Social media has facilitated a faster flow of information between individuals throughout the world with the average person having accounts on five different social media platforms. You might use Facebook to help keep extended family updated, Instagram to follow along with your favorite brands and influencers, Linkedin to search for career opportunities or Pinterest to plan what’s for dinner.
While connectivity and convenience have their benefits, social media has it’s drawbacks too. If you’ve recently begun to experience anxiety or have felt triggered, excessive social media usage could be to blame.
Social media’s effects on mental health
The average user spends 116 minutes on social media each day. Whether you use these platforms with intent or find yourself mindlessly scrolling, it’s easy to get caught up in the trap of comparison or have feelings of FOMO (fear of missing out) which can lead to anxiety.
It’s important to remember that curated Instagram feeds and Pinterest-perfect parties are highlight reels and not always reflective of reality.
Individuals who have social media anxiety have the habit of being close to their phones. That means that being away from their twitter, Facebook and even WhatsApp accounts for even a few minutes may cause severe anxiety. Research has found that about 30% of those who use Facebook and Twitter spend a total of 15 hours online on average each day.
Some of the symptoms of social media related anxiety include:
Poor school performance
Loss of interest in other activities
Symptoms of withdrawal when social media cannot be accessed
Overwhelming desire to share things on social platforms
Withdrawal from in-person relationships with family and friends
Desire the please other on social media
Interrupting conversations to check social media accounts
In addition to anxiety, social media may also contribute to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, impulse disorder and other mental health disorders. These may result in relationship problems, poor school or job performance loss of jobs and may even negatively affect your physical health.
Physical risks of social media
Spending significant time on social media on a computer or mobile device can cause neck pain, eye strain and lower back problems. In some cases, such as internet addiction, it can lead to conditions such as obesity, heart diseases and stroke resulting from a sedentary lifestyle spent staring at screens.
Tips to reduce social media use
A study led by Melissa Hunt from the psychology department at Penn State found that limiting time spent on social media to 30 minutes a day can boost your mental health and mood.
According to the study, the limited use group of students that were monitor showed significant reductions in loneliness and depression over three weeks compared to the control group. Both groups showed significant decreases in anxiety and fear of missing out over baseline, suggesting a benefit of increased self-monitoring.
Want to see if reducing your social media use will improve your mood? Here are some tips:
Track your usage: iPhone users can go settings > battery to view their screen on time, battery usage by app and time spent actively using each app.
Limit your accounts: Are there certain social media accounts you use more or ones you’ve noticed cause the most anxiety? Delete any accounts that don’t add value to your life, keeping only a select few that bring you joy or serve a purposeful function such as for business networking.
Turn off notifications so you don’t feel the urge to check your social media accounts every time someone you follow likes, comments or posts.
Delete the apps from your phone: If turning off notifications doesn’t help, consider deleting the apps from your phone altogether. You can do this permanently or during the hours of the day social media interferes most. If you’re not ready to take the plunge, move the apps from your home screen to another page or folder. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
Put your phone away: Leave your phone in your purse or pocket when you’re out spending time with family or friends. Truly give yourself the opportunity to be present. The people you’re with deserve your full attention.
Schedule social media free time on your calendar: Set a date on your calendar to be completely social media free. This may be one day each week or one weekend a month. No tweeting, no watching Facebook videos and no sharing photos on Instagram. It may be difficult at first, but eventually, you’ll start to look forward to these dates on your calendar.
When to seek help
If you are feeling anxious, depressed or having relationship concerns as a result of social media overuse or other stressors, book an appointment with Mind Body Seven. With multiple locations throughout Brooklyn, the multi-disciplinary team of providers is committed to helping you achieve optimal health and your highest level of functioning, in all aspects of your life.