How Social Media Is Damaging Your Mental Health
And how you can combat it
It’s been a couple of years since people started to relate social media use to the increasing levels of jealousy, depression and overall dissatisfaction with one’s life. The basics are easy enough to understand: Because of the filtered versions of everyone else’s life—the seemingly stress-free vacations, perfect dates and delicious family dinners—ours always seem to pale (and fail) in comparison.
Our feeds have us asking such self-deprecating questions like Why don’t we have a special someone? Or Why aren’t we engaged? Or Why don’t we have kids yet? We sit on our chairs with our phones in our hands and wonder why we can never find enough time to give ourselves the break we know we deserve. We think about why we others can seem to balance love, life and work while we’re just barely scraping by.
The argument is there, but big companies like Facebook have been relatively quiet on the issue and their participation in it—until now that is. And really, it’s about time.
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In a blog post, Facebook’s director of research David Ginsberg and research scientist Moira Burke, acknowledged that social media can leave people “feeling worse.” Naturally, they didn’t absorb all of the blame, as a report by The Sun explained that the execs argued that how we use social media has a more direct impact on our wellbeing.
Apparently, it’s aimlessly scrolling through one’s newsfeed that leaves us feeling bitter and just generally bad about our lives. This makes sense because we only see the best parts of someone else’s life, the grand and funny bits without any of the mundane. But as Ginsberg stated, using social media simply to share an experience and speak with friends can actually be beneficial.
“In general, when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information—reading but not interacting with people—they report feeling worse afterwards,” he wrote. “Actively interacting with people—especially sharing messages, posts and comments with close friends and reminiscing about past interactions—is linked to improvements in wellbeing.”
So, what are we saying here? That the solution to social media isn’t actually a social media detox, but actually more of it?
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According to Ginsberg, the true intent and real benefit of Facebook is in its ability to connect relatives and friends when they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. And if we’re being honest, he has a point. You come across old classmates and distant loved ones all the time on social media and it’s not like you would have run into them at the mall one day. So there’s validity in using social media to make a connection that could be great for our overall mental health.
Need a little more proof? The blog post cited research from the University of California which found that those of us who simply react to posts suffer worse mental health because of the comparisons that inevitably come afterwards. There’s also research from the University of Michigan which explained how students who spend 10 minutes talking to friends on Facebook were happier than those who just scrolled through the site.
But what about those of us who don’t actually like interacting on social media? After all, what would it matter to a one-time- classmate how adorable we think his new baby is? What does it matter to our third cousin if we think she looks amazing in her photo?
And herein lies the genius of Facebook once again. The social media site is reportedly working on new developments that will encourage more engagement that go beyond the mind-numbing likes, loves and laughs. These new features will reportedly allow us to personalize our feeds further and completely block posts that we think have a negative effect on us.
Facebook helping us help ourselves? Bring it on.
Art Alexandra Lara