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Understanding Social Media and Its Effect on Our Mental Health


Social media is a key communication tool for almost everyone. While social media does allow people to keep in contact easily, the tool can have many adverse effects on people’s mental health. These negative effects on people’s mental health are often the consequences of using social media excessively. In the article below, we discuss how social media can harm people’s mental health and strategies people can use to maintain a healthy relationship with social media. For people who cannot manage their time on social media and need help with improving their behavioral health, we detail how to access treatment.

Excessive social media use and addiction-like behaviors

Social media companies work hard to hold a user’s attention for as long as possible during each session. The longer a user stays on the platform, the more advertising impressions the platform has available for businesses to purchase. While users spending more time on social media is positive for the social media platform’s profits, users themselves can suffer from addiction-like behaviors. Many users check their social media profiles hundreds of times per day and spend hours a day interacting with the platforms. One social media and mental health statistic is that people spend an average of 136 minutes on social media each day. This excessive use can lead to several mental health issues that we outline below.

Social media can contribute to anxiety

When a person uses social media compulsively, social media can contribute to anxiety issues. Social media users sometimes develop an ever-present fear of missing out (FOMO) on events or conversations with friends. As a result, they may continuously check notifications, newsfeed updates, and messages for recent updates multiple times an hour. These individuals often feel even more anxiety when they are unable to check social media frequently. This overwhelming anxiety often results in them being unable to focus in school or work environments.

Low self-esteem and body image issues from social media

Another negative mental health impact from social media includes suffering from low self-esteem and body image issues. This impact often affects girls and young women. Social media users see photos of other people and their lives online and compare these photos to their own. Many photos of popular social media influencers receive heavy editing, and many photos of influencers’ lives and activities only highlight life’s best moments. When social media users compare what they see online to their own experiences, they may develop body image issues or low self-esteem.

Depression from excessive social media use

Excessive social media use can contribute to people developing depression. Issues with low self-esteem that we mentioned above make up just one type of contributing factor. Other consequences of excessive social media use that can contribute to depression include:

  • Disrupted sleep patterns.
  • Low levels of physical exercise.
  • Decreased in-person interaction with friends and loved ones.

Unfortunately, the above issues are common among social media users. They can contribute to new cases of depression and exacerbate existing cases of depression.

Social media behavior and the COVID-19 pandemic

In the spring of last year, the COVID-19 pandemic took everyone by surprise. As a result of the pandemic, people had to adjust their lives to adhere to new social distancing guidelines and lockdowns. During that time, people become more reliant on social media to keep up with friends and loved ones.

As a result of increased social media usage, the mental health issues we describe above are now impacting more people than usual. This prevalence is particularly the case among youth populations that transitioned to online schooling. For most kids and teenagers, school is the foundation of their social environments. With Zoom classes and few opportunities to meet up with their friends, many young people have developed behavioral health issues from excessive social media use.

Learn about your own social media behavior with our self-assessment

It can be difficult for people to assess their behavior on social media fairly. Many people who use social media excessively do not realize they have a problem. To help people understand their social media behavior more objectively, we created a self-assessment. You can learn more about your social media behavior by taking our self-assessment. To get started, rank each statement using the scale below:

__ I look for affirmation or acceptance from others.

__ What others post negatively affects my mood.

__ I feel fearful or anxious when I do not use social media for long periods.

__ I want to change the way I look or dress to follow influencers.

__ I feel sad or depressed after using social media.

__ Spending time on social media affects my daily motivation

__ People tease and make fun of me on social media.

__ I feel sad when people do not comment and like my posts.

__ I feel easily agitated and annoyed with close friends and family members.

__ I need to go on social media every day.

Next, tally up all of your rankings. Read the customized description below for your final sum:

  • 50-40 points. People who scored between 50 and 40 should seek help from behavioral health professionals. There are many components of mental health that people cannot control. However, one can control the time they spend on social media. A behavioral health professional can help you reach your goals for limiting social media use.
  • 39-30 points. If you scored between 39 and 30, you should make a serious effort to reduce your time on social media. You can likely achieve this change on your own. Try to spend less than an hour a day on social media. You can achieve this goal by not bringing your phone to bed and by turning off distracting notifications.
  • 29-20 points. If you scored between 29 and 20 points, you could benefit from reducing your social media use a bit. Make sure to put your phone away during social interactions and focus on the present moment.
  • 20-5 points. If you scored between 20 and 5 points, you have managed your relationship with social media well. Good job!

Please share the above self-assessment with friends and loved ones. Many people suffer from the consequences of excessive social media use, and the above self-assessment quiz can help people recognize and change harmful behaviors.

Getting started at Vista Del Mar Hospital

Vista del Mar Hospital is a behavioral health hospital in southern California. Our team of behavioral health professionals recognizes the serious consequences that social media can have on mental health, and we are here to help both teen and adult patients.

If you or a loved one suffers from mental health issues, reach out to Vista del Mar Hospital for help. Help is available, and people do not have to suffer from mental health issues forever. We offer both adolescent behavioral health programs and treatment programs for adults. You can contact us online or call us directly at (805) 653-6434. Our team can help answer any questions about our facility and programs, and we can help schedule you or a loved one for a free mental health assessment.