The impact of social media and its link to mental health

The impact of social media. Scrolling through Instagram on a Sunday evening or Monday morning might be a harmless habit of yours. Laughing at small animal videos and seeing what your friends got up to over the weekend sounds normal enough. But with Instagram introducing Live Video, Stories, IGTV and other tools that make streaming and IRL social consumption widely available to anyone with a smartphone, should we be concerned?

The research says, maybe!

the impact of social media

One study by the UCLA Brain Mapping Center shows the same neurological activity that happens in the brain when someone wins money, takes place when young people get a substantial number of ‘likes’ on one of their social media posts.1,2       

Other research shows young people who spend more than two hours per day on social networking sites have a higher chance of reporting poor mental health. Including psychological distress, symptoms of anxiety and depression.3

 

But what about the ability to connect with friends and family despite time zones, borders or even language barriers? After all, visual elements like Giphy’s and Boomerangs can be understood internationally! No translator needed for a dancing kitty emoji, or a boomerang of you and the ‘squad’ jumping into a pool. 

Undoubtedly, there’s a good and bad side to everything. So, what’s the big deal? 

the impact of social media

 

Well, with social media apps changing regularly and its users adapting to their every move, we don’t necessarily have the time to fully

comprehend these new applications, let alone study the effects. And by the time we might think we’re onto the latest social tool, they change their algorithm, accidentally share our personal data via an alleged security breach or they make deficient attempts to help users with online harassment and abuse. 

 

So, we’re sharing one story about a freelance Social Media Manager and influencer on Instagram. Roslyn shares her ups and downs with the app and doesn’t skip any details. This is just one user’s experience with Instagram, but the tone feels universal. Don’t worry, Roslyn follows up her breaking points on social with practical social media self-care tips and advice. Because chances are, you too have experienced the good, the bad and the ugly, with the gram.

 

By Roslyn Kent

 

What times is it? IG o’Clock 

the impact of social mediaWake up; check Instagram.

Take a break from work; check Instagram.

Go for a walk at lunch; scroll through Instagram.

Wait for the bus; scroll through Instagram.

Get into bed; check Instagram.

I wish I could lie and pretend that this hasn’t been the pattern of my life for the last year or so, but that would just deny the fact that I’ve let Instagram change parts of my routine that used to be much, much simpler.

the impact of social media

I’m a vegan food blogger and aspiring holistic nutritionist living in Vancouver, BC, and Instagram has undoubtedly played a large part in the development of my passions over the last year, but unfortunately, I’ve also let it take control of my mental health in some aspects too. 

Let me first start off by saying that I do love Instagram. I love the fact that it’s a visual platform; I love that it allows me to be a part of an incredible health and 

wellness community; I love that it lets me be creative; and I love that it’s a place where I can share my passions and my story with those who may not know me. With all this being said, there comes a point when social media is no longer a healthy part of our lives and it’s time to take a break. Instagram is great, but it’s not interchangeable with real life. It’s not fully reflective of our inner, authentic selves, the incredible people that we are, and the journey that we’re on. Life and its nuances, joys, mishaps, setbacks, and magic do not live online. They live beyond the screen in a world that’s much less complicated and a lot more real.

 
the breaking point

the impact of social media

I had reached a breaking point. And hour after hour I found myself staring at my iPhone screen, wishing that I was as talented as her, or had photography skills like her, or could plate my food like him. I became submissive to waves of negative thoughts, which somehow managed to make me forget all about the incredible social presence that I had spent so many hours building and had once felt proud of. The posting was no longer fun; it no longer excited me, it just felt necessary in order to keep up with everyone else. Pushing through the mental exhaustion felt like my only option because the alternative was guilt—an emotion that I’ve wrestled with most of my adult life.

The social media platform that used to excite me and ignite my passions actually began to tear me and my self-esteem apart. And it did so in a relentless pattern that I felt I had no control over. I couldn’t stop—it was my connection to an elite world and a career that I’d been dreaming of for years. Or so this is what I told myself.

 

When your job is on social, you can’t just drop it

the impact of social media

In addition to food blogging for fun, I also work 40 hours a week on social media. I’m a freelancer, and I run the social accounts of four different small, independent food companies based out of Vancouver. This means that over 60% of my day is spent online, engaging, posting, interacting, liking, and commenting on social media. And I won’t sugar coat it—it’s too much. How many hours can the average person spend online, looking at perfectly curated images of other people’s lives before they start to lose sight of the joys of their own? I think I found my answer.

With heightened anxiety levels, low self-esteem, a distorted view of my own accomplishments,  and growing concerns for whether or not I would be able to “leave my mark” without spending all my time on social media, I decided to take a break. I still had to work online to pay the bills, yes, but I took a break from the guilt. And the comparisons. And the false belief that in order to keep up, we’re not allowed to stop. Because if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that this is nothing but false.

 

7 days later

I took one week away from social media to detox and clear my mind. Just like we take a break from unhealthy food and alcohol to cleanse the body, we need to cleanse the mind in a similar way. As much as we might convince ourselves otherwise, we’re not meant to consume the vast amounts of information that we do online. And when this information is in the form of picture perfect photos and videos that tell only the smallest story of someone else’s authentic life, we’re headed for failure and burn out.

 

take a social media refresh

the impact of social mediaI set boundaries for myself that allowed me to not only relax and feel guilt-free, but I also began to enjoy the content I was creating for my blog, the photos I was taking of my food, and the moments I shared with people around me. I was free of the guilt and the constant need to document my life in a certain way. And damn, did it feel good.

I encourage you to take a social media refresh. Not just to reset your creativity, but to also reset your mind and the lens through which you view social media content. We’re made to live in the present and the now, and if we can integrate social media into this picture without allowing it to interfere with our real-life interactions and well being, then we’ll be well on our way to creating something beautiful both online and offline.

 

the impact of social media

 

Roslyn Kent is the Founder of But First, Plants. She’s on a journey to become a Holistic Nutritionist and you can keep up with her latest recipes, adventures and wellness pursuits by following her on Instagram – after your social media refresh, that is!

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:

[1] http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797616645673

[2] http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/the-teenage-brain-on-social-media

[3] http://www.infocoponline.es/pdf/SOCIALMEDIA-MENTALHEALTH.pdf