Social media has become the backbone of society’s reputation management. Managing our online appearance often takes precedence over managing our actual self. Before you send your next tweet or update your Facebook status, keep in mind all of the ways that social media can negatively influence your mental health.
Comparison is the thief of joy, and social media is one of the largest modern-day facilitators. Social Networking Sites give us an intimate look into the highlights of other people’s lives, which then become a reflection of how we judge ourselves. Anxiety.org calls this the “compare-and-despair factor.”
While SNS can be an excellent way to reconnect with friends, be cautious of how you judge your online presence in comparison to that of an old colleague or celebrity.
It keeps you stuck in the past
Sometimes the past can cast a shadow on our present and leave us wishing we could go back in time. Online photo albums and apps like Timehop can be great for moments of nostalgia or when you’re searching for last year’s Halloween costume, but they should hold little place in your day-to-day routine.
There’s an overload of information
It’s increasingly evident that social media actually engulfs users in a sea of irrelevant “news” rather than providing valuable stories and relevant information.
This isn’t to say that all social media produces false or excessive information, but rather it is important to be an active media viewer rather than a passive one. As Omar Diab from Stanford Daily says, “… it’s [social media] a reflection of society itself, and there’s a lot of work to be done in making discussion count.”
It hinders your goals
Social media can create a need to live the nonexistent “perfect life.” The long-term quest for perfection hinders our short-term goals by distracting us from the realities of how to live a healthy and successful life. This need for perfection can slow us down in accomplishing our goals. Internet Addiction Disorder disrupts lives by causing neurological, psychological, and social problems according to an article by CBS news.
You forget who’s watching
While you have a general idea of who views your location changes, album uploads, and status updates, often you have a bigger “following” than you’re aware of. According to USA Today, our cyber footprints are used more frequently for research and trend-tracking than ever before.
Take for instance, both Instagram and Facebook now have “story” features that, like Snapchat, allow anyone to view your most recent location. This can become an issue if people you don’t know are able to see exactly where you are.
It heightens anxiety and perceived loneliness
Studies show anxiety and loneliness have a reciprocal relationship. Whether you see yourself as successfully active on social media is likely to have an impact on feelings of loneliness and anxiety according to Psychology Today.
With the ability to quantify our relationships based on friends/followers comes the responsibility to recognize the number is not equivocal to our self worth.
It takes up a lot of your time
According to the Boston Globe, the average 35- to 49-year-old spends three hours a day on social networks. Individuals ages 18 to 36 spend an average of 17.8 hours a day using various media, primarily media which is peer-generated.
Compulsive overuse of social media is the norm these days. Often what may seem like 10 minutes of Facebook activity is actually an hour or two of media engagement. Social media can serve as a way to interact instantaneously, however it can also serve as a significant distraction from reality.