When was the last time you did the long scroll through social media and found yourself wasting an hour or two with nothing to show for it? I’m guessing not too long ago. It’s not a secret that the world is addicted to social media, but there are unseen effects of social media that are harming our mental health. Social media is relatively new, so studies are limited on its overall effects. However, the studies that are out — along with common sense — tell us that it might be a good idea to take breaks from social media for self- preservation.
According to the BBC, most of the 3 billion social media users around the world spend about two hours on social media every day. There is evidence pointing to social media increasing stress, anxiety and depression and decreasing moods and sleep hours. A Pew study found that social media may have the effect of lowering stress in women since they are able to “vent” on social media or share life moments. On the other hand, women seeing posts about other people’s lives that are sad or stressful were shown to become more stressed. The effect of internet usage related to stress in men was not significant.
Additionally, a study testing the moods of people before and after using Facebook for 20 minutes showed that mood decreased after using the social network. Most participants expressed that they thought this was due to feeling like they wasted time.
The amount of social media sites that a person is on can have effects on anxiety and depression as well. A study published in the Computers and Human behavior journal found that those using seven or more social media sites were three times more likely than those using two or fewer social media sites to have symptoms of anxiety. A Swedish study showed that out of 1,000 Facebook users, the ones who reported feeling less confident and unhappy were the women who used the website the most. Lastly, sleep is hindered due to the blue lights that our phones emit, which makes it take longer for us to fall asleep and makes sleep more restless.
Evidence points to the realization that most of us have every day — social media doesn’t make us feel good. Though relationships seem more connected through all the varieties of social media, human interaction is changing for the worst. Rather than calling friends on the phone to talk about a fun experience, our friends see all of our experiences as they are happening. After that, there is nothing to talk about and noses go even deeper into virtual worlds.
The concept of “FOMO,” or "Fear Of Missing Out" arose from social media and is widespread. The level of narcissism displayed through social media is constantly growing and being justified. When wondering why so many stay on social media even when they understand the detriments, it becomes obvious that social media is addictive. However, I encourage everyone to take a break from social media and measure the difference in your life.
Life becomes more about enjoying sunsets rather than posting a picture of a sunset to prove to others that you are indeed enjoying that sunset.