Too much of almost anything is generally not good for us. A little added salt on top of baked chicken is for the most part okay, but shaking half a bottle onto your evening meals skyrockets your chances of developing high blood pressure. Likewise, supplementing your diet with vitamin E can have positive effects on your overall health, but overdoing it can cause a hemorrhagic stroke. As well, social media can help us stay connected with distant relatives and keep us informed of how our friends’ lives are developing, but it can also negatively affect our mental health, and young people are not the only ones susceptible to these influences. Adults are vulnerable too.
How Adult Mental Health Is Negatively Impacted by Social Media
Fear of Missing Out
With so many selfies and updates being posted onto sites like Facebook and Instagram every second of every day, many people succumb to the phenomenon of FOMO, an acronym for the fear of missing out. There’s always something going on in others’ lives, and if we sit idle while our phones are in the other room, how will we know when the person we’re wanting to date posts pictures and comments about their most recent vacation, or how will we know when our friends are out carousing without us?
However, if our phone is in one hand and we’re skimming the screen with the fingertip of our other, we stand a much better chance of staying in the loop as the loop is actually happening. Living in a constant state of fear, whether of being eaten alive by a pack of hungry wolves or not being up-to-date on what’s happening with so-and-so is not a healthy state to be in.
Social Media Can Cause Depression
According to Verywell Mind, excessive social media use can be a significant contributor to depression in adults. This can happen for a number of reasons, but watching what seems to be fifty happy people swigging beer and hammering back tequila shots at a lake party can knock the wind out of someone who rarely gets invited to social gatherings and feels awkward, at best, when mingling at the smallest of annual office parties.
The interesting thing, according to the same Verywell Mind article, is that “occasional users of social media are three times less likely to experience symptoms of depression than heavy users.” So, it’s not the social media platform in and of itself that is the catalyst for our depression. Rather, it’s our relationship to it that matters the most.
It Can Incite Jealousy
A Zen monk might not covet an old high school friend’s brand new Mercedes or the 3,500 square foot house your best friend from the sixth-grade just moved into with her husband of twenty years, but a lot of people will get downright jealous when they see a steady stream of this stuff posted on social media. Especially when the best they’re able to muster is a pre-owned Toyota and two-bedroom apartment in an unenviable part of town.
We like to believe we have others’ best interest at heart and that we cheer for their good fortune, but when it seems everyone except you is living your dream life, the results can oftentimes be resentment and jealousy. In fact, according to an article on this subject in Forbes magazine, “…most people will admit that seeing other people’s tropical vacations and perfectly behaved kids is envy-inducing.”
It’s not that we don’t want others to enjoy the best that life has to offer. It’s just that when our own kids break curfew and the best we can provide them is a summer pass to the neighborhood swimming pool, life can seem painfully unfair.
How To Prevent the Harmful Effects of Social Media on Your Mental Health
Although social media can negatively affect your mental health, you can take measures to ensure still being able to participate in it while not succumbing to its potential ills.
Rather than falling victim to the comparison trap, focus on the positive things you have in your life, even if they seem small compared to those of others. Be mindful of the beggar who envied the shiny leather shoes of the rich man who exited the limousine until he saw a man with no feet shuffle by. Sure, its an old saying, but it’s just as true today as it was decades ago. We all have things to be grateful for, but if we focus on what we wished we had instead, we’re a lot less likely to find happiness and contentment.
Also, try to spend less time scrolling the newest social media posts and more time doing the things that bring you authentic joy. While you’re at it, try genuinely connecting with other people more often. Preferably doing things together in person, but at very least talking on the phone. Having a few true friends is tons better than having 20,000 followers on Instagram.
If, however, you find you can’t kick the social media habit and recognize it’s causing you mental harm, professional help is always available. Call or email a therapist and set an appointment. Reclaim your life. It’s yours to enjoy.