Health Topic of the Month September 2017

Social Media and Mental Health

When it comes to what your friends and family are showing you on social media, particularly Facebook, don’t believe everything you see! It may appear their lives are perfect. That they have everything together. Well, they don’t. And the perception that their lives are perfect could be damaging to your self-esteem.

Here’s the problem with social media. We’re all putting our best face forward. And think about, what if you were to talk about how things aren’t going well for you? Well then, you’re airing your dirty laundry on Facebook and no one wants to see that. Are we right? Yes!

Forbes recently published an article citing various studies on this very issue. Here are some of what they found and our suggestions for combating these issues:

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

As we just pointed out, things are not always what they seem. This idea of keeping up with the Jones’ (or Kardashian’s) is just not healthy! A study in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that comparing yourself to others and deciding you’re worse off than them is bad for your mental health, and even deciding that you’re better than them is bad for your mental well-being. Comparison at any level in the social network world was linked to depressive symptoms.

Comparison also leads to jealousy. Feeling jealous never leads to anything good. Think about it, have you ever intentionally posted something on Facebook just to make someone else jealous?

Solution: Easier said than done, but stop comparing yourself to others. If you find that you’re scrolling through your feed and you start to do it, how about disengaging until you’re in a better frame of mind.

The More Social Media You Use, the Less Happy You Are

social media and mental healthBelieve it or not, no matter how many connections you have on social media, you’re likely to feel more isolated. This comes from a study of 11 different social media sites (Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc) looking at feelings of social isolation. “… it turned out that the more time people spent on these sites, the more socially isolated they perceived themselves to be.”

Basically, you would think that being connected to so many people online will make you feel more social than ever, but in reality we need that face to face connection with others.

Solution: Schedule a date with your significant other or a night out with friends. Make a point of having in person social interaction on a regular basis (and no, being at work doesn’t count.)

You May Be Addicted

This is still up for debate among many experts, but some do believe that social media can be addictive, and no addiction is good. Authors of a study from Nottingham Trent University specifically mention ‘Facebook Addiction Disorder’.

Could this describe you? Ask yourself the following two questions:

  • Are you often on your phone checking Facebook (or other social media sites) even when you’re out with friends?
  • Do you spend more time on your phone checking Facebook and/or other social media sites than you do truly connecting and engaging with those who live you?

If you answered yes to either of these, you might want to ask yourself if you could be addicted. Building and maintaining quality relationships with others is vital to well-being. The University of Minnesota says there is compelling evidence that healthy relationships are a vital part of your wellbeing. One example they give is that people with strong social ties are 50% less likely to die prematurely.

Now, are you really spending quality time with friends or your family if your head is constantly face down staring at your phone? No. When you do this, you are not giving your full attention to the person who is talking to you. Which means you also are not likely to remember what they said to you (if you’re married this one might especially hit home for you.)

Solution: Do yourself a favor, when you are having a conversation with anyone, put down the phone. Everything will still be there when you pick it back up. Promise!

Make Social Media Work for You, Not Against You

In 2014, Facebook admitted to manipulating half a million news feeds randomly. They were conducting a psychological study of their own regarding emotions on social media. Half of those news feeds were filled with positive posts, while the other half only saw negative posts. What they found is, those who saw only positive posts, posted only positive things themselves. Those who saw only negative posts, started to post only negative things.

Now, we’re not here to defend what Facebook did. That’s for you to decide. And we’re not trying to tell you to stop using Facebook because we believe you can find a lot of valuable information there (perhaps that’s how you stumbled upon this article.) But we do think this study points out the importance of managing what you allow to pop up in your feed.

For instance, maybe you have an acquaintance who is constantly whining and posting negatives. You don’t have to unfriend them, but you do have a couple of options to keep these posts from showing up in your feed.

There’s an arrow to the side of their name. You can hide the post and train Facebook to show you fewer posts like that. Or you can unfollow that person without having to unfriend them. This will then stop their posts from coming up in your feed.

You might even want to take some time to look at the pages you’ve liked and think about how they serve you. Are they providing you with valuable information? Or do their posts make you smile? What benefit are you getting for yourself?

Just like with just about everything else in our lives, social media isn’t inherently bad for you. Make sure you’re using it and it’s not using you – everything in moderation.

A healthy mind helps you realize your potential, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively, and contribute to your community.