Social media is one of the largest parts of the internet – there’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Youtube, and so many more at our disposal, with most people using a combination of these apps on a daily basis. Whilst the initial concept of social media is a positive one, the effects of excessive use has started to become quite a large issue in our society, with huge impacts on mental health being seen as a direct result of social media. In today’s blog, we thought we’d take a look at how social media can impact your mental health, both positively and negatively, as well as offering some tips that’ll help you to utilise your social channels in the most positive way possible. If you want to learn more about social media usage, or simply check out our own social channels for some feel-good vibes, you can find all of our different accounts here!
The impact that social media is having
It’s not all doom and gloom, and social media can be an incredibly powerful tool for those who are looking to keep in touch with each other when doing so in person might not be feasible. Of course, this came into a league of its own during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has forced almost all of our communications into a digital form, whether that’s through video calls, instant messaging, or posts on each other’s timelines. It’s not just the communication aspects that are incredibly important to us all, however; the feeling of togetherness is just as important – whilst it’s very difficult to keep up to speed with family and friends that you haven’t seen for a while, or who live too far away to see very often, keeping up to date with their posts and activity is a fantastic way to feel more connected to those you love.
During the lockdown, we’ve seen plenty of inventive new ways for people to enjoy each other’s company from the comfort (and safety) of their own home. Zoom quizzes, online gaming with friends, and fancy-dress drinks have all been on the cards for various occasions since the start of Lockdown 1 last March – trust me, I’ve never had so much general knowledge answers – and it’s been really fun seeing how people have gone the extra mile to stay safe and sane. Whilst the days of weekly quizzes might now be coming to an end, let’s remember that the communication skills we’ve learned during the pandemic will stay with us forever, meaning we never have to feel isolated and alone, even when we’re stuck at home.
With that being said, it’s worth noting that the sunshine is always followed by the rain, and too much of a good thing can quickly become bad news. In the same way that too much chocolate can leave you longing for your summer bod, too much social media can concoct a crippling case of FOMO (or Fear Of Missing Out, if you aren’t up to speed with the latest lingo), or even more serious mental health issues. When you’re spending your days and nights scrolling through social media, ogling at people who are, seemingly, leading your dream life, it can be tough to snap back into reality when you put the phone down; simply put, it’s hard to sit watching people have the things that you desire. With so many influencers now paid for their performances on Instagram and the like, it’s now become increasingly difficult to separate the real from the fake, a dangerous line for those who are more vulnerable amongst us to tread. If you’re finding that your social media feeds are getting you down, you need to take a step away from the screen. There’s no point in getting yourself down over the privileged lives led by others, when your own can be just as enjoyable if you focus on the things that you enjoy, rather than dreaming of that influencer lifestyle.
Obviously, this is easier said than done; many people find themselves slumping on the couch with their phone out of sheer boredom at the moment and you can’t really blame them for that, as there is little else to do without being able to go out and enjoy the things you usually would if there wasn’t a global pandemic happening right outside your door. In these cases, it’s all about changing the way that you use social media to ensure that your usage is right for you – whilst some can easily separate their own lives from the ones they see on the screen, others have far more difficulty, so be sure to judge your own needs when thinking about the screen time you allow yourself to be exposed to.
The changes you need to make
As we’ve mentioned above, a change is needed in the way that we all utilise social media – what was once an innocent source of entertainment and communication has now become an unavoidable beast, which many now deem themselves to be addicted to. Research by the Centre For Mental Health estimates that around 5% of young people are affected by social media addiction, with studies claiming that it could potentially be more addictive than alcohol or cigarettes!
In technical terms, it’s thought that this addiction is founded in the constant need for a hit of dopamine through the act of instant gratification that’s granted by likes and shares of your posts. The danger in this comes when that instant gratification isn’t obtained and the user then sits refreshing their feed for their next shot at grabbing a few likes. It’s a nasty cycle and one that we should really talk about more if we stand any chance of improving the social media rut a lot of us find ourselves in at the moment.
- Cleanse your timeline: People change and with that, so do their social media channels. Whilst you may have loved the content and posts that an account previously made, there may come a point where you no longer agree with the posts that are being made. This can be a very frustrating experience, with the sight of these accounts causing you to become angry and vexed every time you’re on your phone. To avoid this, a social media cleanse is always a smart option. By reviewing the accounts that you follow, the accounts that are following you, and the topics that you’re following, you’re able to cater your timeline to only show the things that make you happy and content – this makes for a much safer online experience.
- Step away when it gets too much: Social media isn’t always the friendliest place to be and unfortunately, there are people out there who are seeking to make the different social channels a terrible place to be. If you spot these accounts, block them, mute them, and report them to the relevant social media platform so that they can no longer cause any damage. If the negativity that you’re seeing each time you load up your Twitter or Insta still seems a little bit too much after you’ve cleaned them, consider taking a bit of a break from social media. Whilst it is important to keep up to date with current news and events, there’s only so much bad news and negative energy that you can put up with.
- Follow some feel-good accounts: On the flip side of those accounts that are on a mission to ruin your experience, there are also accounts that are looking to make it much better. These feel-good accounts are a joy to follow – they’ll give you motivation, support, and a feeling of being heard that’s hard to come by in the cold, harsh social media landscape. By following the right accounts, you are sure to make your time scrolling through Facebook one that’s far more enjoyable, leaving you in the right mood to take on the day.
- Feel anxious about a topic? Read a book on it for 30 minutes instead! By simply brushing up on your knowledge of a topic, you can reduce the amount of stress surrounding it significantly. This makes it seem like far less of an issue, helping you to cope with the situation in a calmer way.
Here at Embryo, we’ve partnered with Manchester Mind as our charity partner, supporting their work in helping everyone to deal with their mental health issues in the right way, offering them the support they need to win their internal battles. If you’d like to check out their work, or potentially even spare a couple of quid to help support their challenge, take a look at our latest fundraiser! As a team, the gang here at Embryo are attempting to walk (or run, for the athletes amongst us) our combined commute into the office before Easter! You can see how we’re getting on over on our Instagram page.