How Social Media Negatively Affects Our Mental Health

By Heather Matzkowitz, LMSW

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter — these are all incredible platforms that help us connect with others, discuss important topics, and express our creativity. However, multiple studies have shown that spending ample time on social media is linked to higher rates of anxiety and depression.

I was watching a Ted Talk titled, ‘Is Social Media Hurting Your Mental Health?’ in which Bailey Parnell discusses the four most common stressors on social media. The first is that we are seeing a collection of the happiest moments. Steven Furtick said it perfectly: “We struggle with insecurity because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel.” The second is social currency, which is all of the likes, comments, and shares that you receive on social media. With every like you receive, you experience a rush in dopamine, the feel good chemical. We all know someone (or have been someone) who has taken down a photograph because it did not get as many likes as you were hoping it would. The third, is fear of missing out (aka ‘FOMO’). This is a social anxiety linked to the fear that you’re missing something important. The fourth is online harassment. Forty percent of adults online have experienced harassment. Harassment can take many different forms and occur at varying levels.  So what can we do about it?!

Well, the simple answer would be to cut out social media altogether. But let’s be honest, this is unrealistic. Recognizing a problem is one of the first steps towards fixing it. Parnell talks about the importance of being able to identify when one of the four aforementioned social media stressors is happening to you. Ask yourself questions like, ‘Did that Facebook post make me feel better or worse?’ or  ‘How many times do I check likes?’ If you’re not content with the way these answers makes you feel then move on to create a better online experience for yourself. This could mean unfollowing a friend who posts things that are triggering for you, or deleting a celebrity from Instagram who you find you’re often comparing yourself to. Social media has the power to bring you down or make you feel lifted up. Make sure that you’re doing the correct things for yourself so that you’re feeling the latter. 

Heather Matzkowitz is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in prioritizing and taking care of your mental health, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.