Health professionals often claim that sitting has replaced smoking. Sitting is one of the worst things we can do for our health, given the number of illnesses associated with it and the number of people it reportedly kills yearly. Perhaps more problematic, though, is that we use this sitting time to mindlessly browse through our social media accounts whenever we have a free minute. Furthermore, it’s not the greatest practice for our collective psyche, as most of us undoubtedly already know instinctively and as new studies verify.
Here’s a summary of the research that shows social media isn’t great for mental health and, in some cases, may be rather harmful.
It makes people sadder and less happy.
More time spent on social media is correlated with less satisfaction in life. Research conducted a few years ago indicated that the more time individuals spent on Facebook daily, the less happy they were overall. The authors claim that “on the surface,” Facebook is “a wonderful resource for addressing such demands” since it facilitates instantaneous communication. Findings show that Facebook use may predict the opposite consequence for young people, namely, a decrease in well-being, in contrast to what is seen with regular contacts with supportive ‘offline’ social networks.
Further research confirmed that frequent use of social media was associated with increased introversion and loneliness. Researchers examined the link between people’s “perceived social isolation” and their usage of 11 social media platforms. These platforms included Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat, and Reddit. As expected, the more time individuals spent on these sites, the more alone they felt. One of the most detrimental to our well-being on all fronts is the feeling of being cut off from society.
Comparing our life to those of others is psychologically harmful.
The social isolation that Facebook users experience may be due in part to the comparison element. As we scan our feeds, it’s easy to get caught up in making value judgments about ourselves based on how we compare to others. One research examined how people draw “upward” and “downward” comparisons to their friends’ postings. Based on these comparisons, people tend to feel better or worse off than their friends. Surprisingly, both comparisons made participants feel worse, while only upward comparisons normally do in real life. However, in the online social network environment, comparison of any type is associated with signs of depression.
It may result in envy and a vicious cycle.
It’s common knowledge that seeing other people’s idyllic holiday photos and well-behaved children on social media may make us envious. The usage of social media has been proven in several studies to result in sentiments of envy. “This volume of envy occurrences taking place on FB alone is amazing, offering proof that FB provides a fertile ground for invidious thoughts,” stated the authors of research that examined jealousy and other bad emotions among Facebook users. They also point out that it may turn into a never-ending cycle of one-upping and feeling envious since jealousy can motivate people to make their own lives appear better and publish jealousy-inducing postings of their own.
Yet another research investigated the relationship between Facebook usage and sadness and found that jealousy mediates the Facebook depression association. In other words, Facebook’s melancholy effect is mitigated when jealousy is removed. It’s possible that jealousy is substantially to blame for the correlation between Facebook and melancholy.
The hopeless illusion that it will aid us keeps us doing it.
Despite its negative effects, repeated use of social media contributes to the vicious cycle of addiction. Like with drugs, we believe getting a fix would help, but it makes us feel worse; this is due to an inaccuracy in our ability to foresee our reaction, which is known as a forecasting error. One research compared users’ actual and anticipated levels of satisfaction with Facebook. Consistent with previous research, this one also found that its users felt worse afterward than those who had spent the time doing anything else. However, a subsequent study revealed that participants expected to feel better after consuming. This, as we now know, is not the case and follows a pattern common to many addictions.
Some of us even use it as a comfort blanket.
When we’re at a loss for what to say or do in a social scenario, or if we want to escape the uncomfortable feelings we’re having, we go for our phones and check our social media accounts. Of course, using social media prevents you from having the kind of direct conversation with others that research shows might reduce anxiety.
FOMO(fear of missing out)
Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram tend to worsen FOMO, even though the phenomenon has been for far longer than social media. Your self-esteem may suffer, anxiety may be sparked, and your social media usage may increase due to the perception that you are missing out on certain things. FOMO might cause you to constantly check your phone for updates or frantically react to every alarm., even if doing so puts your safety and that of other people at risk while you’re driving, prevents you from getting enough sleep at night, or forces you to put social media interaction ahead of real-world connections.
Ten percent of kids say they’ve experienced online bullying, and many say they’ve seen or read nasty remarks. Like many other social media sites, Twitter can be fertile ground for disseminating harmful falsehoods, lies, and abuse that may leave long-lasting psychological scars.
This is not to imply that social media has no positive effects; it facilitates communication over large distances and reconnection with long-lost friends and family members. However, it’s not a good idea to get on social media when you’re bored or, even worse, in need of a pick-me-up. Taking a vacation from social media, namely, Facebook has been shown to have positive effects on one’s mental health. Just take a little break and see how you feel afterward if you’re feeling bold. And if you insist on continuing your “usage,” at least make an effort to limit your intake.