Negative Effects of Social Media on Mental Health

Negative effects of social media

One of the most blatant negative effects of social media platforms such as Facebook is the way it fucks up your mental health. Even for people who would normally be considered relatively anxiety-free, the use of Facebook can really mess up the way you perceive both your own life situation and other’s lives too.

I am using Facebook as a synonym for social media because, a) it has the most users and b) the mental effects of Facebook are more evident than on any other social media platform.

The ostensible goal for the creation of Facebook was to create a more connected world, and in many respects, the site achieves that goal in that we know what everyone is doing with their lives these days. Before Facebook, that would’ve been a lot more difficult.

The issue is that beyond the actual useful parts of Facebook, which are limited to chatting with people all over the world instantly and catching up with old friends, there is a deep underlying sense of unhappiness when one logs into it.

negative effects of social media

The first issue is how it fosters obsessive comparisons with other people’s lives.  The inherent flaw lies in comparing your own life, something that you are acutely aware of every single detail of, including the mundane and the stressful, versus someone else’s highlight reel online.

No matter how much you understand this flaw, you can easily be sucked in by it. Seeing an endless stream of exciting pictures from other people’s lives while you sit on the commute home from a long day at work is bound to make you feel a bit shit. Viewing pictures of your old school friend getting married while you plonk your ass on the sofa on a Saturday night watching TV with your cat for company doesn’t help matters either.

Most people who use Facebook have 100+ “friends” on the site, many of whom they’d rarely greet with anything more than a cursory hello if they saw them in the street. The problem that we inevitably fail to grasp is that when having so many people as friends on a platform where life’s highlights are the only things that people dare to upload pictures of, there will always be something exciting going on in one of those friends’ lives, and you can be damn sure they’ll tell Facebook about it.

So we get sucked into a cycle that is extremely difficult to find a way out of. A cycle that leads to low self-esteem and a sense of an unfulfilled life. When you’re exposed to a barrage of posts highlighting how people are traveling the world, getting married, having kids, or working a new great job, you can’t help but feel that everyone else has their shit sorted, while you’re alone with only your struggles for company.

The truth is that life is hard, and not one single person on this planet succeeds in all facets of it. Furthermore, we all move through life at a different pace, but social media can lead you to believe or perceive that everyone moves at the same pace. That you should have achieved achievement X by age Y.

Many people don’t find their ideal job until they are 40…some never do. Many people don’t find their life-partner until they are in their 30s, 40s, or even 50s. But Facebook can lead you to think these life achievements are like boxes that need to be ticked off at certain points.

Still living at home aged 26 because rent is too expensive in your city and your job doesn’t pay enough? That’s a common enough issue these days. But Facebook amplifies an already shitty thing because you’ll inevitably see one or two online connections (or friends if you will) of a similar age who have been able to move out from home and become independent. That image will stick in your mind and the possibility that others are in the same boat as you just doesn’t exist because the visual proof is there with all these statuses and photos.

Another final point to make is how Facebook has tapped into our need for approval and it exploits the hell out of it. This is an issue that all social media sites have in common. The dopamine rush from seeing “likes” or upvotes on your status, pictures, or other posts is extremely addictive and probably the most blatant of the negative effects of social media. The reason it is negative is because the sense of “achievement” we all feel from getting a few likes is shallow, and it wears off in no time. But it is initially great to feel that sense of approval.  Inevitably, we eventually need to upload another status, write another post, or upload another exciting image from our lives to get that same feeling. And if this doesn’t get many likes? We feel crap. We might feel so shit that we even delete that post. The low is a lot worse than the high is good. The actual achievement of getting a few likes is ultimately completely meaningless. In terms of the negative effects of social media, this is one that nearly everyone falls prey to at some point.

Obsessive comparisons, lowered self-esteem, and a feeling of increased anxiety due to the perceived notion of being behind everyone else in life and falling into the trap that we all achieve things at the same pace. Those are the main negative effects of social media (facebook) on mental health.

The way to beat the negative effects of social media on mental health is to curb your Facebook use. Messenger is a really useful app, and you do have the option to deactivate your profile but stay on Messenger. If you don’t want to deactivate your page, you can use some nifty tools that’ll get rid of your news feed, which can go a long way to limiting the damage of that barrage of highlights from other’s lives.

Exercise: The Best Free Treatment For Anxiety And Depression

Normally I devote my posts to supplements or training courses that hack your brain and help you overcome anxiety and or depression. I want to present a little bit about a completely free treatment method for both anxiety and depression that is ridiculously effective: exercise. 

There have been numerous controlled studies carried out over the years examining the effect of exercise on well-being. The results have been overwhelmingly positive: exercise works to reduce anxiety and boost your mood. 

The reason I’m posting this article is because I often find that people skip exercise and jump straight for treatments like drugs or therapy. While I’m not arguing that exercise alone will cure anxiety and depression (because it won’t), it is simply something that cannot be skipped. 

I’m not suggesting you need to run a marathon. Hell, I hate running full stop. What I do love is being in nature, though. So I go for a 30-minute brisk walk every single day without fail. The key is to perform an exercise that you enjoy and do it consistently. Persistence is what helps deliver maximum mental health benefits from working out. 

I also suggest taking up a sport such as soccer to mix things up a little. But you can’t play high-impact sports every day, which is why walking is ideal to meet your daily exercise goal of 30 minutes.  

Swimming is also a wonderful addition to your exercise routine, and you’ll find that your body should be able to handle two or three swimming sessions of moderate intensity per week.  

To get the mental benefits that exercise promises, you need to make a consistent habit of it. There will be no effect if you go walking for a week straight then stop for three. You need to fit exercise into your schedule pretty much every day. Think of the amount of time you probably waste online. Take 30 minutes from your unproductive internet time to boost your mental health. 

The great thing with exercise is that the benefits tend to increase the longer you consistently do it. As you develop a habit of working out, you’ll find that your body starts to look fitter and leaner. The self-esteem boost from this reinforces the positive association with exercise, boosting your mood even more. 

Supplements probably have the most profound standalone impact on anxiety and depression, but in my opinion, exercise is the glue that binds everything together and helps the supplements become even more effective. 

The fact that you don’t have to pay a cent for exercise is also great. As I mentioned, exercise alone didn’t cure me, but when I combined it with supplements and techniques that worked for me, I came up with a treatment plan that cured both my anxiety and depression in three months. 

Here is a broad overview of my current exercise plan:

Five-a-side soccer on Monday, swimming Tuesday and Thursday. Thirty-minute walk every other day.

It’s that simple. Your body and mind will thank you and it’s never too late to get started developing an exercise routine. I didn’t even start regular workouts until I was 26. I used to just hide in my room and stay on the net. But I soon realized that the dozens of scientific studies obviously had merit, I was just too lazy to do anything about it. 

Once you get passed that initial inner resistance to working out and make a concrete habit of it, you’ll find that you can’t get enough of it. The worst part is the first week when you’ll think, “meh, this seems like too much effort.” That’s an ingrained negative thought pattern that results from years of low mood and anxiety. Try to ignore that and push through it. You’ll come out the other side a much happier and healtheir person.

If you found value in this post, please comment. Also, you are welcome to share your favorite exercise routines.

Thanks for reading!



Image via Flickr by whologwhy