The Connection Between Social Media and Mental Health

Social media and mental health matter. While social media dependence can significantly impact your life, there is help and treatment options available.

How Black Horse Health Can Help You Get the Mental Health Treatment You Need

At Black Horse Health, we know just how much social media can affect our overall well-being, including our mental health.

Our team of skilled and compassionate specialists have over 100 years of combined experience, and we are committed to helping you or your loved one get the mental health treatment you need, especially if symptoms have been created or exacerbated by social media.

With comprehensive wellness services including anxiety and depression treatment, process addiction treatment, and yoga and meditation, we will create a treatment plan that best meets your unique set of symptoms.

Next Steps Toward Sustainable Health and Wellness

Learn more about our social media and mental health services, other treatment opportunities, and how our Black Horse Health team of specialists can help you heal in this comprehensive article. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team for more information or to begin your path to wellness today.

social media and mental health

Introduction to Technology and Mental Health

In the digital age, social media has become an inextricable part of our daily lives. These platforms can provide a sense of community, a venue for self-expression, and access to valuable information and support networks. However, social media and mental health are closely linked.
The “like” button, originally designed as a simple tool for expressing enjoyment or agreement, has evolved into a quantifiable metric of social approval that can influence self-esteem and self-worth.
Additionally, the addictive nature of these platforms can contribute to sleep deprivation and stress. This happens as people find themselves compulsively checking updates or worrying about their online persona.1

What to Know About Social Media and Mental Health

Social media platforms can create an environment ripe for social comparison, cyberbullying, and the distortion of reality through highly curated or manipulated content.
While social media has the power to enrich our lives in many ways, the connection between social media and mental health is still being studied and understood.

Social Comparison on Social Media and Mental Health

Social comparison is when individuals evaluate their own worth based on how they “stack up” against others. In the era of social media, this tendency has been amplified. This provides an almost endless stream of opportunities to compare oneself to peers and even to strangers.
On platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, people often present a curated version of their lives. Users share their happiest moments, achievements, and physical beauty.
While these posts can be entertaining or inspiring, they also serve as a basis for social comparison. This leads viewers to evaluate their own lives in relation to these carefully crafted online personas.

Impact of Social Media and Mental Health on Young People

The impact of social comparison on social media is especially significant among young people, whose sense of self is still in a formative stage. Constant exposure to images and narratives of “perfect” lives can create unrealistic expectations and standards.
This can contribute to feelings of:
  • Inadequacy
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression
For young people who are particularly sensitive to peer approval and belonging, this can exacerbate feelings of self-doubt and insecurity. It is thus crucial to address the implications of social media and mental health.

Cyberbullying and Its Impact on Mental Health

Cyberbullying and online harassment serve as significant stressors that can severely impact an individual’s mental well-being.
Unlike traditional forms of bullying that are often confined to specific physical locations like schools, cyberbullying can occur 24/7. This makes it hard for victims to find relief. It has a broad reach, potentially affecting not just the victim but also their wider social network.
Among young people especially, cyberbullying has been associated with an increased risk of:2
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal ideation
Furthermore, the anonymity often afforded by online platforms can embolden perpetrators. This generally makes the harassment more intense and damaging.

Coping With and Reporting Cyberbullying

Learning how to cope with and report cyberbullying is imperative in ensuring that it is taken care of and individuals feel safe.
Some factors to keep in mind include:
  • Documenting Evidence: The first step in effectively reporting cyberbullying is to document the abusive content. This often means taking screenshots or recording interactions that demonstrate the harassment.
  • Reporting to Platforms: Most social media platforms have reporting mechanisms to flag harmful content or users. Utilize these tools to make the platform aware of the issue.
  • Involving Authorities: In severe cases that involve threats or the dissemination of personal information, contacting law enforcement is recommended.
  • Blocking and Limiting Contact: Prevent further abuse by blocking the perpetrator and tightening privacy settings on accounts.
  • Seeking Support: Open up to trusted friends, family members, or mental health professionals about your experience. The emotional support can be invaluable in mitigating the psychological impact.
  • Consulting Professionals: Therapists or counselors can provide tailored coping strategies to deal with the emotional stress and trauma that come with social media and mental health struggles.
  • Community Resources: Online communities and organizations specializing in combating cyberbullying can offer advice and resources for dealing with such incidents.
  • Educating and Empowering: Understanding the mechanisms and impacts of cyberbullying not only helps you cope but also empowers you to educate others. This creates a more supportive online community for everyone involved.

Given the potential for long-lasting emotional trauma, it’s crucial to address cyberbullying proactively. Both victims and bystanders have a role to play in creating safer online spaces.

The Impact of the Frequency and Intensity of Social Media and Mental Health

The frequency and intensity of social media use can significantly affect mental health outcomes. The relationship is not always straightforward. It can depend on a variety of factors including age, personality type, and the quality of offline social connections.

High Social Media Usage

Higher levels of social media engagement have been associated with increased risks of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and body image dissatisfaction.
Heavy usage of social media and mental health can also exacerbate psychological challenges, such as self-esteem issues related to social comparison.
The constant bombardment of information and notifications can lead to cognitive overload, reducing one’s ability to focus and potentially contributing to increased stress levels.

