The “Reward” of Social Media
It is no mystery that social media and mental health struggles are correlated for many of today’s population. Yet many of us still find ourselves very connected and coming back for more from this virtual world. Why is that? There are many factors but to highlight a few:
-Social media has the ability to activate the brain’s reward center, releasing dopamine, which tends to keep us coming back, because we want to repeat that positive experience.
-Social media can also potentially boost self- esteem. When a person is well “liked” online and perceives themselves as getting favorable interactions with their content, it can create a “positive” view of self in that space (even if this feeling may be fleeting).
-Social media also provides a space to communicate parts of yourself that maybe you don’t get an opportunity to do in person.
-Keeping in touch with our loved ones and feeling a sense of connectedness
Potential Negative Affects
Social media can have many potential consequences on our mental health. For many, we can be left with a sense of inadequacy about our life, our appearance, and relationships. Even if we are aware that much of what is posted on social media is a “highlight reel” of someone else’s life, we can still be left with feelings of envy, insecurity, and overall dissatisfaction.
According to the Pew Research Center, 69% of adults and 81% of teens in the U.S. use social media. This puts a large amount of the population at an increased risk of feeling anxious, depressed, or ill over their social media use.(McLean, Harvard Medical School Affiliate)
In 2018 British study tied social media use to decreased, disrupted, and delayed sleep, which is associated with depression, memory loss, and poor academic performance. Social media use can affect users’ physical health even more directly. Researchers know the connection between the mind and the gut can turn anxiety and depression into nausea, headaches, muscle tension, and tremors.
Ways to have healthier social media interactions:
- Pay attention to how different platforms make you feel.
Do different platforms have different affects on you? When talking with some clients about various platforms, some applications seem to trigger anxiety or depression more than others, depending on the person. Does pinterest make you feel dissatisfied with your home? Does Snapchat have you constantly engaged and trying to keep up? Maybe reigning in certain platforms can help you feel a little more at ease.
- Take “Social Media Free” weekends
Delete the apps off your phone over the weekend after Friday afternoon. Give yourself time to rest and be present in your weekend’s experience. Whether that is just resting or spending time with friends and family. Give your mind and spirit a break weekly.
-Limit your posts
Do you find yourself posting (5 or 50) stories on Instagram or Facebook?What would it look like to limit your daily posts and focus on feeling more connected to your daily experiences?
- Schedule your “Social Media Time”
Do you ever find yourself losing an hour or two randomly throughout the day to the social media hole? Feeling the itch to check your Instagram periodically throughout the day? What would it look like to schedule your social media time(s)? Setting a timer on your phone at lunch for 15-20 minutes, and/or maybe when you get off work before or after dinner every day. Scheduling can help you participate while also keeping yourself accountable to your time spent in the virtual world.
- If you wouldn’t do it in person, should you do it on social media?
Using “would I act this way in real life?” as your digital assessment before posting, commenting, or messaging is a great way to filter how you engage with social media. Asking yourself if you would do this in the “real world” is a good way to slow down and check in with your own motivations and whether they will be “satisfied” through this interaction.
Just like many areas of our life, it is important to remember we don’t necessarily have to choose an “all or nothing” perspective. Paying attention to our inner world is key here. Maybe there are certain days we know we are struggling and getting on Facebook may perpetuate that, yet the next day we are feeling a little more sturdy and a quick hop on FB doesn’t seem to impact our mood. Pay attention to your own cue’s and find what works best for you.
Resources to further explore from here: