December 7, 2021

Is Social Media Toxic to Mental Health?

Social media is a creative tool for socializing and staying in touch with family and friends; however, it can also be a toxic environment that can put our mental health at risk.

Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube allow us to feel connected. As social creatures, we need to interact with other people to feel comfort and happiness, which helps prevent feelings of isolation. The true mission of social media is accomplished when the platform becomes a safe environment for people to engage positively.

Unfortunately, social channels have also become online spaces that fuel negative emotions and experiences, even triggering anxiety and depression. So, let’s dig into just three ways social media can negatively impact our mental health.

Making us reliant on positive feedback to feel self-worth

When we interact in online social circles to gain a sense of belonging, we can rely on the positive feedback that reinforces that status. However, when we rely on the approval and attention of our social network, we worry about the amount of engagement of our posts, constantly checking to see how many likes and comments we receive. And if the post doesn’t meet our expectations, we can feel depressed and unworthy.

Encouraging constant comparison to others

Seeing posts of other people’s vacations, relationships, big purchases, promotions and other positive life events can lead us to compare our life to theirs. Negative feelings may take over as we begin to examine our lives and think we haven’t accomplished anything worth sharing or boasting about on social media. A sense of competitiveness may set in, which may escalate to jealousy or resentment.

These negative feelings of comparison are particularly harmful to the most vulnerable youth regarding society’s expectations. They see unrealistic and filtered images on social media and think these are the standards for beauty or success. The result is many teens feeling inadequate and unsatisfied with their self-image and their life.

Stoking the fear of missing out

Fear of missing out (FOMO) happens on social media as well as in real-life interactions. We don’t turn down invitations, fearing that we won’t be there while everyone else has fun. With social media, it’s the same fear that everyone will be in on a secret, and you’re the only one left out–even if it’s just a funny meme, the latest gossip or a viral video.

FOMO can be severe when we constantly reach for our mobile devices to see the latest updates. And without realizing it, we’ve spent hours sharing content, engaging in the comments section or scrolling through feeds to keep constantly updated. Unfortunately, this behavior also becomes a security blanket, leading us to lose time or ignore other important activities in life.

Overuse of social media can create an unhealthy cycle. It starts as a way to distract ourselves from underlying problems such as boredom and stress. But once we feel gratification from positive feelings of connection or increased self-worth, we can find ourselves constantly seeking that “high” and turn to social media even more. And when the experience isn’t as we’d hoped, feelings can spiral into disappointment, which can worsen into stress, anxiety and depression.

If you’d like to discuss your social media habits or your mental health, reach out to us today at 662-234-7521 or Communicarems.org.  

If you have an emergency, please call 911, go to your nearest emergency room or call 1-866-837-7521 to be connected to Communicare’s mobile crisis team, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.