Is social media bad for your health?

When social media began about 15 years ago it was all about connecting people and bringing them together. And during the last 17 months of quarantining and social distancing, we’ve seen the platforms do just that with people sharing stories, listening to the experience of others, and starting to build communities. However, social media has a much darker side, often referred to as “compare and despair”, which sees people criticising, belittling, bullying, and berating others for looking/feeling different or failing to agree with their opinion.   

Social Media

Two sides

Like everything in life, there are two sides to every story and whilst the media are keen to portray the negative effects of social media, with a strong link between heavy social media and an increased risk of depression, anxiety, loneliness, feelings of inadequacy, fear of missing out, isolation, self-harm, bullying and even an increase in suicidal thoughts, there is another perspective. 

Most of us acknowledge that social media enables us to communicate and stay up to date with family, friends, colleagues, clients, and customers around the world. However, compelling new evidence suggests that social media can benefit people already dealing with mental health issues by helping them build online communities that provide a source of emotional support during tough times. It can also provide help to reduce the stigma attached to seeking treatment. 

Up to you

Whether social is bad for your health is really about your age, how long you spend on it, the type of person you are, whether you can process the information objectively and can understand what is ok and what is not an ok topic/debate wise to get involved in. 

It will come as no surprise to you to learn that children and young people are more affected than adults. Not only do they spend more time on social media, but the figures suggest that bullying of young people has grown significantly worse in recent years. And the rise in popularity of platforms such as Instagram, which primarily focuses on people’s physical appearance, is also “contributing to a generation of young people with body image and body confidence issues”, according to the London-based Royal Society for Public Health.

Improve your mental health

So, what can you do to reduce the harm and enhance the benefits for yourself, or a loved one? Here are my tips, which will allow you to modify your social media use and improve your mental health:

  1. Limit the time you spend on social media – set a daily limit for your smartphone/tablet, etc, disable notifications, and perhaps don’t take it to bed with you.
  2. Prune – make time to unfollow, mute, or hide contacts where you feel overwhelmed or shamed by what they are saying on social media channels. Focus more on people who share positive, inspirational stories which express gratitude, motivation, and fun.
  3. Think before you post – decide if what you are going to post is true, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind. If not, then refrain and don’t post anything.
  4. Change your focus – learn how to scroll on by without feeling guilty about not liking, sharing or commenting on more controversial posts.
  5. Take plenty of breaks to detox and spend time exercising or focusing on offline interests, including catching up with friends, work colleagues, and family face to face.

For more social media help and advice so you can ensure your experience is both positive and helpful, get in touch today.

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