The influence of social media has become increasingly clear in the past decade. Websites and apps that promote social connectedness quickly transitioned from a novelty to the norm within most of our lifetimes, and the abrupt transition has left many individuals wondering about the impact of the rapid boom in social sites.
Social scientists have too wondered about the ripple effects of normalized daily social media use and how it can affect mental health and substance use. While there are clear perks to social media, such as staying connected to long-distance family, finding communities that share the same hobbies or serving as a hub of information, there are also downfalls to unlimited social media scrolling.
In this article we’ll review the negative effects of social media and answer the tricky question: how does social media influence drug use?
What are the negative effects of social media?
There are numerous negative effects of social media. Here are a few.
It doesn’t take an expert to prove that social media can cause distraction to our everyday routine. Whether you’re a lawyer, a stay-at-home parent, a biologist or carpenter, the lure of social media can make deep brain work or focusing on simple, normal tasks difficult.
In a society where phones are ever-present and offer entertainment regardless of how much time you have available, it’s a temptation that puts up little resistance. Even deciding to briefly check your phone can lead to an hour long time loss before you know it.
Disruption to sleep
One of the most commonly known pitfalls of social media is the harm of the unnatural light. The blue light emitted from cell phones and other electronic devices can lead to eye strain, headaches and even macular degeneration (or damage to the retina).
Moreover, the blue light given off by phone screens can also repress your body’s natural creation of melatonin, a chemical that induces sleep. The false light tricks your mind into thinking it’s day and staying awake when you should be winding down and using low lighting before bed.
Exposure to cyber-bullying
Young people and adults alike can be exposed to bullying, unhealthy gossip or pressure from online sources. The perpetrators of these actions may not even be known by the victim personally, but an online presence is all it takes to be at risk for negative feedback and damaging comments from others.
Unrealistic expectations and negative self-perception
Without social media our social circles are naturally limited, meaning we only know those who live nearby, and associate with a small number of them. With apps like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, we are exposed to the personal lives of a potentially endless number of people.
A vast pool of people to observe online can be detrimental to our own self-worth and invite harmful comparison. A stream of curated content, posted with the intention of self-promotion leads to reflection on our own lives, and can make us feel insecure, depressed or inadequate.
There’s no single cause for the onset of a mental health disorder, but it’s common for social media use to be a contributing factor. Social media usage has been linked to anxiety, depression, eating disorders, low self-esteem and suicidal thoughts.
Social media has compounding effects for young people, too. Adolescents’ brains are still developing and therefore malleable, and are more prone to mental health concerns and drug-addiction type behaviors.
How does social media influence drug use?
Social media usage has spiked drastically within the past twenty years. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2005 only five percent of respondents used social media with any regularity. Now, roughly 72 percent of the United States population use social media.
With such large numbers flocking to social media, and little evidence of people leaving in significant numbers, social scientists are left wondering about the allure of social media and the psychology behind it. Many have proposed that social media usage is akin to addiction, with platforms designed to offer surges of dopamine (the pleasure chemical in the brain), leading to a cycle of use much like drug addiction.
Different platforms trigger the brain’s reward system, through notifications, likes, comments, shares or other modes. Once experienced, the brain craves these positive experiences again, leading a person to seek them out again and again, eventually developing behavior that is difficult to control.
Not only is social media similar to substance use addiction, but it can also influence it for numerous reasons. First, social media is laden with images and messages of substance use. Feeds on popular platforms are optimized to the user, and thus social media may deliver more posts that involve substance use than other, such as targeted ads for alcohol brands.
Social media also promotes a certain culture that affirms consuming substances in excess. Different accounts may glorify binge drinking and partying or display content that idolizes celebrities that use drugs. Social media can be triggering for some, and most apps have few, if any, filters on content of this type.
Social media, due to its negative impact on mental health, can also create a sense of isolation, insecurity or sadness. Social media does have a significant influence on substance use because the distress it causes can lead a person to cope with drugs or alcohol. Also, there is a high occurrence of individuals who face both mental health and substance use disorders.
Overcoming the negative effects of social media
The influence of social media on a person’s mental health and substance use habits is a serious public health concern, but it’s also a personal concern. If you struggle to curb your social media use and feel that it has impacted you negatively, you can find help to heal your whole person.
Silvermist Recovery offers evidence-based and holistic treatment for mental illness and substance use addiction. Be treated with dignity and find long-lasting recovery. Call today.