Social media has exploded in the last decade, and it's not just changing how people interact—it's changing how people feel. Studies have shown that excessive social media exposure negatively impacts your mental health, but even more concerning is that there's no clear solution to stop it from happening. The best you can do is keep yourself educated about the dangers of social media and work on developing healthy boundaries to help protect yourself from it.
Social media addiction
A study in 2017 found that just as junk food makes people feel good when they eat it, using social media can create a similar reaction. The research indicates that social media sites could stimulate some of your brain's same pleasure centres. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean people are addicted to social media (yet), but it does explain why we enjoy scrolling through Instagram or Facebook—even when we don't care about what we see there.
Realizing how much time you spend on social media
The scary part about social media is that it can become a digital drug where you don't realize how much time you spend on your phone. Spend a week counting how much time you spend on social media, and then figure out a strategy to start cutting back. Set an hour limit or limit yourself to only being on specific platforms at certain times of the day.
Impact of negative comments on your self-esteem
For many people, dealing with internet trolls regularly is as much a part of social media as liking and commenting on posts. But these negative comments can impact your self-esteem and mood, particularly if you're not prepared for them—which most of us aren't. So consider blocking out time daily to view your social networks so that when those negative comments come up, you don't feel overwhelmed or unprepared to deal with them.
Impact on sleep patterns
Excessive social media use could be messing with your sleep patterns, especially if you're using platforms like Facebook or Instagram. A study looked at how people were affected by blue light from smartphones and a lack of face-to-face communication. They found that those who spent their time on social media before bed had trouble falling asleep compared to others who engaged in less screen time right before hitting the hay.
How to fix it
The adverse effects that overconsumption of social media has on our mental health can be overwhelming and discouraging, but they don't have to be permanent. You can take many steps to manage your time on social media better and cut back on mindless scrolling.
Make yourself less accessible
A big part of ensuring a positive relationship with social media is simply making yourself less accessible. This means restricting yourself to only using social media for specific, deliberate purposes. In addition, only allow yourself to be on particular platforms at certain times during your day.
Have a phone-free day every week
There are many ways to stay connected: conference calls, video chats, and phone calls. But there's a lot to be said for face-to-face interaction and creating boundaries between yourself and your phone; it helps you get back in touch with your real life and see how social media compares to reality. So consider having a phone-free day once or twice a week when you turn off your devices if you can.
Use the power-off button more often
The reality is that more and more people are becoming slaves to their devices. The critical task of discerning whether or not your social media usage is negatively impacting you should be taken seriously. Whenever you have free time, assess how often you spend time on social media. If the answer to that question scares you, take some time off your devices and examine why they feel like an integral part of your day.