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Social Media & Mental Health

In today's digital age, it can sometimes feel like social media has taken over our lives. We check our phones hundreds of times daily, refreshing newsfeeds and scrolling through unending content streams. It has completely transformed the way we communicate, interact with one another, and gain access to information.

But did you know that while staying connected to the world around us is important, too much social media use can affect our mental health if left unchecked?

In this blog post, we'll explore the effects of social media on mental health and discuss potential solutions for developing a healthier relationship with online platforms. So if you're curious about how your tech usage could affect you mentally and emotionally, keep reading.

Social Media Usage Today

Before diving into the impact of social media on mental health, let's look at how much people use it today. This way, we can get an idea of the issue's scope and how it impacts users' lives.

Statista's January 2023 report shows that more than 4.6 billion people were active social media users in 2021. That's over half of the world's population actively engaged on the web. On top of that, Statista predicts there will be nearly 6 billion social media users by 2027.

  • Users typically use messaging apps and social media for 144 minutes daily.
  • People from Latin America are leading in social media usage with a time of 212 minutes daily, followed by North America with 166 minutes daily.
  • Facebook remains the most popular platform with 2.7 billion active users, followed by YouTube and WhatsApp with 2.56 billion and 2.2 billion active users, respectively.
  • As of 2021, 1/3 of online users were aged 25-34, 18% were 18-24, and 5.5% were over 65.

Social media has clearly become a large part of our lives and is here to stay. As it continues to dominate our online presence, let's dive into the mental health implications of this technology.

Negative Effects of Social Media

Excessive use of social media has been linked to many mental health issues. It includes depression, anxiety, decreased self-esteem, poor sleep, and increased stress levels.

Here's a closer look at how it can impact users:


Surveys shows a stark increase in depression and suicide among adolescents who are more plugged into new media. Adolescents in grades 8 to 12 who often engage in online activities are more likely to report feeling "isolated" and hopeless than teens engaging in more traditional forms of entertainment, like sports or social gatherings.

Another study among adults aged 18 and above found that using platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook, or TikTok worsened their depressive symptoms. Even those without depression reported feeling lonely, anxious, or sad after scrolling through their feed.


Social media can trigger feelings of anxiety and fear of missing out (FOMO). People feel left behind and anxious when they don't partake in online activities, which can manifest themselves mentally with depression and even physically through disrupted sleep cycles.

The MIT Sloan School of Management also explored the effects of Facebook on college students. Their survey found that college students' access to the platform increased their anxiety by 20%. Another investigation highlighted how extensive usage could lead to memory loss and poor academic performance.

Decreased Self-Esteem

Excessive exposure to online images can cause users to compare themselves with others. It is particularly true among young and adolescent girls, who are often more susceptible to body image issues.

Users can also be exposed to unrealistic expectations of beauty, wealth, and success. And while this already affects their self-esteem, medical experts reported how missing out on activities that promote personal growth and development worsens the situation due to more time spent on their phones.

Poor Sleep Quality

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) listed several studies on how social media usage negatively affects sleep.

  • Recent studies established a link between excessive device use and disturbed sleeping patterns in adolescent youth, which is among the top ten warning signs of suicide among teens.
  • Adolescents with problematic internet behavior are 2.41% more prone to sleep disturbances and psychological distress than their peers.
  • Those with greater levels of severity for gaming disorder or social media addiction are at a heightened risk for poorer sleep quality.

Increased Exhaustion and Stress

The psychological journal, Computers in Human Behavior, found compulsive social media use (CSMU) impacts demographics differently. More specifically, CSMU can lead to heightened pressure to remain connected on social media among working students, which could result in serious consequences such as sleep problems, exhaustion, or high stress levels.

The NCBI further cited research that shows that COVID-19 triggered a surge in SMF. Short for social media fatigue, this phenomenon is where users experience information overload and psychological exhaustion due to their extensive use of online platforms.

Other negative effects of social media on mental health include increased feelings of jealousy, decreased attention span, and impaired decision-making. Cyberbullying and other forms of online harassment on platforms can also trigger or worsen existing mental health issues.

Positive Effects

Just as there are negative effects of staying online on mental health, there are also benefits to it. Of course, these advantages vary across demographics, sub-groups, and economic backgrounds. However, the consensus of research is that social media provides the following positive effects.

Helps People Stay Connected

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health believes social media can be a powerful tool to counter the effects of increasingly fast-paced, disconnected lives. It's an effective alternative for connecting and communicating meaningfully with others.

By using this technology to bridge gaps in time and distance between relationships, people can spread their networks further while still maintaining—or even strengthening—traditional associations.

Acts as a Creative Outlet

This benefit is particularly beneficial to children and students. Social media networks can provide an outlet to express their emotions, thoughts, and opinions in a safe and fun way.

Moreover, it can also be a great source of inspiration for creative projects and activities. It could range from posting poems, participating in online art competitions, or simply looking for ideas to start a new project. 

Among the great Instagram accounts to follow and fuel creativity are @happymundane, @brainpicker, @andrewknapp, and @alexis_diaz.

Provides Access to Support Networks

Support networks are now more accessible than ever, thanks to social media. People can easily search and join online groups and communities that offer help, advice, and information related to their particular issues or condition. 

Think the likes of Therapy For Women, Emotions Therapy, and The Millennial Therapist.

