Social media, for many it can be used and experienced as a great way to connect with others and share our lives. It’s also a great place for businesses to market their services, ideas to be shared and debates and discussions to take place. For us at Pure Insights it’s a great place for us to share blogs like this one and to share information to support wellbeing and the development and maintenance of happiness. I know for me personally, while I was living in Australia it was vital for me to feel able to stay connected with my family and friends in the UK and to share my experiences with them from the other side of the world.
However, social media can also have a much darker side, and not just for children and teenagers, which is widely reported on, but also for adults, people like you and me. The reasons behind this are not straight forward and have allot of factors involved, but I think what we need to ask ourselves is, is the endless scrolling doing us any good? When I found myself checking Instagram and Facebook the second I woke up in the morning and in the moments before I went to sleep at night (does this sound familiar?), I decided I needed to make a change.
So, what negative effects can these sites desire for sharing and connection be having on us?
Forbes.com put together a list, based on scientific studies, of three reasons as to why social media can negatively impact and even damage our mental wellbeing.
Firstly, it’s addictive
A review study from Nottingham Trent University concluded that “it may be plausible to speak specifically of ‘Facebook Addiction Disorder’…because addiction criteria, such as neglect of personal life, mental preoccupation, escapism, mood modifying experiences, tolerance and concealing the addictive behaviour, appear to be present in some people who use [social networks] excessively.” Furthermore, it has been shown that withdrawal symptoms like anxiety can arise in adults when they have social media removed for some time.
I know all too well that compulsive feeling to check my phone apps even though I had looked 10 minutes ago and there couldn’t possibly be anything that couldn’t wait a few hours more before being checked or responded to.
Secondly, it triggers more sadness than happiness and less wellbeing
In fact, another study found that social media use is linked to greater feelings of social isolation. The team looked at how much people used 11 social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat and Reddit, and correlated this with their “perceived social isolation.” Not surprisingly, it turned out that the more time people spent on these sites, the more socially isolated they perceived themselves to be. And perceived social isolation is one of the worst things for us, mentally and physically.
Thirdly, it creates jealousy
It’s no secret that the comparison factor in social media leads to jealousy—most people will admit that seeing other people’s tropical vacations and perfectly behaved kids is envy-inducing.
According to a recent study by UK disability charity Scope, of 1500 Facebook and Twitter users surveyed, 62 percent reported feeling inadequate and 60 percent reported feelings of jealousy from comparing themselves to other users.
This is one that I can really resonate with. There have been a few times in my life when things haven’t been really going to plan or I have felt lower than normal and looking through social media only increased my self-doubt and further lowered my satisfaction with my current situation. Everyone else seemed to be living an exciting, happy and full life, or so their social media pages would have you believe.
It also struck me at times I would have made other people feel this way. What if one of the times I posted pictures of a tropical holiday or me being surrounded by friends did I feed into someone’s else’s feelings of inadequacy or loneliness.
Certainly, the answer is not to completely ban social media from our lives as we would miss out on all the benefits that come mixed in with the negative. I love being able to share ideas through social media and the last 10 years of my life are recorded on Facebook, and there is something quite special in that.
But It appears it’s important that we use the sites with caution and moderation. When we are feeling down or lonely turn directly to our friends or more tangible things to support use. Remember that social media isn’t a representation of reality and comparing our reality to others social media profiles will only ever leave us feeling dissatisfied. We need to get busy living our lives in the moment rather than through the screen.
What are your thoughts on social media? We would love to hear from you!