The Connection Between Social Media and Mental Health

– Written by Brandie Moore and Kelsey Strand, VUSN Students

Building a Healthy Relationship with Social Media

Social media keeps us updated on events and highlights the human stories behind popular news headlines. However, taking a break from social media can be a way to protect our mental health, especially during times of high stress and anxiety. If you’re on social media a lot, research suggests that you might want to run your own experiment to see if a social media break boosts your mood.

How Social Media Can Impact Your Happiness and Mood

Studies have shown that social media can have a negative effect on your life satisfaction and subjective well-being. It is also linked to depressive symptoms. (Lanquist, 2017)

Social media can distort our perception of people’s lives. We see all the “highlights” but we rarely see the mundane things like going to work, doing chores, having stressful days, etc…the things that everyone goes through. (Lanquist, 2017)

Social comparison is one of the greatest killers of our happiness and well-being, and social media tends to take this phenomenon and put it on steroids (Lanquist, 2017)

Taking a break from technology could help some people mitigate their anxiety. Responding to new texts, emails, and Facebook messages nonstop can become stressful, and getting away from that—even for just a day—can feel great. (Lanquist, 2017)

COVID and Social Media Content Moderation 

Limit your intake of news and social media if it is increasing your anxiety.  Focus on the expert information sources rather than the latest sensational post or headline.

Just as you take care of your physical hygiene, consider your media hygiene (e.g. when you look at news, the kind of news you look at). (Lanquist, 2017)

Take this time to reconnect with old friends, co-workers, relatives, children, and even yourself. Keep your focus on the present by:

  • Practicing compassion for yourself and others
  • Taking time to journal or draw
  • Meditate
  • Cook a meal with your children
  • Unwind with some music

Curb Your Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

Another huge plus of getting off social media? Avoiding the oh-so-daunting FOMO, or fear of missing out. “When you’re linked up to this huge network through this one device, you can feel that where you are isn’t where it’s at,” says Andrew Lepp, Ph.D.,a professor researching media use and behavior at Kent State University. “This,” he says, “drives the anxiety associated with cell phone use—and it also leads people to compulsively check their devices.”

Some Good News…

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all people, including celebrities and professional athletes, to follow the same social distancing recommendations. This shared experience actually connects us all. Use this time to think about how we might continue to do the following once the pandemic is behind us:

  • Decrease the time we spend checking our devices
  • Remain present in unpredictable situations
  • Prioritize what is meaningful in our lives
  • Resist comparing our lives to others

References available upon request

Published on April 13, 2020
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