No matter how you use social media, we all know it can be damaging for your health. We’re a social media platform and even we aren’t shy to admit that. Which is why this article isn’t necessarily about the correlation between mental health and social media, but rather about ways social media can damage your mental health.
Because saying that social media can be toxic is one thing, but figuring out how it can affect you is an entirely different thing. We hear about self image and bullying and how these can hurt teenagers, but the buck doesn’t stop there. Social media can be damaging no matter how old you are, and it can hurt in a number of different ways. In this article, we’ll be going over a few of the ways social media can negatively impact you and how you can break out of it.
One of the most beautiful things about social media is that it helps you connect with people all over the world. And recently you’ve been able to tailor your experience based on your interests and community. While this kind of connection had been enriching and life saving for so many viewers, it can be just as discouraging.
No matter what kind of content you create and consume, there’s always someone that can do it better, or someone who has a more perfect life. You see creators will clean houses and balanced meals and hobbies they have time for and feel discouraged because all you can do after a long day at work is flop on the couch. Or you’re working hard on a passion project and come across someone who seems much more successful at it than you. Yes, these videos can be great motivation, but to most people they’re just fodder for negative self-talk.
You don’t have to cleanse your feed of this content. Just reframe the way you view it. Remember that social media is often a snapshot, carefully curated by the creator t fit a certain image. Just because that corner of their living room looks clean doesn’t mean their whole house is. We all want to look our best, and social media is no exception. Just because someone is further along in passion project or career path than you are doesn’t mean you can’t get there. Most of the time they have been working at that same thing for a long time. They’re in the middle of their journey, where you might only be at the start of yours. And you can’t compare the middle of your journey with the end of someone else’s. Remind yourself that they’re ahead, and that you will be as successful (if not more!) one day.
Whether you see if on your FYP as a consumer or you’re thrust into it as a creator, negativity runs rampant on social media. Unlike comparison, there is no way you can spin this: people are mean to be mean and love to find a fault in whatever they can. Enough of this can leave you feeling off at best – and at worst feeling horrible about yourself.
As a Consumer 📱
If you find yourself stuck in negativity as a consumer, consider taking a break. Whether you’re in a rabbit hole of true crime stories or depressing current events, make an effort to get away from that content. Take a walk, do some art, get coffee with a friend – put social media down and go do something that you enjoy.
While unplugging can be the best trick to shake off the negativity, some of us just stew more when left with our thoughts. If that’s the case for you, seek out content that makes you feel happy. That might be looking at cat videos or cosplays of your favorite fictional character for hours. We don’t judge! And the more you look at, the more your algorithm has to feed you.
As a Creator 📸
If you’re dealing with a lot of negativity as a creator, there are a few things you can do. A little self-reflection (a little!) doesn’t hurt. Take a second to glance at what people are saying: is it all similar, and if so is it something that you can fix or control? If everyone is saying the same thing and it can be fixed, consider taking their advice.
And if people are bullying or trolling, block them. Don’t be nice and don’t feel like you have to correct or continue to engage with them. If something is being mean for sport, the best thing you can do is get rid of them.
Doom Scrolling 😓
Social media can be light hearted and help people take their minds off of heavy subjects. But sometimes that serotonin seeking turns into doom scrolling, where you just scroll and scroll and scroll into a pit of despair. You may be running from something in your own life or looking for updates on a scary news story. Eventually you aren’t even consuming content – you’re just scrolling to find more things.
Even if the bulk of what you’re seeing on your FYP isn’t negative, this can be really draining. And it can feel like if you leave for even a second you’ll miss something important. Many people discovered doom scrolling in 2022 when the war in Ukraine first started, back when it felt like 5 minutes away from any kind of news would result in missing the start of literal World War III. While our FYPs might not have been full of front line footage, it was all we could think about.
If you catch yourself doom scrolling (don’t feel bad if you can’t, it’s really hard to notice) physically put your phone away. Seriously, turn it off and put it down and try to do something productive. Get your mind off of whatever was making you spiral. If it’s something you can fix, go fix it. Read a book, watch a TV show, walk your dog – you’ll feel better and you will not miss anything.
Similar to doom scrolling, social media can suck you in and make it hard to think of anything else. It’s easy to become obsessed and lose hours on a single platform. This can lead to anything we’ve mentioned above and more. You may find yourself feeling anxious if you’re not on socials (what if you’re missing something?) or loosing interest in the things around you. This includes hobbies and relationships – the things social media was created to show off.
If you find yourself thinking of social media or spending every waking second on it, take a break. You may need to set some social media timers or log off for a few days at a time. But the best way to shake off a social media obsession is to unplug. Once you’re back in touch with the other things you love, staying off of social media will be much easier. To learn more about unplugging from social media, check out our blog!
Attention Span ⏱️
This isn’t technically part of mental health, but it’s still a negative consequence of social media. New, exciting content is right at our fingertips, and if we don’t like it we can keep scrolling. And this content is designed to be quick, easy to consume. It can diminish how much you can focus on everything outside of social media and actually affect your long-term attention span. If you’re having trouble focusing for longer periods of time, try committing to something that requires more attention. Start a new TV series or movie and hide your phone; play a board game with a few friends; dive back into a hobby you loved.
This is something we’d recommend even if you don’t notice it being a problem. Social media has taken a toll on all of our attention spans, which is evident in our scrolling habits. How long does it take you to decide if a video is worth watching? Some users don’t even given videos a full second. And all advertising advice tells creators to try to capture the audience’s attention in less than 3 seconds. We’ve all developed shorter attention spans, so it’s never a bad idea to try and flex that muscle again.
The Good 🧡
Even if we talk about the negatives of social media, you can’t deny there are positives. Social media has given so many people a sense of community. A lot of creators have found people from across the world to connect with. It’s easy to meet people with similar interests and create life long friendships – and its even easier to explore new interests.
Not to mention the opportunities that have arisen because of social media. Creatives are able to monetize their content and create what they love for a living. That wasn’t possible even 10 years ago. But the spread of social media has generated new careers and new passions for people everywhere. That kind of goodness can’t be ignored.