These accounts can be a great source of comfort for those in need. Plus, many of them are free and easily accessible, even for those far from home. The affirmations and direction you can find on these pages also strengthen self-awareness and identity formation.

Supports Education

The Asian School lists various ways in which social media usage can bring tangible benefits to the educational process. For instance, it can facilitate interactions between teachers and students through e-Learning.

Further, social media can be a powerful source of knowledge for everyone, connecting them with peers and experts in their field of interest. It can also provide access to educational materials such as video lectures, books, and journals.

All these advantages are becoming even more relevant due to the current pandemic, as social media networks have become a primary and reliable source of information. @nasa, @OurWorldInData, @Bri_Xu, and @thecolourofdata are some of the best accounts to follow in this regard.

Gives Comfort and Optimism

Social media can also bring comfort and optimism in times of crisis. Aside from its ability to entertain effectively, anyone can also use it to spread positivity. After all, one of the most powerful effects social media has is its capacity to influence emotions.

Many people have made it their mission to bring joy and hope to the feeds. For example, there are accounts like @animalsdoingthings, @davidattenborough, @thearchbish0pofbanterbury, and @TEDTalks, which post content meant to bring a smile or a bit of motivation.

Brings Awareness to Important Causes

Finally, social media can also bring awareness to important causes and issues. It's a great platform for inspiring action and empowering people to make a positive change.

It's an effective way to get the message across, as it has a particularly powerful reach if used correctly. For example, the work done by activists like Greta Thunberg and organizations such as Global Citizen, Greenpeace International, Black Lives Matter, and We Don't Have Time are all tangible results of the power of social media.

The list of advantages is long. And while social media still has some drawbacks, it's hard to ignore its powerful reach. 

However, there's a fine line between using it responsibly and getting sucked in. Let's discuss measures you can take to ensure your social media experience is as positive and beneficial as possible.

How to Have a Healthy Relationship With Social Media

The advantages and disadvantages of being online make striving for balance crucial. Here are some tips to help you have a healthier relationship with social media:

Set Boundaries For Yourself

Set some limitations regarding the amount of time and type of content you consume on social media. Schedule times when you can log in, and stick to it. Also, try not to get too caught up in comparing yourself with others, and make sure you focus on the positive aspects of your own life.

Be Mindful of What You Post

What you submit and upload on the internet stays there forever. So, ensure you know what kind of information you share with the world. Try to keep your posts positive and meaningful so that you can contribute to a healthier online environment. Remember to also be mindful of your interactions with others, as they can easily misinterpret them as malicious.

Manage Your Notifications

Too many notifications can be overwhelming and distracting. Try to adjust your notification settings, mute groups that try to constantly get your attention, and only check certain accounts when you are ready. If you find yourself constantly checking your notifications, it might be time to deactivate them and take a break.

Take Breaks

No matter how active you are on social media, set aside some time away from it. It's beneficial to take a break every once in a while, even if it's only for an hour or two. Doing this will help prevent you from feeling burnt out or overwhelmed by all the information bombarded to your feed.

Follow Inspiring Accounts

Follow inspiring accounts that motivate and encourage you in the right direction. Doing so will help keep you engaged without feeling overwhelmed. Filling your feed with positive and inspiring pages will help you focus on the brighter side of life and enable you to be a better person.

Stay Connected with Friends and Family

Social media's greatest gift to humanity is arguably its ability to bring together friends and family. Through social media, we are connected with people all over the world, regardless of distance. Take advantage of this connection to stay in touch with your friends, colleagues, and family. This way, you can stay connected with them even during physical separation.

Use it for Growth

Social media can also be a great tool for personal and professional growth. You can use it to connect with experts, find mentors, or even discover new topics and interests. If you are feeling stuck in your career or need inspiration for possible new opportunities, social media can be a great resource to help you get the ball rolling.

Avoid Surfing Before Going to Bed

Surfing the web can be incredibly stimulating and affect your sleep. With that said, stop yourself from checking your accounts before you go to bed so that you can get a good night's rest. Try reading a book or listening to calming music if you find yourself restless.

Remember That Not All You See is True

People can easily present themselves differently online than they really are. Be mindful of this and remember that not everything you see online is true. Don't fall for the illusion of perfection; instead, focus on your personal growth.

Be Authentic

Last but not least, stay grounded and authentic. Don't get too caught up in the never-ending cycle of posting and consuming content. Instead, focus on being yourself and connecting with people with similar interests and values. Avoid posting whatever you think may impress or be the most popular at the moment, and instead, share something from the heart.

Final Thoughts

Due to its modern influence, social media can be a great tool for connecting with people and discovering new ideas. But it's critical to stay mindful of how you use it and the kind of content you're consuming.

It has both positive and negative sides, so make sure you remain aware of both and strive for healthy use. Doing this allows you to stay connected without feeling mentally drained or overwhelmed.

Contact the Jackson House today to learn more about the importance of having healthy social media habits and how we can help you achieve them.

About the author

Jackson House

Jackson House

We built Jackson House because we realized there was a critical gap in our healthcare system and many individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems were struggling because of it. While there are many outpatient treatment options and locked, inpatient facilities there was nothing in the middle. Nothing to help people who needed around the clock care but wanted to receive treatment voluntarily, on their own terms. Jackson House is different. We provide clients with the level of care they need in a welcoming environment. When you walk through our doors, we will meet you wherever you’re at and help you on your journey toward feeling better.

It's time to feel better

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If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.