feel tired.

Try setting yourself a strict rule of not going on your phone for at least 40 minutes to an hour before going to bed and see if that makes a difference to the quality of your sleep. 

Attention span

With frequent use of social media, it is not just your subconscious mind that is under threat but also the extent to which your mind is able to fully concentrate when you’re awake. While it’s incredible to consider the amount of information readily available at our fingertips thanks to social media, it also means that people have become far more easily distracted.  Social media has provided a means of constantly giving into the temptation of instant, easy-access entertainment.  If you’re unable to not check your phone for at least a few minutes, then you’d do well to practise exercising your willpower on occasion. 

Mental health

Not only has social media been proven to cause unhappiness, but it can also lead to the development of mental health issues such as anxiety, loneliness or depression when used too much or without caution. While you don’t necessarily have to quit social media for good, if you feel like it’s beginning to bog you down, why not consider allocating social media-free time slots during your daily routine? The slight change could do you a whole lot of good.

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