In today’s digitally-driven society, social media has an increasingly significant effect on mental health. It can have positive and negative impacts – from providing a platform to connect with friends and family to heightening feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
Sherief Abu-Moustafa explores how social media impacts our mental health and shares ways to be safe while connecting online.
Social Media’s Impact On Self-Esteem
One of the social media’s most notable effects is its impact on self-esteem. This impact is especially detrimental to teens and adolescents. Every day, young people are bombarded with images of perfect bodies, accomplishments, and lifestyles. This influx of imagery can lead to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and even depression.
The constant comparison between one’s life to the “highlight reel” one sees on social media can damage mental health.
While teens are at higher risk of low self-image, studies have shown that people who spend excessive time on social media sites are more likely to develop depressive symptoms.
Additionally, the amount of time spent on these platforms can lead to a decrease in self-care activities such as sleeping and exercising, both of which are essential for mental health.
The Dangers Of Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying, or the use of technology as a means to harass or bully someone, is another harmful effect of social media. Cyberbullying can take many forms, such as name-calling, spreading rumors, and even threats. It has been linked to low self-esteem, depression, and even suicide in some cases.
Cyberbullying can be seen on every social media platform and age group. Comments on posts can quickly become personal attacks, and people can be targeted by anonymous accounts, making it difficult to trace the source. Videos can be revenge and retaliation to defame someone; even private messages can be used to threaten or manipulate. These all can cause severe damage to mental health.
Those who suffer from cyberbullying often feel helpless and alone, unable to escape the negative attention or stop it from continuing. Protecting oneself and one’s reputation can be difficult in these situations, leading to a lack of control over the situation.
The Positive Impact On Loneliness
This is not to say that all consequences of social media are negative. For many individuals, technological advances and social networking have provided them with a sense of connection and belonging.
Social media helps people connect with family, friends, and like-minded individuals. During the COVID pandemic, social media became a lifesaving technology for millions of people’s emotional and mental health. It allowed them to stay connected with those closest to them and maintain relationships, even if they couldn’t be together in person.
Social media can also help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation for people with chronic illnesses or disabilities. Providing a platform for sharing stories and experiences allows these individuals to find support from others in similar situations, offering comfort and solidarity.
Additionally, it can give people access to resources they would not have had otherwise – such as advice and support networks. Individuals who suffer from mental health disorders may be uncomfortable with reaching out for help through traditional, in-person methods. For these people, social media can provide an essential source of support and connection.
The Pros And Cons Of Information
Finally, it is vital to consider the advantages and disadvantages of having such vast information available at our fingertips. On the one hand, social media can spread awareness about important causes, find support from others in similar situations, and even connect with people from different cultures.
On the other hand, not all information shared on social media is accurate or reliable. It can be challenging to verify the truth of what one reads, and people can be easily misled by false information. Additionally, easy access to negative comments and criticism can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and depression.
To ensure that using social media does not harm your mental health, it is essential to practice mindful usage and be aware of its potential risks. Taking a break from social media, engaging in self-care activities, and monitoring your thoughts are all critical steps in staying healthy mentally and emotionally.
Best Practices For Safe Social Media Use
To ensure that social media does not negatively impact your mental health, Sherief Abu-Moustafa advocates that it is essential to practice mindful usage and be aware of its potential risks. Here are some tips for staying safe and healthy while using social media:
- Monitor your thoughts and feelings – if something makes you uncomfortable, stop engaging with it
- Take frequent breaks from social media to give your mind and body a break
- Limit the amount of time spent on social media each day – set yourself a daily limit
- Be aware of who you are interacting with – only accept friend requests or interact with people that you know
- Keep private information private – do not share any personal or sensitive information on social media
- Avoid engaging in negative conversations and interactions – seek positive content, stories, and people instead.
Social media can be a powerful tool for connecting with others, finding support, and creating awareness about important causes. However, it is essential to practice mindful usage and to be aware of the potential risks that it can pose. Making sure you monitor your thoughts and feelings, take periodic breaks from social media, and limit the amount of time spent each day can help ensure that you are using social media healthily and safely. By following these best practices, you can make sure your experience with social media is both positive and beneficial.