In the past two decades, our world has shifted from emerging social media platforms to hourly daily use by many users. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2005 only five percent of Americans used popular social media platforms. Now, an estimated 72 percent of Americans regularly use social media.
If you’re among the percentage of individuals who use these online forums, you’ve likely noticed some of the effects of social media in your own life. You may have identified easier communication with distant relatives and friends, physical discomfort in your neck and eyes after a long period of scrolling or an uneasy feeling after social media use.
Some of the effects of social media are easy to identify because they happen quickly or are significant enough for us to notice. Others, however, build up over time and may affect our mental health, even contributing to depression.
In this article, we’ll explore the negative effects of social media on mental health and answer the burning question: how can social media cause depression?
Negative effects of social media on mental health
The negative effects of social media can build over time and take a serious toll on your life. While you might feel like your usage isn’t problematic now, consider the following effects and the impact on your personal life, relationships, career and mental well-being.
One of the most commonly observed negative effects of social media is its distractibility. Whether you’re at work, school or simply living a family life, social media can appear to suck away time as a person gets stuck in a cycle of endless scrolling.
Check your screen time for an assessment of your social media usage. If your time on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok exceeds an hour total per day, it’s likely you’ve ignored other responsibilities in the process.
Disruption to sleep
Social media usage can disrupt sleep patterns. A person’s circadian rhythm is informed by exposure to light, both real and artificial. Late-night exposure to the light that exudes from phones, laptops and TV screens tricks our brains into thinking it’s earlier in the day, and thus it becomes harder to fall asleep. Aim to avoid screens for an hour or two before bed.
Damage to eyes
The strain social media poses on our eyes can cause serious and lasting damage. The American Optometric Association labels this condition as “computer vision syndrome” and can be caused by the high visual demands of screens. Symptoms like blurred vision, dizziness, dry eyes, neck and shoulder pain and headaches are common.
Long periods of being sedentary are not optimal for health. Not only does lack of movement contribute to weight gain, but it can result in poor circulation, soreness and stiffness. In fact, the Journal of Physical Therapy Science states that extended phone use could result in poor posture and respiratory function due to the angle of phone and computer usage.
There is much debate about the negative effects of social media weighed against the pros of these platforms, but it has become increasingly clear that social media can interrupt social and behavioral development. Especially among adolescents, social media use replaces normal social interaction and can lead to anxiety in real-world interactions and impair communication.
Exposure to harmful content
Many adults are under the impression that they are immune to the dangers of the internet. It’s commonly stated that it’s healthy to regulate what children and teens are exposed to online, but adults are likely to fall victim to the evils of social media, too. Men and women alike may be susceptible to graphic or violent content, cyberbullying, false information and unrealistic views of other people’s lives.
Moreover, social media and the internet also pose a threat to security and safety as predators may illicit personal information, like an address or social security number.
Addiction to social media
Frequent and long periods of social media use can also result in an addiction to social media. The same mechanisms that are in place for chemical addictions occur for social media, and the brain’s reward system becomes dependent on social media for small doses of pleasure despite negative long-term outcomes.
How can social media cause depression?
It’s clear that social media can cause harm in numerous ways to users, but the question remains, how can social media cause depression? There are various ways that social media usage can impact a person. The impact of social media will greatly depend on the individual, their usage, risk factors and other variables like age and platforms used.
Moreover, it’s worth noting that there is never a single cause for depression. It’s likely that in most cases risk factors were already present and overuse of social media triggered the onset of depression.
Social media may contribute to depression for many reasons. One of the most common is that social media while imitating real-life interactions, is a poor substitute for person-to-person connection and leaves individuals feeling isolated. Feeling lonely is a hallmark of depression.
Depression may also be linked to the content consumed on social media. Those who use social media as a news source are exposed to an endless stream of negative local or world events and may develop a sense of hopelessness.
Social media is also an invitation for comparison. A person could be comparing their home, their career, their family life or even a hobby, but the feeling of inadequacy or insecurity is heavy.
Breaking an addiction
The effects of social media are significant. Perhaps you’ve noticed the impact of social media and phone usage in your own life and are looking to make a change but don’t know where to start. Reach out to Silvermist Recovery for the mental health treatment you need, regardless of the cause.