Emotions are extremely fragile. Sometimes they can be affected in ways we may not even realize, where a constant presence or issue causes us to experience negative emotions and possibly even feel worse about our life.
For many, one of the causes of these negative emotions may in fact be social media. While Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all provide a variety of valuable tools for socializing and keeping in touch with others, you also have to be careful about how you use them, because they can also cause several issues that may contribute to the development of anxiety and depression.
How Social Media Can Increase Negative Feelings/Mental Health Issues
- Comparing Lives
Picture this: Today, you did nothing. You went to work, went home, ate nasty fast food, and otherwise felt like you had a bad day. You go online and you see photos of your friend in Mexico, drinking Margaritas with a huge smile. Compared to them, your life is boring.
Consciously or subconsciously, people compare their lives to the lives of their friends. They notice all of the positive things that others post, and they know that they don’t have as many positive things to post. At times when they do have something to post, their postings are usually done just to make it look like your life is more exciting, but behind the scenes they know they’re still struggling with work, relationships, and other issues.
It’s hard not to compare your life to others. The problem is that most people only post the most positive things they can to the world. That same person drinking a margarita in Mexico may have recently fought with their partner, or spent too much and is going to have financial stress, or drank too much and did something they regret. But you’ll never see that posting.
Social media can unintentionally (and even subconsciously) give the impression that the lives of others are better than yours, and that can contribute to self esteem issues and feelings of sadness and negativity.
- Lack of Feedback
In a similar way, when something is posted online, chances are it’s there because you want positive feedback. No one posts a photo in public hoping no one sees it. You post it, hoping for likes, interactions, etc. But those don’t always occur. When social media users don’t receive that positive feedback, it can make them feel worse about themselves. “Do people not like me?” “Was this not that special/important?” “Should I not have posted it?” These types of questions happen often, and can affect a person’s self-esteem.
- Lack of True Social Experiences
Finally, being social is in our biology. Those that interact with people and have in person experiences are known to live longer and have fewer mental health issues. Those that are isolated do not. As much as interacting via social media may seem like you’re maintaining your friendships, those interactions are usually short (viewing a photo and pressing like), shallow (not about any deeper issues), and one sided (you are never talking to each other at the same time – most interactions take place minutes/hours apart).
It can seem as though you’re spending time with friends, but you are really spending time with a phone or computer, and the interactions you do have often do not fulfill what is needed to feel as though you have had social interactions. When you’re not spending time with people in person, you may not be receiving any of the social experiences that reduce the risk for stress, anxiety, and depression.
Using Social Media Properly
There are many other issues at play as well, some of which science is only starting to understand. For example, there is evidence that staring at a phone too much can lead to depression because the bright screen and focus may be affecting your brain chemistry. Social media can be immensely valuable, but it also has downsides, and these downsides can lead to the development of actual, diagnosable mental health disorders.
If you spend a lot of time on social media and find yourself struggling with your mental health, consider turning it off and taking the time to interact on a deeper level with others. You may find that that’s what you need to help you cope with the stresses of daily life.