Social media is centered around connection. We are connected to people around the world 24/7. With the blessing of continued connection and access to everything happening around the world, there is also the impact of mental health. And the impact can be both positive or negative.
What is the positive impact of social media?
The three C’s: Connection, Community, and Change. Let’s think back to 2020, a time when the world shutdown and social media became the center of how we stayed connected. The power of social media is that we can keep up with our friends and loved ones, especially when we are not able to be there in person with. Furthermore, we can meet people from around the world!
We also find community on social media. Social media helps us to find pages, groups, and people with similar interests as us. For example, I have found an amazing community of mental health professionals and advocates on Instagram. The community created by social media helps many of us find a sense of belonging.
Lastly, social media also provides a platform for advocacy that can lead to change. Topics trending is one of the main powers of social media. It helps us to stay educated on what’s happening the world. And, when we disagree with what is happening, we can speak up about it and use our platforms for advocacy.
What are some disadvantages of social media?
With all the pros of social media, we have seen some major cons that affect one’s mental health. For example, as human beings, we often compare ourselves to other people. However, with social media, the level and frequency of comparison is amplified. With all the content we are exposed to, it is not surprising that we compare the way we look, the things we have, the lifestyle we live, etc. I will be honest, when I see a photo of a thin model with little to no body fat, the most gorgeous face, and an amazing wardrobe, it feels impossible not to question why I do not look that way. Or, when I see big families spending time together or public figures jetting around the world, I sometimes wonder why my life cannot be that way too. Comparing ourselves and our lives to others does not make us weak; however, doing it (all day) everyday weakens our self-esteem. And as we know, a weakened self-esteem can have detrimental effects on our mental health.
Let’s also talk about FOMO. FOMO (fear of missing out) is real! In the time before social media, if friends of yours were hanging out and you were not invited, chances are you probably would not have known. And, when summer came around and you were not in school, if people went on fun vacations or hung out, there is a good chance that you would not have known. But today, almost every time you open a social media app, it seems like you have found something you have missed out on.
We cannot talk about social media without mentioning how it has subconsciously trained us to seek validation from others. Is anyone else guilty of removing posts because they did not get enough likes?! I certainly am! Have you ever checked to see if certain people liked or commented on your posts? I have! It’s become engrained in our minds to see if someone cares for us based on how they interact with our social media posts.
Then, we have cyberbullying. Unfortunately, because communication is done behind a screen from one screen to another, it is hard to remember that there is a person on the other side. Lately, I, personally, feel like everywhere I look, someone has something negative to say about someone else. People cannot just share content anymore without being judged and picked apart. Without being able to see the person receiving the message, there is a lack of empathy. We are learning to interact without regard for others’ feelings.
The pressure to keep up, the worry over missing out, the fear of not being liked, the pain of being attacked in your comments or DMs, it all takes a toll on our mental health and emotional well-being.
You deserve to feel proud of who you are and where you are in life. You do not deserve to feel less than or inadequate. Be mindful of how your emotions are being impacted by the content and information you receive from social media. Take time to disconnect from the virtual world and reconnect with yourself and the world around you. Social media is a powerful tool that provides us the privilege to be connected with the entire world, but you are important too. Make time to show yourself the same amount of attention that you show your TikTok.