Social media use continues to grow and its increasing impact is being felt across many aspects of our lives. Built mainly as a tool for communication, it offers a range of benefits, including helping people to stay better connected.
By contrast, it can also have a negative impact on our mental health and wellbeing. Through knowing the pros and cons of social media, we can better judge how to use and interact with it in the best and healthiest ways.
Advantages of Social Media On Wellbeing
Social media can deliver several benefits that can help improve mental health, wellbeing and support our lives.
1. Increases Connections With Others
The biggest benefit of social media, and the primary reason why it has been so popular, is that it allows people to connect in easier and quicker ways than ever before.
Through social media, people can stay in touch with their friends they made across their lives. And it can help them stay connected with their families across geographical distances.
It also offers the opportunity to reconnect with friends we may not have talked to for a long time, or even with family members who are long-lost.
2. Expands Networking Opportunities
Social networking provides a fantastic opportunity for us to network with other people in our industry or area of interest.
We may meet a new friend who can put us in touch with others, or we may also be able to approach individuals or companies that are of particular interest to us. This way, social media provides us with the opportunity to expand our network in a meaningful and positive manner.
Moreover, it facilitates the process of networking for individuals who may be more introverted.
3. Reduces Feelings of Loneliness
Another advantage of social media is the fact that it can help ease feelings of loneliness. This is especially important for those who have clinical depression and who feel, in some cases, isolation and loneliness.
Through social media, we can reach out and connect with others who have similar experiences, or who can offer support to those who are struggling. As a result, many people can find a social support network and make new friends, which helps ease the feelings of loneliness.
4. Provides Emotional Support
One of the main advantages of social media is when a crisis occurs, such as a natural disaster, information can be quickly communicated to large groups of people. As a result, social media can often be a good starting point for a range of support services.
For example, it can offer support to groups and individuals on emotional and wellbeing issues. It can also support fundraising and providing financial aid to help relief efforts.
It can also be helpful for many people who experience a personal crisis to share their thoughts and experiences with others on social media. The support and empathy they receive from their social media community can help them cope with challenging situations and prevent them from taking drastic actions.
5. Promotes Expressing Oneself
Perhaps the biggest appeal of social media is that it offers people the opportunity to truly express themselves.
Whether having a bad day, or needing to get some things off your chest, or wanting to share some good news or accomplishment, airing your thoughts and feelings on social media can be therapeutic.
Also, we also have the power and the ability to spread positivity to others using social media. Whether we share stories about how we overcame personal challenges, or offer support and advice to others who are struggling, we make a positive impact.
Often, when individuals share their personal stories of resilience, it can help others feel less alone. As they can see that others have also faced similar challenges or struggles as theirs, and managed to overcome them.
Through such positive expressions, we can become an inspiration to others.
Disadvantages of Social Media On Wellbeing
Yet, for all its advantages, social media also comes with a range of disadvantages. And many of these can have a silent damaging effect on our mental health, especially if left unchecked.
1. Deepens Degrees of Addiction
Social media can be quite addictive. This is especially true for younger people. A part of the problem is that social media is so easy to access, not just from a computer, but also via tablets and mobiles.
Social media addiction is a behavioral problem characterized by excessive preoccupation with, and uncontrollable urges to, use social media, and spending inordinate amounts of time and energy on them to the extent it affects their other important areas of life.
Moreover, many social media apps also send regular notifications, which can make it hard to stay switched off. For many, it can become addictive. They find it hard to resist checking how many comments or likes their posts have had.
The problem is far more ubiquitous than we might imagine. Psychologists estimate as many as 5 to 10% of Americans meet the criteria for social media addiction.
However, spending too much time on social media has many negative effects on health and well-being, including poor sleep.
This is especially true of those who become addicted to it and can not go to sleep unless they have checked their social media. This can have a direct impact on our melatonin levels, and therefore, our sleep.
The problem is further compounded by the fact that, because we can’t sleep, we end up checking our social media pages.
