Social media is still in its infancy and we still have much to learn about the effects on users. There is a growing body of research addressing this issue and many studies thus far point to a concerning link between social media use and depression. In our practice, we have noticed our client’s use of social media being related to the following:
• An increase in time spent using social media or thinking about using (should I post this or how should I phrase this?)
• An increase in worrying and anxiety during and following social media use
• A decrease in motivation and subsequently an increase in procrastination (usually via more social media)
• A decrease in self-esteem and a sense of inadequacy
• An increase in unhealthy comparisons with others (resentment/envy, overgeneralization, development of anger or hatred) leading to a decrease in life/self-satisfaction
• A loss of sense of reality with life’s moments being handpicked, a focus on the perfect image which sets unhealthy expectations, and an incorrect view of others (only seeing these manufactured snapshots)
• Concern about taking healthy actions (blocking, deleting, decreasing use) based off of how it will be viewed by a certain community/person
• Decrease in actual social connections or a misconception of social connections
• Increase in egocentrism from implied popularity contest (number of likes, followers, etc.)
• Physical problems (back/muscle/joint pain, malnutrition from skipping meals, headaches, eye problems)
• A potentially unhealthy analysis of relationships including interpretations of every minute action (or lack thereof)
What can be done? In general, making efforts to decrease usage is a good place to begin. This can be done by implementing a few different practices such as setting up no social media zones such as the dinner table, when with friends, or while at work/school. Another helpful tip is to work towards breaking habits that reinforce usage such as taking out your phone whenever you’re alone (sometimes we can find ourselves trying to avoid isolation or even being perceived as being alone), while walking, or when going to the washroom.
On the other side of the coin, you may want to set aside specific times to focus on using social media, thereby reducing using it for procrastination or distraction. Consider removing access to certain social networks – is it necessary to have 15 different sites? Also, actively managing the content you see. Many individuals report changes in mood due to seeing content from specific people. If this is the case, why have their posts visible? Why follow them? Finally, rather than engaging in social media use, intentionally increase socializing in person…without your phones.
It is not realistic to eliminate social media use, however reducing and limiting usage can help you to decrease the problems listed above. If you or someone you care about it is struggling with social media use, one of our professionals will be happy to help. Give us a call at (514) 223 5327.
Written by Robin Jolivet, M.A., Psychotherapist