Health  

Is your social media use harming your mental health?

PHOTO: htxt.africa

When it comes to social media, most of us routinely use at least one or two social media platforms. Whether you are a fan of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or any of the other social networks out there, it is undeniable that social media is ingrained in our daily lives and can aid in keeping us strongly and quickly connected to our family and friends with just a click of a button. As wonderful as it may seem, to always feel connected and keep abreast of what everyone in your social network is up to, there can sometimes be a downside or pitfall to constant social media use.

Extreme and excessive use of social media has become an enormous problem for many people. I’m sure we all know of someone who essentially bases their entire life existence on social media, to the extent that their online identity has become their only identity. It’s a huge sign that your social media use is problematic when you begin to lose your sense of self and no longer have or can maintain any actual real-life relationships. Nonetheless, it is key to really grasp the various ways social media overuse can have a damaging effect on your mental health and well-being.

Research has associated considerable social media use with depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation, especially in young adults. At the core of the problem is what some psychologists cite as the phenomenon of social comparison. Perhaps you see a post from a colleague, relative, or friend showcasing their incredible success, and all that is running through your mind is, “Wow, they’ve really made it! Do I measure up? Can I ever measure up?” We have this tendency to compare ourselves and our social standing with that of others, especially in the world of social media. These constant comparisons may unfortunately begin to gnaw away at one’s self-esteem and psyche.

Our social media feeds can be seemingly filled with posts oftentimes depicting everyone else’s perfect life. Such incessant idealized depictions can engender thoughts of self-doubt and worthlessness. It may lead some users to wallow in despair as they believe that everyone else has a much better life. This may potentially provoke certain depressive symptoms in some users.

If you experience feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or anxiety whenever you go on social media, this may indicate that your usage has become a detriment to your mental health. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health found in one study that the more social media platforms you use, the increased likelihood of becoming susceptible to experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Limiting yourself to one or two platforms may be a helpful step in avoiding these symptoms. Other studies have even linked an increased time spent on social media with feelings of extreme social isolation and loneliness.

So why is it important to be fully aware of how one’s mental health may be potentially impacted by social media? Mental health disorders still remain an extremely taboo topic in Nigeria. Too many Nigerians suffer in silence from depression and other mental health conditions because admitting to having a mental health disorder automatically stigmatizes one as a social outcast. If you feel like your mental health has been negatively impacted by your social media use, you should schedule an appointment with a health care professional. Your primary care doctor is a good first start if you feel

“somehow” about seeing a psychiatrist or other mental healthcare providers.

Here are some other helpful tips if you believe that social media is hurting your mental health and well-being.
Disconnect: It is more than okay to take a mini break from social media if it is truly affecting you. You don’t have to delete your accounts, but start by setting specific limitations on the amount of time you plan to spend daily on social networking. Also, seek out innovative activities and hobbies that can better occupy your time.

Focus on strengthening your real-life relationships: Spend more time with family and friends in real life. Perhaps, instead of spending an hour on Facebook chatting with a friend, invite that person out for dinner or another social activity. It is key to concentrate more on fortifying your real-life relationships versus virtual interactions.

Don’t obsess over the numbers: That is to say, you should not fixate on the number of followers, friends, likes, etc that you have. Those numbers are not a measure or reflection of your self-worth by any means. Remember you are worthy whether you have 500 or 5 million followers.

Seek help: Again, if your social media use is really impairing your day to day existence, it is essential to seek out professional help.

Your navigation of the online world shouldn’t become a detriment to your mental health. Therefore, always remain cognizant of how much time you spend on social media to avoid some of the dangers and harm associated with it.

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