Social media has inherently and significantly changed the way we communicate with one another. For good or bad, our social media feeds can affect our mental health.
According to Dr. Urmi Jani, PSY-D, there are positive and negative aspects to social media. On the positive side, it can allow us to feel connected to each other and the world around us — proven true when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“Families and friends used social media to connect with each other when it was otherwise impossible to do so,” Jani said. “It allowed some individuals to feel less lonely and isolated from each other. Many feel that social media has helped to create and maintain relationships.”
Conversely, social media can cause some to feel disconnected. One survey “found that people who spend more time in front of their phones or on screens tend to have greater rates of depression and anxiousness, which ironically can increase feelings of disconnection,” Jani said.
If you are one of those people drowning in a sea of social media toxicity and FOMO, or fear of missing out, it’s time for a break.
The following questions can help you determine if you need a social media break.
Do you check it first thing in the morning?
One study found that 80 percent of smartphone users check their mobile devices within 15 minutes of waking up. If you find yourself checking social media as soon as your alarm goes off, it’s time to set some limits.
Do you compare yourself?
“Sometimes, individuals start to show symptoms of depression and anxiety because they feel as though their lives do not appear to be as robust as those of others they are seeing online,” Jani said. “This notion of viewing others ‘highlight reel’ can lead some to feel that by comparison their life is somehow inadequate.”
If you feel like a failure or dissatisfied with your life after scrolling through your feeds of seemingly perfect lives, you may need a social media hiatus.
Are your loved ones concerned?
“If your loved one is increasingly withdrawn and seems to express or exhibit disconnection from real life relationships while having an increasing attachment to online ones, it may be time for some intervention, especially if this withdrawal is beginning to negatively impact their day-to-day functioning,” Jani said. If friends and family have commented on you spending excessive amount of time on your phone, it could be a red flag.
Are you missing special moments?
Some believe if they don’t capture every holiday, wedding, birthday party or concert on social media for friends to see, they’ll lose the memory.
“Some research has shown that the more involved we are on social media, there is a notion that it can take away from meaningful time spent face-to-face,” Jani said. “That even during real live interactions, there is a proclivity to be scrolling away on our phones instead of being in the present moment and engaging fully.”
You may need a social media cleanse if you’re watching life through your phone.
Are you a victim of cyberbullying?
If you are being threatened or intimidated by someone on social media, you may be a victim of cyberbullying, and it should be taken seriously.
“While helping to foster certain relationships, social media can also serve to increase toxic relationships via cyberbullying and trolling,” Jani said. “Cyberbullying has been linked to a greater incidence of suicide amongst teenagers.”
Are you losing sleep?
Looking at social media before bed stimulates your brain, making it difficult to fall asleep. If you’re waking up exhausted, log out of your apps several hours before bedtime.
What should you do if you need help setting limits with social media? Jani encourages you to find support.
“If social media is making you feel down and unworthy, it is important to reach out to your support system or even a therapist to help you learn some coping skills,” she said. “Awareness and being cognizant of the pros/cons of a life lived online can also help mitigate symptoms.”
Mental health can directly impact your heart health. Make an appointment with one of our cardiologists today to ensure your heart is healthy.