There’s no question that social media has become a big part of the average person’s day-to-day life. In fact, there are 57.60 million social media users in the UK alone – equivalent to 84.3% of the total population!1https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2022-united-kingdom
While social media can provide individuals with platforms that are not bound by time or distance, allowing them to connect with others, there are downsides. Several studies show that social media use can negatively effect your emotional and mental wellbeing in the following ways:
Scientific reviews show that social media use, and other technologies such as TV, video gaming and smartphone use, are generally associated with poorer sleep quality, shorter sleep duration and delayed bedtimes,2https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40675-019-00148-9 with use before bed being a particularly strong predictor of poorer sleep outcomes.3https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/40/9/zsx113/3926043
Blue screen light has also been proven to affect your sleep quality, delaying circadian rhythms and boosting alertness.4https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-blue-light
Increases feelings of anxiety and depression
A 2016 study of 1,787 young adults (between the ages of 19 and 32) found that social media use was significantly associated with increased depression.5https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4853817/ It seems the amount of time spent on social media also plays a role, with a study concluding that children were twice as likely to report high or very high scores for mental ill-health if they used social media sites for 3 hours or more in a day.6https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/…
A recent ExpressVPN survey also showed that social media negatively impacted participants’ happiness and self-image, with up to 83% reporting negative effects on anxiety and depression.7https://www.expressvpn.com/blog/gen-z-social-media-survey/?cjdata=MXxZfDB8WXww
The link works both ways – a study of 143 college students found that limiting media use to just 30 minutes a day, helped improve participants’ wellbeing, and reduced depression and feelings of loneliness.8https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/10.1521/jscp.2018.37.10.751
2019 research showed that almost 15% of participants had been a target of cyberbullying at least once in their life. Young adults (18-25 years) experienced the highest levels of cyberbullying, but substantial lifetime cyberbullying was reported by older age groups as well, including those 26-35 years (24%) and 46-55 years (13%), up to the 66+ age group (6.5%).9https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/cyber.2019.0146 Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, can become hotspots for offensive, hurtful comments which may leave lasting emotional scars. In fact, evidence suggests that cyberbullying can have a negative impact on the mental and psychological health of children and young people, and is strongly associated with depression, low self-esteem, and suicidal ideation.10https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/cyber.2019.0370#B40
Distracts from other beneficial activities
Excessive social media use may also take time away from participating in other activities that may benefit your mental health. If you’re spending a lot of time on social media sites, you may be spending less time connecting with others in person, exercising and/or time outdoors in nature. You can read more about why being outdoors is good for you, and your gut bugs, here.
Indicators that social media may be adversely affecting your mental health include:
- Comparing yourself unfavourably with others on social media sites and/or having a negative body image.
- Spending more time on social media than connecting with ‘real-world’ people.
- Experiencing cyberbullying.
- Worsening symptoms of anxiety and/or depression after social media use.
- Suffering from sleep issues.
It might be time for a social media hiatus or, perhaps more realistically, time to develop a healthier relationship with social media.
Here’s how you can lessen the negative effects and boost the positive effects of social media today:
- Skip scrolling social media in the morning and at night.
- Curate your content and prune the accounts you’re following.
- Use an app to track how much time you spend on social media on a daily basis – set a goal to reduce this time.
- Disable social media notifications.
- Be an example of mindful, authentic posting – others may follow suit!
If you’re looking for more ways you can healthily and naturally deal with stress and anxiety, check out our blog post, What’s the quickest way to boost your mental health?
If you’re experiencing cyberbullying, you can find more information and reach out to the National Bullying Helpline here.