The human brain is wired with an inherent desire for connection. We are hardwired to connect with others and have meaningful companionships and relationships in our lives. With that said, the way we connect, form, and maintain these relationships has drastically changed with the growth of social media. Social media platforms have developed at a rapid rate in recent years, creating many new and different ways for people to connect with others in their everyday lives.

However, it is easy for us to forget that the way that we often portray ourselves on social media is not always representative of who we really are. We can only convey so much about ourselves from pictures, videos, and posts.  Although this is not always the case, it can be easy to compare yourself to pictures in which someone’s appearance is manipulated. We can sometimes begin to compare our own, personal truth to those who wear masks on social media, and that can lead to inner turmoil.

While social media is a great way to connect with others, it can also backfire on us. Although it provides opportunity for connection, it does not compare to spending time with important people in our lives in person. Being around other humans is important to our wellbeing, and if we primarily interact with others over social media instead, it can lead to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation because the connection just is not comparable. More specifically, sometimes it can be hard to not check our phones when notifications on social media pop up, due to fear of missing out (FOMO).

Social media use can be thought of in the context of a cycle. If we start to feel lonely, stressed, anxious, or depressed, we may turn to it in order to relieve whatever we are feeling. The more consistently we use social media, the more likely we are to feel those same feelings again, alongside inadequacy or dissatisfaction because of continually comparing our personal truths to everyone else’s masks. Because using social media does relieve the feelings mentioned above, we are likely to start this cycle again once they flare up again.

Here are some signs that your social media use may be impacting your mental health:

  • Finding yourself distracted on social media at work or school
  • Putting yourself down when comparing yourself to others on social media
  • If you are being cyberbullied, it can lead to a severe compromise of your mental health over time
  • Sleep disturbance by spending too much time scrolling on social media
  • Feeling lonely, anxious, depressed, or isolated after using social media

If you are looking to reduce your time on social media, here are some ways to modify your usage:

  • See if your phone has an app that informs you of how much time you spend using it. If need be, download an app that can track your usage so you can gain full awareness of how much time you spend using social media
  • Turn your phone off at work, school, or while you are having dinner
  • Turn notifications off for social media apps
  • Remove social media apps from your phone
  • Give yourself time limits while using social media
  • Give yourself an hour before bed and an hour in the morning without using social media
  • Shift your focus to tasks or activities that you are doing in everyday life
  • Increase your time with friends and loved ones in real-life

This is not to say that social media is inherently a bad thing – it’s not. It’s just important to notice what you are feeling, why you might be feeling it, and to limit your involvement with it if you notice it might be affecting your mental health.

Here are some articles for further reading about social media and mindfulness:

PDF on Mindfulness with some coping techniques:

By, Kristi Zalinka, EAP Intern