Moderate Social Media Usage

However, it’s worth noting that moderate use of social media doesn’t always produce negative mental health outcomes. It can sometimes even offer benefits like emotional support, community engagement, and educational opportunities.
Some studies suggest that it’s not just the amount of time spent on social media that matters, but how that time is spent. Engaging in meaningful conversations and joining supportive communities can offer positive mental health benefits.
On the other hand, mindlessly scrolling through one’s feed, cyberbullying, or engaging in constant social comparison can lead to negative outcomes. Social media and mental health have a strained connection that can affect individuals for many years.

Guidelines for Social Media and Mental Health

Promoting a positive online environment and safeguarding mental well-being while using social media is increasingly important as these platforms become more integrated into our daily lives.
Here are some strategies and tools that individuals can use for healthier social media and mental health connections:

Strategies for a Positive Online Environment

Some ways to help curate a positive online environment for yourself include:
  • Be Selective: Curate your friends to include individuals and organizations that inspire, educate, and uplift you. Avoid accounts that routinely make you feel anxious, depressed, or inadequate.
  • Engage Mindfully: Interact with content that aligns with your values and contributes to your sense of well-being. 
  • Set Boundaries: Make it a rule to not check social media during certain times, such as mealtime, family time, or before bedtime. This can help protect your mental space.
  • Create and Share Positively: Use your own platform as a space to share uplifting and educational content. This not only benefits you but also contributes to a more positive social media atmosphere.
  • Report and Block: Utilize platform features that allow you to report harassment, bullying, or any content that violates community guidelines. Block users who consistently contribute to a negative environment.
  • Practice Digital Empathy: Remember that behind every profile is a real person. Engage with others as you would want to be engaged with. Steer clear of hate speech, shaming, or trolling.
  • Time Management: Set specific limits for how much time you spend on social media each day.
  • Digital Detox: Periodically disconnecting, even if just for a day or a weekend, can help reset your relationship with social media and reduce stress.
  • Offline Activities: Make sure to balance online interactions with real-world social activities and physical exercise, which have proven benefits for mental health.

Tools to Protect Mental Well-Being

Beyond the strategies listed above, there are also various tools available to help you protect your mental well-being with social media.
These can include:
  • Screen Time Trackers: Most smartphones come with built-in features that track your screen time. Use these features to set daily or weekly limits for each app.
  • Privacy Settings: Adjust your privacy settings to control who sees your posts and how your data is used. This can make your online experience feel safer and more personalized.
  • Notification Controls: Customizing your notifications can drastically reduce the amount of time you spend checking your phone. This helps reduce potential stress and distraction.
  • Well-Being Features: Some platforms are introducing features designed to improve well-being. For instance, Instagram has tested hiding like counts to reduce social comparison.
  • Third-Party Apps: There are also apps designed to block or limit your use of social media or certain websites. This helps you focus on other tasks or take a break if needed.
  • Mindfulness Apps: Using mindfulness apps to take short meditation breaks can be a healthy way to offset the stress that can come from excessive social media use.
  • Consult Trusted Resources: Websites, podcasts, and books on digital well-being can offer valuable tips and strategies for maintaining a healthy relationship with social media.
By implementing these strategies and using these tools, individuals can take control of their social media experience. This can help make it a source of positivity and support rather than stress and negativity.

Is Social Media Negatively Affecting Your Mental Health?

Recognizing the signs that social media is negatively affecting your mental health is crucial for taking timely corrective measures. Here are some indicators to watch out for:

Increased Anxiety or Stress

If you find yourself feeling anxious or stressed either during or after using social media, it could be a sign that your usage is affecting your overall mental health.

Depression or Low Mood

Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or low self-esteem after spending time on social media platforms may indicate a negative impact of social media and mental health.

Sleep Issues

Difficulty falling asleep or frequent wakefulness during the night can be exacerbated by the blue light emitted by screens and the emotional content encountered online.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

A constant need to check social media to see what others are doing, coupled with feelings of inadequacy or envy, may suggest that your mental well-being could be compromised by negative social media and mental health habits.3

Social Withdrawal

If you find yourself avoiding real-world interactions or responsibilities because you’re engrossed in an online world, this can become unhealthy over time. It may even lead to weakening social interactions and relationships in your daily life.

Compulsive Checking

An urge to continually check for updates or notifications can indicate an unhealthy relationship with social media and mental health.

Lack of Enjoyment in Activities

If activities you used to enjoy no longer seem fulfilling and you’re increasingly turning to social media for gratification, this means that social media could be affecting your mental health.

Reduced Productivity

If you find it challenging to concentrate on tasks at hand and are consistently distracted by the urge to check social media, it may be adversely affecting your mental focus and emotional well-being.4

Heightened Irritability

An increase in irritability or mood swings can sometimes be attributed to negative interactions or comparisons made on social media platforms.

Negative Self-Perception

If you begin to negatively compare yourself with others or feel that your life doesn’t measure up to those you see online, it can be an indication that social media is impacting your self-esteem.

Increased Body Image Concerns

Constant exposure to images portraying “ideal” body types can contribute to body dissatisfaction and may indicate a negative impact on mental health.
social media and mental health

How Black Horse Health Can Help

If you or a loved one are concerned about social media and mental health, we are here to help. Social media can take a toll on overall mental health. It may even lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Learning how to combat poor social media habits to create a healthier online relationship is imperative for overall well-being.

Our team at Black Horse Health can help you find a treatment plan that works best for your symptoms, goals, and life experiences. Our goal is to equip you with skills for long-term recovery and healing.

Get in Touch With Us Today

Contact us today to learn more about our social media and mental healthcare services. We will work with you every step of the way for holistic healing and sustainable recovery.