Is Social Media Bad for Your Mental Health? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on November 21, 2014

Is Social Media Bad for Your Mental Health?

Crozer-Keystone Health SystemMedia Contact:
Katrina Stier
(610) 447-6314

Social media has become a big part of many people’s daily lives. It’s become an outlet to keep in touch with friends and family and it’s even become a part of many people’s jobs; companies have whole departments dedicated to social media now.

But between “liking” your friend’s latest selfie and retweeting your favorite celebrity’s quote of the day, is your mental health being compromised?

If you ask Anne Frederickson, M.D., a Crozer-Keystone child and adolescent psychologist, the answer is “possibly.”

The Emotional Toll of Social Media

The Emotional Toll of Social Media

Comparing your life to what others present
on social media can damage your self esteem.

“If you're going online and looking at everybody’s successes – and people tend to post about the good things going on in their life – it’s very easy to compare your life to what you see on social media,” she said.

Studies have suggested that using social media platforms may feed anxiety and increase a person’s feeling of inadequacy. People are not only posting about the good things in their lives, but they may even be posting an idealized version of what’s really going on. Looking at these idealized versions of your friends’ lives may make you feel worse about your own.

“If you feel like you don't measure up, whether it’s your body or your career, you can start to feel very low and very down. That can be damaging to your self-esteem,” Dr. Frederickson explained.

If it seems like everything is coming up roses for people in your newsfeed and you’re having a bad day, it’s likely to negatively impact your mood. A team of researchers in 2012 surveyed social media users, 53 percent of whom reported that social media had changed their behavior, with 51 percent of that group stating that it was negative behavior due to a decline in confidence from comparing themselves to others.

Using social media can actually wreck your mood too. Another study found that avid Facebook users were unhappier overall than those who used the social networking site less. Over time, the avid users also reported lower satisfaction in their lives.

Avoid these feelings by re-evaluating how you are using social networking sites.

“Do not use social media as a way to compare your life. If you find you’re looking at people’s pictures and comparing, that’s not a productive use of social media. Inevitably, somebody is going to have a better something than you. If you’re going to use social media, use it as a tool for communication instead,” Dr. Frederickson recommended.

If you have difficulty doing this, she suggests trying to disconnect from social media by taking it off your devices and limiting how much time you spend on it each day.

The Rise of Cyber Bullying

The Rise of Cyber Bullying

The best way to thwart cyber bullying is
for parents to be in the know.

Social media has also created a platform for cyber bullying. According to Enough is Enough, a nonprofit dedicated to making the Internet safer for children and families, 95 percent of teens who use social media have witnessed forms of cyber bullying and 33 percent have been victims of cyber bullying on social networking sites.

“Social media allows people that may not otherwise bully in a face-to-face situation to engage in bullying behavior online. If someone bullies another person to their face, they can see that person get upset, sad or mad, and possibly have a degree of empathy. But with cyber bullying you don’t see that reaction – you can say whatever you want, no matter how cruel,” Dr. Frederickson said.

Cyber bullying definitely impacts the mental health of the person being bullied.

“They may feel like they don’t know who is bullying them, like they don’t have a resource for help, and not know how to deal with someone who is bullying them from a distance. They may not know what to do about it,” she said.

Over time, a victim of cyber bullying may experience depression, anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness. Some of these issues can even persist into adulthood.

The best way to thwart cyber bullying is for parents to be in the know.

“I think it’s really important for parents to be involved in their children’s’ social media use. Parents should be monitoring their social media activities. Just as you would be informed about who your child is hanging out with and spending time with, you should also know who they are talking to online, if they’re being contacted by people they don’t know, and be aware if they’re being bullied online or bullying others,” she said.

Social Media Isn’t All Bad, Though

Using social media actually does provide some benefits to certain people’s mental health.

“For individuals who find it is very hard for them to connect with people on a face-to-face basis, social media can provide them with an outlet that doesn’t cause them anxiety and doesn’t feel as threatening,” Dr. Frederickson explained. Social media can also present the opportunity for people to find support communities as well.

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