Does social media cause depression and loneliness?
The use of social media has increased tenfold with the growth of smart technology and easy access to the internet. Without a doubt, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter have all made it easy for people to interact effortlessly and seamlessly without being restricted by regional borders. Sharing ideas is more convenient now than it has ever been.
But there is a twist: studies show that social media is making many people depressed and lonely. Social media users tend to sleep less, are hyperactive, struggle to be attentive, and are more vulnerable to social pressure than those who don’t have social media accounts.
Although no study has provided conclusive evidence as to whether social media can cause depression, there is definitely an observational correlation between the two. For people who struggle with depression and believe it’s caused by the over usage of social media, therapy or coaching may help them overcome this issue.
4 Ways social media may lead to depression
Here are four ways social media usage may lead to mental health issues, such as depression and loneliness.
1. Increased feelings of social isolation
The more time you spend on the internet (that includes social media), the more socially isolated you get. Offline social networks, such as community work, playing together, interacting in church, and telling tales around a campfire, amongst others, encourage people to become closer and share their common problems.
Social media isn’t anything like that. Often, users talk with far-away friends and neglect those around them. And because these online friends are often located remotely, it is more difficult for them to be there for you in the case of a crisis. This virtual existence can lead to deeper social isolation.
2. The comparison factor
Browsing through social media can potentially ruin your self-esteem and confidence because, by the look of things, everyone out there is doing better than you in all aspects of life. Everyone seems happier than you, is in a better relationship than you, loves their job more compared to you, and has all the good things in life. That comparison mentality may lead to depression.
Research also shows that people can get depressed when they feel like their social media friends are doing worse than them. This form of comparison often makes people feel better about their lives in real life, but it appears to be different when it comes to social media spheres. It seems like social media “friends” feel better when they are all at the same social level, maybe because they are able to engage more “productively” that way.
3. Envy and jealousy
After comparing your life with that of your friends on social media, you will envy them if they seem to be doing better and are happier than you are. If that envy is not controlled early enough, it may grow into jealousy. This is a very unhealthy situation to find yourself in. You may be tempted to post jealousy-inducing content on your pages in order to challenge the “friend”. And if the friend gets equally jealous, chances are that they will post a photo or a story that will induce jealousy in you.
In the long run, you will have a group of jealous friends trying to outdo one another - a vicious cycle of malice.
4. Sleep deprivation
A normal adult should sleep for at least six hours a night. This is, however, almost impossible now because many people are chatting online for hours. Some even wake up in the middle of the night to check how their posts are doing online. Sleep deprivation can cause depression in many ways.
First, your colleagues may be sleep deprived just like you, meaning that everyone is tired and unhappy. The office stays moody for the entire day, aggravating your loneliness. Secondly, sleep deprivation affects how your body responds to workday activities. If you love the gym, for example, poor sleep will lower your workout enthusiasm and results. Lastly, poor sleep lowers your immune system.
How to do social media in a healthy way
Although scientists and psychologists are still trying to figure out how social media relates to the sudden rise of depression cases amongst young people, it is important that you find help if you are experiencing any signs of depression and loneliness. Some ways to mitigate the effect of social media, so that it does not lead to harmful consequences, are:
Limit its usage
Try and schedule your day in such a way that social media usage is at its minimum. Even if you cannot stop using all your social media channels at once, try to have a schedule, for example, 10 minutes of Facebook, then after a couple of hours 10 minutes of Instagram, etc.
Engage in extracurricular activities
Engaging in different activities where you have physical contact with people can be of great help. This will not only take your mind off your phone but will also help you with your health.
Breaking social media mania is not an easy task. You will have ups and downs, and not everyone can reach their desired results immediately. However, once you stop scrolling down your social media feeds constantly, you will create a healthy balance!
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