The average person spends about two and a half hours every day using social media sites and apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. For younger generations, this number is even higher. According to recent polls, millennials spend around three hours using social media every day, and Generation Z may spend as many as four or five.
While social apps and websites have many benefits—including entertainment, connection, and even raising awareness about social issues—there are also many downsides. Spending multiple hours each day perusing social apps can have a negative effect on mental health, especially for individuals who already struggle with mental health issues.
Most social apps were designed to be addictive. They are structured in a way to trigger a release of dopamine when a user scrolls through or interacts with the platform. Because of this, social media apps are often used as a coping mechanism to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, they often have the exact opposite effect. A 2017 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine surveyed young adults and reported that social media use may be associated with increased feelings of loneliness.
If you find it difficult to tear yourself away from your phone, or notice a feeling of irritability or fatigue after browsing social media, you may want to evaluate the impact these apps are having on your psychological well-being. Here are five ways social media may be ruining your mental health.
- Increased feelings of isolation.While social media apps were invented to connect us, they can sometimes result in increased feelings of isolation. Recent studies have found a correlation between social media use and loneliness.
- Depression symptoms. A study from the University of Pittsburgh found social media use was “significantly associated with increased depression” in a survey of young adults.
- Sleep interruption. Staring at a screen before bed has been shown to disrupt sleep patterns and even make it more difficult to fall asleep in the first place. A lack of adequate sleep can lead to decreased cognitive function and exacerbate mental health symptoms.
- Jealousy and dissatisfaction. Continually comparing yourself to others on social media can lead to feelings of jealousy and dissatisfaction. Since social media typically only showcase highlights of others’ lives, users can sometimes feel their own life is inadequate in comparison.
- Distraction.If you find it difficult to sit in silence without reaching for your phone, you may be using social media as a distraction or coping mechanism to cover feelings of anxiety, boredom, or discomfort. If this is the case, constantly soothing yourself with social media may make it more difficult to identify and address the underlying cause of your agitation.
VentSpace is a free app where you can anonymously share your thoughts, feelings and struggles with other users and get supportive feedback. No filters. No judgement. No names.