Social media is bringing us closer than ever before, but is it making us overwhelmingly happier? The answer is no, according to studies done on the effects of sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat on users. Increased time spent of these sites, and others like them, points to a higher likelihood of suffering from depression. Teenagers and young adults are especially susceptible to the negative effects of social media on mental health, meaning parents should limit the amount of time their children spend on these sites. Humans crave connection and social media is making it easier and easier to stay in touch, but the consequences are real.
4 reasons why social media sites can actually decrease our overall happiness
- It sugarcoat reality. On social media, image is everything. Birthday celebrations, pregnancy announcements, and photos of expensive vacations fill news feeds every day. It is normal for users to present the best versions of their lives on these sites. However, this can create unrealistic expectations and standards. Seeing others succeed often reminds users of the shortcomings in their own lives, inspiring envy and sometimes resentment.
- It encourages competition. For some users, the number of Facebook friends or Instagram followers they have matches the importance of there kind of car or house. Getting more “likes” or “views” than the next person becomes a priority. While some forms of competition can be healthy, constant comparison becomes mentally and emotionally draining. The desire to show off can eclipse the original purpose of social media which was to connect with one another.
- Negative experiences on their platforms can traumatize users. Cyber-bullying and other negative interactions on social media sites can have lasting effects on users. Bullies are empowered by the anonymity that social media provides and their attacks are especially vicious. Female users are more vulnerable to these attacks. Online bullying and harassment can leave those affected feeling degraded and dehumanized.
- They are distractions from the real, non-virtual world. Before social media, people might have read a book, watched television, or gone to the movie theater to forget about their responsibilities for a little while. Now, sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are the main sources of distraction and they’re always right at our fingertips. Time spent on social media could instead be spent focusing on family, school, work, or an exciting new adventure. You might not enjoy that delicious meal as much as you should have because you were too busy trying to capture the best lighting for a photo, or you might have had more fun on that cruise if you were not so preoccupied with posting updates on Facebook. Unplugging every now and then is beneficial to mental health and necessary in order to live in the moment.
The negative effects of social media have been proven to have a lasting impact. In this tech-obsessed world it is important to value your mental health and remember to be present in the moment.
NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information below intact.
Author: Mayeling Angelastro, MA is an Orlando Winter Park Bilingual Licensed Mental Health Counselor providing help to couples, families, couples, children and teenagers with offices in Winter Park and East Orlando. (407) 248-0030
Co- Author: Ashley Garrett (Intern)