6 Effects of Social Media on your Mental Health:
How not to scroll
How not to scroll
How much time would you say you spend on social media each day? Thirty minutes, one hour?
What if I told you that, on average most people spend about two hours and twenty-five minutes scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, you name it, every day. Like sugar and cigarettes, social media is addictive and can negatively impact your mental and physical health.
So how can you break the habit? Let’s start by explaining why social media is addictive and what signs to look out for before discussing the changes you need to make.
- How social media impacts your health?
- 7 ways to identify you have a social media addiction.
- How to break the habit.
Why is social media addictive?
It may have started as a way to connect with friends and family, but social media is rapidly becoming a compulsion. It’s one of the first things you check on your phone after waking and the last thing you view before going to bed. And it’s continually, and subliminally, influencing your brain.
Mindlessly scrolling through posts, images, and videos may seem harmless, but dopamine signals associated with pleasure are being released in your brain. It feels good, and your brain recognises this, so you begin to spend more and more time on it.
But the reward is short-lived. Eventually, those good feelings wear off, and you find yourself reaching for your phone to kill a few more minutes. Monitoring social media wards off boredom, isolation, and, ironically, engaging with the world around you.
But what are the side effects of overuse?
How social media impacts your health?
Like any addiction, once the high wears off, you’ll find yourself on edge, unable to concentrate, and desperate to get your next fix. It’s all-consuming. You engage less with friends and family and increasingly look to your phone for comfort and companionship.
You also become more sedentary, preferring to explore virtually and live life vicariously through your social media app.
You might not even be aware that you’re seeing up to 5,000 adverts in a day—images of the ideal figure, the home you could own, how to become a millionaire overnight, the clothes you need. Subconsciously, these networks are chipping away at your confidence, presenting a false reality, and you’re buying into it.
As a result, you may suffer from:
- Low self-esteem and depression. How often do you check the number of likes or comments you received on a post. You might wonder if there’s something you’re doing wrong or what you need to do to go viral. Or do you look at influencer posts and wish that was your life? Because of this, social media can easily lead to low self-esteem, dissatisfaction with your life and eventually, depression. Remember, much of what you see online isn’t real. It’s a perfectly framed moment in time that shows you what the person wants you to see.
- Anxiety or fear of missing out. That’s right. If you’re not on social, how will you know what events are happening near you, which shows to watch, what your friends are up to and much more? Social media has become a daily news bulletin of the happenings in the greater world and your close circle, and
- Self-imposed isolation and disconnectedness from relationships. Hands up if you’ve been invited to an event or dinner with family and you couldn’t make it through a meal without checking your phone. Life is happening then and there, but you’re missing it because you’re worried you might miss the latest posting on TikTok or LinkedIn. As a result, you spend less time with the people you care about and more time checking on them from a distance.
- Exhaustion or disrupted sleep patterns. How often do you climb into bed and start browsing YouTube or Instagram? You might be exhausted, but you can stay up an extra 30 minutes watching mind-numbing clips. Believe it or not, using social media before you go to bed does lead to sleep disruption. So if you want to get a good night’s rest, leave your phone on the other side of your bedroom.
- Decreased muscle tone. If you’re wondering how social media affect your physicality, well, it keeps you from getting up and being active. You’re more likely to overwork your thumb scrolling than you are to build muscle tone in your legs and arms. So, instead of looking to see who went for a run or hiked up the dunes, get up and get active.
- Difficulty concentrating and poor performance at work. Whenever you’re faced with a challenging task, or you feel stuck, where do you go for inspiration or time out? Your favourite social media network. It leads to procrastination, difficulty focusing for any length of time, and affects the calibre of work you deliver.
So are there signs to look out for? Absolutely.
7 ways to identify you have a social media addiction.
Is this just a habit, or have you got a problem? You don’t need a medical professional to diagnose social media addiction. Simply answer the below truthfully.
- The first thing you do when waking is to log into your chosen social media app?
- You can’t go an hour without checking your phone.
- When you have a problem, you turn to social media to escape it?
- You’d rather pass the time reading posts and watching videos than engage with friends and family.
- You get upset, defensive or angry when people point out that you’re always on your phone?
- You’re irritable or restless when you don’t have access to your social networks?
- Your work is suffering because you can’t concentrate on the job at hand?
How to break the habit.
It can take up to three weeks for a habit to form, but breaking it can take anywhere from ten weeks to 265 days. So set realistic expectations. Instead of going cold-turkey, here are a few tips you can try.
Take it day by day. So on day one, try to cut your social media use by five or ten minutes. Day two, extend it to thirty—day three, start designating times for social updates. And while you’re doing this, invest in other rewarding activities.
Take up a hobby you’ve always wanted to or that you know you enjoy. Set aside time each day to do yoga or meditate.
Leave your phone in your bag, office desk, or put it in a place where it’s not in easy reach. Once you find yourself logging into your social accounts less and less, consider deleting the apps.
Be mindful of how you spend your time on social
So remember, when you catch yourself mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed, stop what you’re doing, put your phone down, and break the cycle. Go and make a cup of tea, step outside, take a breath of fresh air, and maybe call a friend.
Or speak to a medical professional about your dependency and how you can build up your tolerance. If you have questions or concerns, reach out to your local psychologist or any one of our team of doctors for a referral.