4 min read

Is Social Media Affecting Your Mental Health?

I fail to pin down my exact feelings about social media because of how tumultuous and conflicted my relationship with it is.

I occasionally feel better informed and connected, thanks to social media. However, sometimes I feel overloaded and overwhelmed too.

Every couple of weeks, I deactivate a social media app.

Usually, it’s a reaction following a night of nonstop scrolling. 

When I look at the time, I realise that I have just spent hours glancing at other people’s lives, most of whom I don't even know.

But after a few weeks of social media detox, I always download the app again.

Social media and mental health have infiltrated the wellness debate. It's not as simple as you may imagine. 

Let’s explore the effects of social media on mental health. But most importantly, let’s figure out how to take control of your mental health.

How does social media impact brain function?

An article by the Center for Humane Technology talks about how social media affects the brain. Multiple studies have been done on how the brain responds to social media.

Dopamine is one of the primary ways that social media has an impact on the brain. 

Dopamine is a type of neurotransmitter. It is produced in the brain and serves as a chemical messenger for signals between the brain and the rest of the body. Dopamine is also known as the “feel-good” hormone. It gives you a sense of pleasure.

Consider Instagram. Imagine you uploaded a picture from your weekend trip with friends. The next moment, your feed is filled with likes and comments. Your urge to feel seen and acknowledged is satiated by compliments — a universal human need. Additionally, your brain releases dopamine with each like and comment. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that makes people feel pleasant. 

Compliments trigger the brain's ventral striatum and ventral medial prefrontal cortex, which are the reward regions. One study discovered that receiving a compliment is just as exciting to the brain as earning money - both are recognised as "social rewards" by the striatum. 

Our brain craves dopamine. After all, it makes us feel wonderful. People continue to use social media largely because of dopamine release.

5 tips to protect your mental health

Even if you can't get rid of social media, you can control how to explore and utilise it.

Here are 5 suggestions to help you have a better relationship with social media:

  • Take a break from social media- If you're someone like me, a social media manager, you'll struggle with taking a break. But making it a mandate for your own wellbeing is important.

As difficult as it may sound, taking a break from social media can XYZ. Implement those self-love practices. Sometimes you can't take a long break from it, especially if it's work-related, but you can set it aside for a few hours each day.

  • Keep an eye on your screen time-  According to a study by  Mayo Clinic Staff, teenagers who use social media more frequently are at a risk of developing mental health issues.  Some teenagers are losing sleep at night because of social media use, and some may be more diverted during the school day. Lack of sleep can affect academic performance and even raise the possibility of mental health problems.

Youngsters who use social media for longer than three hours may be more likely to develop internalised mental health conditions like depression or anxiety.

Smartphones feature time limit restrictions that you can configure. I recently placed a 60-minute time limit on Instagram. I receive a reminder that lets me know the time is up after I've used the app for those 60 minutes throughout the day. Of course, some self-control is essential. I'm certainly guilty of snoozing the restriction for another 30 minutes. However, it's a fantastic method to keep track of how much time you're putting in.

  •  Strike the right balance- When it comes to social media, boundaries are essential, and no one will set them for you. It really comes down to setting the boundaries you need, planning how you'll divide your time between work and personal life, and then sticking to that schedule. 

For example, you may block time on your calendar for workouts or breaks, log off every day at a specific time, or only reply to DMs twice a day at a certain hour. Discover what works for you and follow it religiously.

  • Self care comes first- Self-care is certainly the buzzword du jour and for good reason! Additionally, it does not imply costly spa days. It can be simple acts of self-care or doing something that makes you feel wonderful.

Here are some easy self-care suggestions to try this week:

  • Meditate: This will help you ground your mind and cut down the overwhelming social media noise
  • Do Pilates
  • Binge watch your favourite series
  • Read books
  • Take yourself out on a date

(P.S- It’s tried and tested. It really helps 😛)

  • Request assistance when you need it: Do not delay to seek help if you are experiencing negative mental health symptoms. Find a mental health expert to help you in addressing your symptoms. If you are already experiencing anxiety, social media can exacerbate your symptoms. Inform your doctor if your symptoms are getting worse. Inform your coach if you discover that social media is interfering with your ability to concentrate, work, or be productive. 

Social media can be informative and fun. But as they say, too much of anything is harmful. It is crucial to be mindful of the time you spend scrolling endlessly. 

So, don't forget to take a break, emphasise self-care, and limit your screen time.

Until next time✌️

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