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  • Writer's pictureTharun sai E

How is Social Media impacting our Mental Health and What we can do about it


Today, social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and so on have made their impact more recognisable than ever. Their easy-to-use interface filled with multiple features has attracted the attention of people all over the world, across different age groups. 


Primarily, these platforms were built to connect us with our family, friends, colleagues, and like-minded people who we would never get to meet in person. As these companies grew in terms of business and technology, the objective started to shift to attracting more users and keeping them hooked to using these platforms.


We use social media to:


  • Socialise with friends, 

  • Share pictures, videos, and other content

  • Stay updated with the latest news and trends, 

  • Share opinions, 

  • Shop, and 

  • Entertain ourselves

Most of these activities tap different parts of our brain when we are performing them. Social media gives us a myriad of options to choose from in terms of which emoji to add while texting, which brand, size, and colour to shop as per our body shape, and which background music to add while sharing our next Instagram reel. Having more choices to pick from through a small screen overstimulates our brain, builds anxiety and makes us feel restless.


Excessive use of social media can hurt our mental, physical, and emotional health if we don’t be mindful of it. As there is no visible direct or immediate harm, this can easily go unnoticed by most of us.


What are some areas that social media impacts?


Anxiety

Given the amount of and the nature of the information that we are exposed to while using social media, it is hardly surprising that we feel anxious while or after using it. 


Any fruitful communication requires us to be present while attending to each other. Texting filters out many important nonverbal social factors such as eye contact, emotion, body language, gestures, and so on. Communication hence feels incomplete and diluted. If this becomes our go-to way of communicating with everyone, it can put us at risk of developing anxiety or even depression. 


Loneliness

Many research studies have found that Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat increase rather than decrease feelings of loneliness. 


Constantly communicating superficially has reduced the quality of connections. Having more real, in-person connections and reducing communication through social media can make us feel less isolated, and more like we belong, and improve our well-being. On the other hand, continuously communicating through a screen and deciphering others’ life to be better can result in developing mood disorders such as bipolar disorder.


FOMO

Fear Of Missing Out. 


With increasing trends, news, festivals, restaurants, and vacation experiences on social media to keep up with, our mind can get into an auto-pilot mode of taking in every and any information presented to us. 


FOMO can lead to making unnecessary comparisons between our lives and someone else’s experiences. It can make us worry about not being present at a particular event, not trying a dish from a certain restaurant, or not understanding the history behind a meme on Instagram. 


Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat leverage this worry and insecurity. The content shared by others seems like they are enjoying more and living better lives than we are. This impacts our self-esteem, self-worth, and invalidates our lived experiences resulting in greater unhappiness and getting anxious about not living life to our fullest. 


How can we cope with this impact?


There are researched ways that show how to reduce the impact of social media, It is important to know that the changes do not occur overnight and hence, it is important to be kind to ourselves or anyone who is in the process of making a change for the better.


Being mindful of how we use social media 

Given its easy access, using social media can feel as normal as breathing today. Being mindful of our social media usage can help us take back control and be conscious of how we are using these platforms and how they are impacting us. 

We can reflect on this by asking ourselves the following:

  • What is my pattern of using social media? 

  • What do I use social media for?

  • Do I tend to feel better or worse when using social media? 

Answering these questions can help us get clarity as to how are we impacted mentally and emotionally by social media. Then we can use this to be more proactive on what we can do about its effects.


Reducing time online

Reducing social media usage gradually can help us reduce its impact on anxiety, loneliness, depression, body image, self-esteem, and FOMO. The amount of time spent online daily can be different for all of us. We can figure out the duration that we think can be the most optimal for us right now. 


Some ways that we can reduce our time online is by keeping the phone aside at certain times like when we are driving, cooking, exercising, eating, spending time with family and friends, or in a meeting. We can learn to not bring our phones to certain places like when in the bathroom or in bed. This can help us be present and enjoy ourselves without interruptions.


Exploring activities and connections outside social media

Face-to-face communication and activities that do not involve using social media or smartphones naturally make us feel happy and connected to ourselves. We can learn to set aside time for this where we are able to talk and perform without checking our smartphones for notifications or scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. 


Instead of staying in touch through social media, we can connect with family and friends by going out for dinner, running errands, cooking, or exercising together, joining a club that resonates with us to find more like-minded people.

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