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.
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.