Being Mental Wellness month, we thought we would post about an increasingly talked about topic; the link between social media and Mental Wellness. But what is Mental Wellness?
Mental Wellness is described as the ‘absence of mental illness’ and a certain level of ‘psychological well-being’ having been achieved. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “the well-being of an individual is encompassed in the realisation of their abilities, coping with the normal stressors of life, productive work and contribution to their community.”
Many claim Social media is playing a progressively more harmful role in the mental health of teens and young adults. We have all heard of ‘cyberbullying’ and ‘Facebook depression’, so how can we protect ourselves and our loved ones from these damaging outcomes?
How does social media affect our emotional health?
There are many different theories as to why and how Social Media negatively impacts on our mental wellbeing. Despite these apps being designed to keep the world connected, many teens and young adults experience isolation and undergo symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The pressure to be relevant?
Studies point towards a link in between social media and multitasking. Researchers identified a correlation between using multiple social media platforms and anxiety. It is thought that the stress of maintaining and posting on multiple social channels can cause users to experience anxiety. One can, however, point to reverse causality; are people who already suffer from anxiety more likely to use multiple social media platforms?
Are we adopting utopian goals?
Digitally enhanced images used to only appear on glamorous magazines and were of the rich and famous. Now every smartphone comes with a wide choice of filters and applications to enhance our photos before uploading them. This steady stream of unrealistic images can force users to compare their own body, lifestyle, and career to these unrealistic images. Adopting these utopian goals can leaving these users with a taste of failure. Regularly comparing your life to someone else’s is harmful and has the potential to build destructive competitiveness amongst peers.
The desire for affirmation driving addiction…
Although the medical world has not yet recognized the addiction to social media, it has become a greatly discussed topic in the health industry. Harvard University conducted a study where they recorded participant’s brain activity while they speak about themselves. This an activity that most social networking users do on a regular basis. They found that this activity stimulated the pleasure sensors of the brain. Social media, however, adds the constant craving for positive reactions to posts and pictures, the desire to grow online ‘friends’. This increases the more the platform is used.
Before FOMO was officially a thing
‘Fear of missing out’ occurs when platform users see ‘friends’ on vacations or enjoying days/nights out, giving the artificial impression of living life to the fullest. Regularly seeing these posts lead to feelings of loneliness, self-doubt and underachievement. These feelings can evolve to a ‘compare and despair attitude’. This attitude can lead to a never-ending cycle of comparing one’s life to the unrealistic expectations portrayed by users on social media.
How can we battle this?
Although the effects of social media on mental wellness may seem small, for some users are already suffering or recovering from a mental health disorder possibly brought on by social media. These effects could develop into much deeper problems.
Try to remember our five tips to balancing the social media exposure in your life;
1) Limit the number of social networks used. Only keep your profiles active on the sites that are the most relevant to your work and personal life.
2) Focus on following pages and people that really interest you. Decrease your network by only approving connections with users who have a link to you through mutual friends or common interests.
3) Use a schedule. If you don’t work on social media, silence your notifications during working hours and don’t leave your profiles open on your desktop. Social media can be a big distraction and seeing and hearing the notifications will, of course, increase the temptation to look and see what else is going on in the world
4) Be old-fashioned. Don’t allow smartphones and laptops at your family dinner table and make sure you stick to your own rules.
5) Get out there. Stop viewing the world through a small LED window. Stop having conversations through messages and emojis. Go out to explore. Speak to your friends and family in person and encourage your children to do the same.
Although awareness of mental wellness is increasing, we can all be oblivious at times and the people who are suffering can go unnoticed.
If you think you know someone might need some extra support, please encourage them to contact a professional.