7 Ways Social Media Can Affect Mental Health

Written By: Butler Hospital on May 3, 2024


7 Ways Social Media Can Affect Mental Health
And 7 Ways to Protect Your Well-Being

Social media is everywhere these days, isn't it? From YouTube to Facebook, Instagram to TikTok, and many more like X (formerly Twitter), Snapchat, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Reddit, Pinterest... the list seems endless!

But what began as a simple way to stay connected with loved ones has morphed into something bigger. For some, it's more than just scrolling through updates — it's become an obsession, even an addiction. And if you're struggling with anxiety or depression, social media might be a part of the problem.

In this blog, we'll delve into how social media affects our mental health and explore ways to safeguard our well-being.

Social Media by the Numbers

First, let’s put into perspective just how popular social media is.

According to Pew Research Surveys1, 68% of Americans report using at least one social media platform. However, 90% of teens in the U.S. say they’re active on social media. About 74% of adults under the age of 30 say they use at least five platforms.

And Americans are spending a lot of time on social media. On average, people spend a whopping 145 minutes per day2 on social platforms. That adds up to around 876 hours or more than 36 days every year!

It’s no wonder 39% of social media users say they are addicted and 59% of adults3 say social media has negatively impacted their mental health.

How Does Social Media Affect Mental Health?

While there are some good elements – the negative effects of social media are many, especially in teens. This can include everything from low self-esteem and cyberbullying to fear of missing out and sleep disturbances.

Here are 7 ways social media can affect your mental health.

  1. Comparison and Low Self-Esteem:
    Constant exposure to carefully curated portrayals of the lives of others on social media can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. People may compare their own lives unfavorably to the seemingly perfect lives of others, which can contribute to anxiety and depression.
  2. Cyberbullying:
    Social media platforms can be breeding grounds for cyberbullying, where you can be harassed, insulted, or threatened. This can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and in extreme cases, even suicide.
  3. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO):
    Seeing posts about social events, parties, or experiences that others are having can induce feelings of FOMO - leading to anxiety and a sense of exclusion.
  4. Sleep Disturbances:
    The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with the body's natural sleep-wake cycle - leading to sleep disturbances and insomnia. Excessive use of social media, particularly before bedtime, can contribute to poor sleep quality, which in turn affects day-to-day life and mental health.
  5. Isolation:
    Excessive use of social media can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. While social media provides a way to connect with others online, it can also detract from real-world interactions, leading to social withdrawal and feelings of loneliness.
  6. Negative Content Exposure:
    Exposure to negative or distressing content on social media, such as news about violence, disasters, or graphic imagery – can lead to stress, anxiety, or trauma.
  7. Addiction:
    Social media platforms are designed to be addictive - with features like likes, comments, and notifications triggering dopamine release in the brain. Spending excessive amounts of time on social media can lead to addiction-like behaviors.

Keeping Mentally Healthy on Social Media

Maintaining good mental health while using social media is crucial given its influence in our lives.

Here are some strategies to protect your mental well-being:

  1. Limit Usage:
    Set boundaries for yourself regarding how much time you spend on social media each day. Limiting usage can help prevent feeling overwhelmed or comparing yourself to others.
  2. Curate Your Feed:
    Follow accounts that inspire, educate, or entertain you. Unfollow or mute accounts that make you feel negative emotions or trigger anxiety.
  3. Take Breaks:
    Schedule regular breaks from social media. Whether it's a day off each week or periodic digital detoxes. Time away from screens can be rejuvenating for your mental health.
  4. Set Boundaries:
    Establish clear boundaries for when and where you use social media. Avoid using it during meals, before bed, or in other situations where it may interfere with your well-being or relationships.
  5. Practice Mindfulness:
    Before scrolling through your feed, take a moment to check in with yourself. Notice how you're feeling emotionally and mentally. Mindful awareness can help prevent mindless scrolling and limit potential negative effects.
  6. Diversify Your Activities:
    Be sure to balance your online activities with offline hobbies. Engaging in activities you enjoy outside of social media can provide fulfillment and help maintain perspective.
  7. Seek Support:
    If you're struggling with feelings of anxiety, depression, or inadequacy triggered by social media, don't hesitate to seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional.

Social Media Isn’t All Bad


While the negative effects of social media are plentiful, it’s important to note it’s not all bad. Social media can also provide social support, facilitate connections with others, and offer a platform for self-expression and creativity. 

The key lies in using social media mindfully, setting boundaries, and seeking support when needed. And remember - social media is the highlight reel.
 
Disclaimer: The content in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only and should not serve as medical advice, consultation, or diagnosis. If you have a medical concern, please consult your healthcare provider, or seek immediate medical treatment. 

References:

1. Pew Research Studies
2. Backlinko
3. Bright Futures