In this digital age, at multiple times throughout the day we find ourselves looking at a screen. Whether it’s the social media apps on our smartphones or long hours of Zoom meetings working from home, our screen time as a society has increased over the past decade. About 72% of people in the United States currently use at least one social media platform. That’s more than 223 million people checking out social media feeds. Social media is neither good nor bad. However, the effect it has on your mental wellness all depends on how you use it.
In general, if you live with social anxiety, you may benefit from some aspects of social media. This includes:
- Easier to connect with others, especially if you fear leaving the house
- Safe space to practice social skills
- Extra support from others living with social anxiety disorder
- Outlet for sharing your feelings
But it’s more likely that some of your symptoms may increase. In a recent longitudinal study, higher amounts of screen time have been associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression. Over the course of 4 years, adolescents who used social media a lot during this study showed corresponding increases in their levels of anxiety and depression.
Other cons includes:
- Weaker friendships than those built in real-life
- Risk of feeling left out or inadequate
- Increased risk of stress, depression, and Internet addiction
- Potential disruptions in sleep patterns
- Doom scrolling
Studies mention one of the biggest downfalls to increased social media intake is the risk of succumbing to doom scrolling. Whether the news is good or bad, for some reason, you can’t stop. Endlessly scrolling through bad news seems gratifying and has become a habit. Studies mentioned that those who struggle with anxiety or anxiety related disorders are especially prone to doom scrolling because of the connection with anxiety and the concept of control or lack of control.
To gain control over social media usage, here are a few tips:
Set Healthy Boundaries
Balance time that you spend online with time spent in real-world connections. Or, use the time that you connect online to plan events in the real world.
Try using that block of downtime to do any of the following:
- call a friend or loved one
- go for a device-free walk
- read a book
Be a “Critical Content Consumer”
If you are an avid user of social media, be cautious of what fills your news feed. The great thing about social media is that we can curate our own content however, it is also our responsibility to steer clear from certain accounts or information that create unhealthy intrusive thoughts. Although we do not have total control over the content we see, by eliminating unwanted content as you go, you can create a safer environment for your mental health.
Remember that not everything online is 100% accurate.
What you see on social networking sites is not necessarily a true representation of the lives of people you know. Some people only share the positive, others may only share the negative—try not to compare or think about what others have that you don’t.
Using social media definitely can benefit some people’s well being. However, it can also be detrimental when over consumed. Finding the balance to utilize it as a tool for socializing is the key to reap the benefits of these platforms.
About the Author: Rudairo Segbeaya is a Behavior Therapist and Pacific CBT’s Office Manager. Rudairo received her Master’s degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis from Arizona State University.