The ups and downs of social media

Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

Social media and social networking sites have become a common part of every day life. A statistic from 2018 showed that it was typical for social media users to have an average of 8 separate social media accounts. Knowing this, it’s likely that you and most of the people in your circles are active on social media.

Since the inception of social media and social networking sites there has been concern about the impact on mental health. This concern has only intensified as teens and young children have started joining social media platforms in large numbers.

Social media facilitates the opportunity for connection on a much larger scale than was previously achievable. Families, friends, even business professionals no longer have to be in the same localized community to know what is happening or to share information. During quarantine and social distancing, social media platforms became the primary way to connect with others. So with the connection social media provides, why do so many express mental health symptoms congruent with disconnection?

Studies have recognized correlations between the use of social media and symptoms of depression and anxiety, including, but not limited to:

- low mood

- feelings of hopelessness and helplessness

- an increase in worry

- irritability

- difficulty concentrating

- difficulty regulating sleep

- low self-esteem

In some cases, individuals also report suicidality.

Research believes that much of the negative impact of social media stems from an sense of comparison facilitated by likes, a hyper presentation of a distorted reality due to filters and photo editing, and an aggressive presentation of perfection (rarely is social media used to show the challenges in life). These features of social media create a greater sense of disconnection and isolation for users.

Since social media is not likely to go away any time soon, it is important to consider how your engagement impacts your mental health. How do you feel before you open the app? During? After? Are there times of the day where you notice a more negative response? Is there a specific type of content that leaves you feeling disconnected? Noticing how social media is impacting you in real time is the first step to moving towards a more positive and productive relationship with social media.

Here are some other steps you can take to moderate the impact of social media on your mental health:

- limit your time on specific apps using settings on your device

- remove apps from your most used device so that you cannot easily access them

- be intentional about what content you follow and seek out

- delete the most harmful apps

- talk with a mental health professional for support and to address underlying issues related to social media use

Social media can be an incredible tool, but it should not be used at the expense of your well-being. Consider getting talking to someone if you feel like your social media accounts are affecting your well-being. We have caring counselors who can meet and help you gain back  your inner peace and well being.

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Katy Kandaris-Weiner, LPC

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