We offer guidance to those who feel the pressure, isolation and anxieties that can come from using social media. We can help to manage expectations, retain realistic ideals and have a healthy mentality.
1. Depression and Anxiety
Spending too long on social networking sites does impact on your mood, heavy users are more likely to report poor mental health, including symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Social media lets you see the carefully selected best parts of everyone else's lives, which you typically will compare to the negatives in your own. Comparing yourself to other people is a sure path to anxiety, and social media has only made this easier to do.
So how do you use social media without causing yourself psychological distress? If you turn to the same research (and common sense), the recommended amount of time you should spend on social networks is around half an hour per day. As with many other potential ills in life, it's all about moderation.
Before social media, bullying was something that was only possible to do face-to-face. However, now people can bully others online---anonymously or not. Today everyone knows what cyberbullying is, and most of us have seen what it can do to a person.
While social media makes it easier to meet new people and make friends, it also enables cruel people to tear into others with little effort. Perpetrators of bullying can use the anonymity that social networks provide to gain people's trust and then terrorize them in front of their peers. For instance, they might create a fake profile and act friendly to a classmate, then later betray and embarrass them online.
These online attacks often leave deep mental scars and even drive people to suicide in some cases. And as it turns out, cyberbullying doesn't just affect kids. Adults can become victims of online abuse, too. Since screens hide our faces, you can end up being a jerk on social media and other websites without even realizing it.
3. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a phenomenon that was born around the same time as the rise of social media. Unsurprisingly, it's one of the most widespread negative effects of social media on society.
FOMO is just what it sounds like: a form of anxiety that you get when you're scared of missing out on a positive experience that someone else is having. For example, you might constantly check your messages to see if anyone has invited you out, or focus on your Instagram feed all day to make sure that nobody is doing something cool without you.
This fear receives constant fuel from what you see on social media. With increased social network use, there's a better chance for you to see that someone is having more fun that you are right now. And that's exactly what causes FOMO.
4. Unrealistic Expectations
As most people probably know by now, social media forms unrealistic expectations of life and friendships in our minds.
Most social media sites have a severe lack of online authenticity. People use Snapchat to share their exciting adventures, post about how much they love their significant other on Facebook, and load up their Instagram page with heavily staged photos.
But in reality, you have no way of knowing whether this is all a farce. While it looks great on the surface, that person could be in massive debt, on bad terms with their significant other, and just desperate for Instagram likes as a form of validation.
One simple way out of this mess is for everyone to quit lying on social media. But in the era of Instagram influencers and YouTubers who earn millions from being inauthentic, that isn't going to happen anytime soon.
5. Negative Body Image
Speaking of Instagram celebrities, if you look at popular Instagram accounts, you'll find unbelievably beautiful people wearing expensive clothes on their perfectly shaped bodies.
Today, body image is an issue for everyone. Of course, seeing so many people who are supposedly perfect (according to society's standards) on a daily basis makes you conscious about how different you look from those pictures. And not everyone comes to healthy conclusions in this situation.
It's really important to remember that everybody is human. No one wakes up every day looking like a supermodel, and while many people have gone to great lengths to train their bodies, that's not the case for everyone who looks fit. Many people, in search of social media fame, have definitely taken unhealthy routes to appear more attractive.
Surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, and you won't have to stress about Instagram beauty.
6. Unhealthy Sleep Patterns
On top of increasing the incidents of anxiety and depression, spending too much time on social media can lead to poor sleep. Numerous studies have shown that increased use of social media has a negative effect on your sleep quality.
If you feel like your sleep patterns have become irregular and have led to a drop in productivity, try to cut down on the amount of time you browse social media.
This is especially the case when using your phone in bed at night. It's all too easy to tell yourself that you'll spend five minutes checking your Facebook notifications, only to realize an hour later that you've been mindlessly scrolling through Twitter content you don't even care about. Don't let social media algorithms steal your valuable sleep.
7. General Addiction
Social media can be more addictive than cigarettes and alcohol. It has a powerful draw for many people that leads to them checking it all the time without even thinking about it.
If you're not sure whether you're addicted to social networks, try to remember the last time you went a full day without checking any social media accounts. Do you feel rejected if someone unfollows you? And if your favourite social networks completely disappeared tomorrow, would it make you feel empty and depressed?
At the end of the day, social media sites want to keep you scrolling for as long as possible so they can show you lots of ads and make more money. Because of the attention economy, these sites need your eyes on them for as long as possible.
As with everything else, there are good and bad aspects of social media. We've discussed some of the negative impacts social media has for many, but you're the one who must decide whether there's more help or harm in it for you personally.