In the past ten years, the rise of social media has changed the way we interact with one another. In 2005, only 5% of American adults used at least one social media platform and today, around seven in ten Americans use social media.
More of us are sharing moments, communicating, and engaging with one another digitally more than ever. Not only has it changed our relationships and way we interact, social media can also affect our mental well being.
Who is more susceptible to the negative impact of social media?
Unfortunately, social media is a place where the images and updates we see from others can create unrealistic expectations, feelings of inadequacy, and low self-esteem. People who are confident or know themselves well may not be as affected because they are more likely able to understand what’s realistic and what is not. On the other hand, people who are still trying to understand their own identity may be more impacted because they may more feel pressure to look a certain way to others. Children and adolescents in particular can be negatively affected. A recent article shares that “studies have suggested that young people who spend more than two hours a day on social networking sites are more likely to report psychological distress.”
How does it impact our mental health?
Social media can also potentially condition a need for approval. When you post online and see others reacting or commenting, it can make you feel good about yourself. As a result, you might end up consistently checking social media and finding it hard to break away and disconnecting from it. If you already have social anxiety or depression, social media can potentially make your symptoms worse. Social anxiety is when you fear judgment of others, and you may have a pattern of viewing things negatively. Instead of face-to-face interactions impacting your mental well being, it’s coming from online.
What can I do to address the negative impact from social media?
A lot of parents may feel anxiety about social media because they don’t understand it very well. I encourage parents to sit down and have a conversation with their kids where they can share their concerns and talk about ways to set boundaries and create trust. For example, you could tell your child that they can have a social media profile, but you have the password or you are also a friend so you can see their information. If you’re child is being bullied online, you could talk to the other parents or set your child’s profile to ‘private.’
If you’re using social media a lot, taking a moment to assess how it’s influencing your mood can help you identify if you need a “social media diet” or not. If it’s making you feel more anxious, limiting your own exposure to social media intake in a structured way can be helpful. One example could be giving yourself a set amount of time on social media, or allowing yourself social media time at the end of the day.
Reframing your perspective when you’re looking at social media can also help your mental well being. It’s helpful to remember that the updates and the photos you see only tell one side of the story.
About the author
Dr. Craig Dike earned his doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Indianapolis in Indianapolis, Indiana. He completed his internship training at the Texas State University Counseling Center and his post-doctoral training at San Diego VA specializing in psychiatric rehabilitation and evidence based interventions for severe mental illness. His theoretical orientation is primarily cognitive-behavioral with third-wave influences. He is skilled in the application of empirically-supported group and individual treatments for anxiety, mood, and psychotic disorders. Dr. Dike has clinical and research interests in: metacognition, meditation, behavioral/functional genomics, biopsychosocial models of psychosis, recovery oriented interventions, neurobiology of psychological change, exposure based treatments for anxiety disorders, and CBT for psychosis. In his free time Dr. Dike enjoys spending time with his children, family and friends, traveling, listening to music, hiking and enjoying nature, discovering great local restaurants, and watching his favorite sports of American and English football.