Social media is certainly not all bad. There are many benefits and numerous social advances that have resulted from it. Social media has served to reveal so many injustices that many of us were previously blind to. It can unite people, create movements, facilitate a source of support for individuals and groups, and promote safety by bringing us the latest news—all within seconds and right in the palm of our hand.
However, like all conveniences and advances in technology, moderation is key. Social media can educate us and enrich our lives, but it can also engulf us and impact our thinking and judgment. Research has found that it can significantly affect mental health.
Below we will discuss some important areas of caution and things to consider as you self-monitor your social media use. Our emotional health and wellbeing could depend on how often and in what ways you approach this favorite past time.
Apparently, timing is everything.
Research on mental health and social media use has revealed that an important factor in how social media affects people emotionally depends on how long you’re logged in. This means that if you look through your Instagram feed from time to time, log into Facebook briefly (such as one or two times daily), or glance through Twitter—you should be okay. Issues arise when a person spends hours on social media—every day. There are likely many factors that, when put together, lead to a person suffering emotional consequences from excess social media, namely issues like depression and low self-esteem. One variable includes the fact that if you’re on social media for lengthy periods of time on a daily basis, you might be absent from other activities that you need—things that are good for your mental health like going outside, spending face-to-face time with supportive people, or getting exercise. So, the lack of these important activities—or when these tasks are replaced with too much screen time—can cause your mental health to suffer.
Then there’s the issue of upward social comparison, which research has found contributes to depression and low self-esteem. Upward social comparison simply means that you compare yourself to others on social media who (seem to) have it all—attractiveness, fit bodies, clothes, cars, exotic travels, and other luxuries. When people spend a lot of time scrolling through photos and videos of these curated social media characters, they often feel like their own life is lacking and this can lead to emotional issues. However, upward social comparison is believed to occur depending on how much time is spent logged in.
Who do you follow?
The social media accounts, influencers, topic areas, and people you follow could make a significant difference in terms of your mental health and how you’re affected by social media. It may seem like common sense—the idea that viewing the accounts of positive people and positive topics will lead to positive feelings. Just like viewing accounts that may lead to upward social comparison or just make you feel bad about yourself will adversely impact how you feel or lead to negative feelings. But, these common-sense rules are often violated. We are all probably guilty of following social media accounts that are not exactly food for the soul.
Many people engage in a regular cleanse of their social media by unfollowing accounts that do not support their emotional health and wellbeing. Focus instead on following people and accounts that inspire you, motivate you, and make you smile.
If you’re a woman—listen up.
Social media can affect men and women alike; however, there are more vulnerable populations that should exercise greater caution. This includes young people—like children and teens—and particularly, women. It’s a well-known fact that most social media influencers are female, especially accounts that are related to beauty, fashion, travel, and fitness. This means that as a female viewer, you are flooded with edited and unrealistic images of women. Even the most confident among us can be affected by the ideals of beauty and lifestyle that are broadcasted to us on social media on a constant basis. This is why it is so critical that as women we are fully aware of the potential consequences and that we take action.
Strategies like limiting your social media use altogether and being mindful of who and what you follow is critical. Expose yourself to people and information that lifts you and makes you feel good. If anything you view on social media leads you to feel like you are less than or unworthy—even if the thought sweeps over you for just a second—consider whether you are feeding your mind with the right information and images.
Social media has become such a central part of our everyday lives, dictating how we take in information, but we must be mindful and very watchful of our habits and actions. Take massive action today. Take a closer look at your scrolling behaviors, starting right now. Be selective of what you allow into every moment if your life.
Lastly, if you're looking for an online book club that is completely off social media and only motivates and inspires you daily, I highly recommend you become a member of our book club. You can do so by clicking here or sign up to be on the waitlist if we are currently closed.