2. Increases Anxiety And Depression
For many people who are susceptible to depression or anxiety, social media can trigger feelings that can make them worse.
It is easy to look at the seemingly perfect lives of other people on social media and feel our own lives are not good enough. This way, social media can make people feel inadequate and insecure.
When people compare their lives with that of others, they often feel high pressures to keep up. And if they can’t measure up to them, they might end up feeling they aren’t good enough to compete with anyone ever, and their accomplishments aren’t as worthy as those of anyone else.
This can lead to depression, anxiety, and distress. Furthermore, this can lead to low self-esteem, social isolation, and increased feelings of loneliness.
3. Creates Fears of Inadequacy And FOMO
One of the commonest ways the fear of feeling inadequate arises is our internal voice telling us: “I am not good enough!”
Also known as impostor syndrome, it is a common experience based on self-doubt, and even some of the most talented people feel it. Social media can create this sense when we see the achievements and triumphs of others on our timeline.
The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) has become alarmingly common these days. This is often the result of comparing our life to the lives of others on social media. FOMO causes emotional pain,
This feeling can be especially amplified if we see lots of pictures or posts of friends enjoying themselves without us. It can also get triggered when we start comparing our achievements to those of others and feel we’re not doing enough.
And thus triggering further insecurities that then have a negative impact on our self-esteem.
A study on social media use found the influence of social networks can have dire effects on the psychological well-being of users. The research looked at the mental health effects of social media in 467 high school students.
The study found teenagers have a strong sense of social pressure to be always available online. This is made worse by frequent smartphone alerts, leading to FOMO. The study also found the FOMO in teenagers contributed to lower self-esteem, sleep issues, and anxiety.#Regret that emerges from an imagined future reality is the most powerful trigger for a #FOMO experience. Click To Tweet
This fear of missing out on an opportunity, work-related or personal, can mean people linger on their social media longer than they would otherwise.
FOMO and fear of inadequacy can be countered by cultivating a positive mindset.
4. Decreases Face-To-Face Interaction
Spending most of our time on social media can mean we actually end up missing out on important real-life experiences and interactions.
This can have a negative impact on our relationships. It can lead to decreased human interactions, leading to greater loneliness when offline.
By choosing to stay immersed in our online life, we can sometimes miss important events and milestones in our offline life. This may be especially true of parents, who may end up missing key milestones in their children’s lives.
What’s more, this can make us more detached from people in our lives. Because the time we spend online is the time we don’t get to invest in nurturing our ties with real-life friends and family.
5. Reduces Productivity And Focus
Spending long periods of time on social media can lead us to become less productive. Not only is it time-consuming to spend time on social media, but it can also be emotionally and mentally draining.
As such, when we disconnect from social media, we may find it harder to be productive and focused.
Similarly, it can lead to poor performance at work and academics. Because the time we spend online is the time we neglect our study or work responsibilities.
This is especially of those who check social media during their working hours. The adverse effects of social media on the quality and length of our sleep will also mean we are less likely to be as productive as we might be otherwise.
Social media has the potential to be an advantageous tool that enables people to connect, express themselves, find new communities and like-minded individuals to engage with, and reduce feelings of loneliness.
On the other hand, it can lead to increased levels of anxiety, depression, and lower self-esteem as people compare their life to others. It can also have an addictive and negative impact on our mental wellbeing as we decrease our interactions with others, miss out on real-world experiences, and lose out on proper sleep.
Ultimately, social media is the most effective and positive when it is used in moderation. It is essential to be aware of how we interact and use them, to be aware of how much time we spend there, and to be honest about the impact they have on us.
By being aware of the pros and cons, we are better equipped to break bad habits and make better choices for our mental health and well-being.
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Author Bio: Victoria Munson, a business reporter at Gumessays. She is skilled at analyzing, interpreting, and communicating information clearly and precisely. Victoria is especially interested in the impact of technology on health and wellbeing.
Reviewed and edited by Sandip Roy – a medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics.
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