Isn't social media great? You can connect to your loved ones on daily basis without having to see them IRL, you can watch Beyoncé’s latest show 10 times on your phone and then you can share your deepest thoughts about said performance in 140 characters.
However, with all things that affect big change, there are positive and negative side effects. And while a lot has been said about the possible mental and social pitfalls of social media, we seem determined to willfully ignore these. Check out only 5 ways social media can affect one's mental health.
1. Addiction and Fomo
We just mentioned that people seem determined to ignore the bad side effects of social media. Do you know why? Because addicts don't like facing the fact they're addicted, or that their drug of choice can be bad for them.
And it’s no secret that social media has turned all of us into addicts. According to the Internet Trends report from 2013 that was done by KPCB American's check their phones 150 times per day. Assuming that you're asleep for 8 of the 24 hours that means you're checking your phone once every 6.4 minutes.
The Daily Mail's number is a bit more conservative, at 84 times per day. Whatever the number might be, I'm sure most of us would agree that it is more that we signed up for.
According to Go Globe, 1.23 billion users spend an average of 17 minutes on Facebook a day, which means that 39, 757 years of humanity's time is collectively spent on the site in a single day.
And you wonder why Mark Zuckerberg is so rich...
People use social media for different reasons, however, it is mostly out of boredom or sometimes just FOMO. You log into your Facebook to update your status and hours later you find yourself going through a stranger’s photo album.
2. Social media can destroy one’s self-esteem
Let’s admit it, as much as we use social media for a host of reasons, we like the attention we get. All the likes and comments makes us feel validated, vindicated and valued and often we equate the approval we get on social media with our self-worth.
Essena O'Neill, an Australian teen with more than half a million Instagram followers decided to quit the platform because of the pressure she felt.
In an interview she had with The Guardian, she describes what being on Instagram was like for her: “ I remember I obsessively checked the like count for a full week since uploading it,” she wrote of her first-ever post on Instagram, a selfie that now has close to 2,500 likes. “It got 5 likes."
"This was when I was so hungry for social media validation. Now marks the day I quit all social media and focus on real life projects.”
Read more: Heritage Day: An insult to black culture
3. It promotes inactivity
Spending most of your time on social media doesn’t only make you unproductive, but inactive as well, and you might fall prey to many health risks.
According to Peak Fitness , sitting down for long hours reduces blood flow to the brain and also increases your chances of dying, so it is important to take breaks and do some physical exercises to improve blood circulation.
Exercise is also a powerful mood lifter, and people who exercise daily are generally happier and healthier than their sedentary counterparts.
4. Social media makes us unable to be alone
In the world of social networks there’s always someone to complain to, or to gain sympathy from.
Even if it is sometimes fake.
But this can be damaging to good decision making and emotional growth. Not everything in your life has to be validated by others to make it meaningful.
Standing alone, spending time with only yourself and doing things purely because you want to, and not to impress others, is a huge part of individuation and self-actualisation. When it becomes difficult to be alone or enjoy your own company you have a problem.
For many, social media provides a stage from which they broadcast their lives. Which is fine, as long as you see it for what it is: a show.
5. Distracts you from real-life
Social media often focuses on unimportant things like what your friends had for dinner last night or a picture of your sister’s dog in a dress... It's amusing, but hardly life-changing.
When you spend too much time scrolling through the inanities of people's lives - often people you don't really care for or even really know - your life will begin to feel meaningless and you won't know why.
A few hours of uninterrupted conversation with a person you love, will time after time give your life more purpose and validation than 100 likes on Facebook.