Last updated: 16/10/2020
Rest assured, this article isn’t here to preach about the evils of social media or the digital age. But it’s also not a secret that our online activities can sometimes have an impact on our mental health – whether it’s because we feel isolated, harassed, or just don’t have enough likes on your latest insta post!
Research by the American Psychological Association shows an increase in negative psychological symptoms, such as depression and anxiety, in young adults born after 1995 (Gen Z). Whilst this increase can’t be solely attributed to social media use, an increase in symptoms around 2011 when social media started to become more prominent among this age group implies that it could certainly be a factor.
With this in mind, we’ve pulled together some information about the ways our online activities can impact our mental health - and how to combat them if it does.
How social media impacts mental health
Waiting for likes, comments and shares on your posts
We’ve all been there – you’ve just posted a photo of your coffee that is so artistic it would put even the most creative of influencer to shame... and now you’re waiting for those likes to come rolling in. But alas, it’s been 30 minutes and there hasn’t even been one like on your post, let alone a comment or share. You start to doubt your photographic ability, refreshing your feed to see if any likes have slipped in without you noticing... But they haven’t. And this can cause all sorts of feelings of anxiety about the quality of your post, and your popularity in general.
But it shouldn’t – there are all sorts of reasons that people might not be interacting with your content and it’s probably nothing to do with you or your social feed. Here are 3 ways to combat lack-of-likes anxiety:
• Try not to refresh your feed constantly – waiting for people to comment can set off all sorts of anxieties and as they say, a watched pot never boils – everyone’s probably just too busy drafting up their own social posts to pay any attention to yours! If you feel pressured to check your apps constantly to see if anything’s updated, try keeping your phone on silent and cancel all push notifications, even if it’s just for a few hours a day.
• Share what you want to share, and try not to worry about how many likes you get. Don’t compare your feed to others. If a lack of likes is really affecting you, take a break from posting altogether.
• Remember, if you’re not getting likes, it could be to do with the platform’s algorithms rather than your friends not being interested in your holiday selfies.
Paying too much attention to trolls
Trolls are everywhere nowadays and there will normally always be someone that is either looking for something to find offensive at, or will try to lure you into in a heated argument, just for the sake of it.
While not every negative online interaction can be considered trolling - sometimes a difference of opinion can lead to healthy discussion – here are a few ways you can combat trolls should they appear on your profile.
Ignore or block them. If someone comments something controversial or just plain irritating on your feed, try not to get involved in a debate with them. Just as your parents would say about the playground bully, ignore them. If they’re particularly persistent, you can even block or report them if you need to.
Be really careful about what you post so you don’t become a troll yourself. What might seem like an pure comment might not be so innocent to someone else, so double check everything you post on social media. As a general rule of thumb, if you wouldn’t want your parents or future employer seeing it, you probably shouldn’t post it.
Take control of your profile. If you’re being harassed by trolls or just want some additional privacy, update your profile settings so that you can a) control who accesses and engages with your profile and b) limit who can send you friend requests.
Becoming jealous of other people’s feeds
We’re all well aware that envy is one of the seven deadly sins. But that doesn’t mean the green-eyed monster won’t come knocking every time your best friend posts yet another exotic holiday snap (unlikely during the time of coronavirus though!) or checks themselves in at the most bouji brunch spot in town. When this happens, it can cause a spiral of self-doubt as you compare your somewhat lacking newsfeed with everyone else’s.
Remember, everyone posts the best version of themselves on social media. What you don’t get to see are the twenty unflattering photos that didn’t make the cut and the two months’ prior where they lived off rice cakes and Netflix whilst they saved up for that one insta-worthy night out.
If you’re getting sick of seeing the same person’s holiday snaps, food pics and selfies, take advantage of the algorithms to weed out content from people you’re not interested in hearing from. And the best thing is, they don’t even need to know that you’ve done it! Find out more about adjusting your social media profile privacy settings here.
Getting lonely online
Although the rise of social media has undoubtedly brought us closer together, for some people it can make them feel even more alone and disconnected than ever as they struggle to make genuine connections online. But not only can spending lots of time online make us feel lonely and isolated, it can also increase our distractibility and affect our sleeping patterns.
Limit how many times you login to social media each day, as this will give you more time to explore other hobbies. You could even limit how many times you post per week - you might be surprised by how much time you save!
Don’t check your phone just before you go to bed, as this can cause light or restless sleep. Try reading a book instead. This will make you feel much more relaxed as you try to settle in for the night.