Silence your cellphones and live life

Noelle Texidor, Opinion Columnist

Remember the last time you stayed up late scrolling through your phone? You may have been on one of many social media sites, staring at pictures of people with seemingly perfect lives. Perhaps as you continued to scroll, you began to feel like your life wasn’t nearly as glamorous or exciting. To that end, your mental health may have suffered.

In fact, there are multiple studies indicating that heavy social media use can lead to an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm and even suicidal thoughts. These negative effects on your mental health necessitate a break from social media.

A common negative aspect of social media is feeling inadequate about your life or appearance. Even if you’re aware that the images you see on social media are exaggerated, they can still make you feel insecure about the way you look or what’s taking place in your life. You might know logically that people tend to share only the best parts of themselves and their lives online, but that won’t prevent you from feeling jealous and dissatisfied while scrolling through Twitter. 

According to mental health counselor Bisma Anwar, “The more social media interactions you have instead of human interactions can increase your risk of developing or worsening depression, anxiety and other similar mood disorders.” Numerous studies have looked at the connection between depression and social media use. The results strongly suggest that depressive symptoms are much higher in relation to more time spent and intensity of use on social media platforms.

Anwar also points out several signs that one’s social media usage is becoming unhealthy: avoiding face-to-face interactions, priorities changing, getting more easily distracted at work, school or when with friends, experiencing cyberbullying, lacking the time to self-reflect or do things that promote personal growth, a suffering sleep schedule and engaging in risky behaviors. 

Another negative effect of social media usage is an increase in feelings of loneliness. Social media users often feel psychological distress as they realize that friends and loved ones are engaging in activities without them. In some instances, they may feel as though they’re outside of those activities looking in, especially if they weren’t asked to join. Social media may also be used more heavily by people, especially children and teenagers, who already feel isolated. Unless they are suffering from social media addiction, users may not be on feeds when they are with friends and family. However, when they are home, many users are more likely to scroll on their phones or other devices for longer periods of time. 

Heavy social media use is also linked to a higher rate of self-harm. Frequent users have a greater overall risk of experiencing depression and self-harming behaviors. Researcher Kayla Sheldon explains that, “The growing prevalence of self-harm behavior online and on common social media platforms can increase the chances that young people may discover self-harm content.” While a systematic review of online communities centered around self-harm found that a majority of these communities provide support and promote positive messages, there were many communities that exacerbate issues of self-harm behavior and ideation.

We need to minimize the negative impact that social media can have on mental health. Anwar recommends “being more mindful of how long you are on social media by using an app to track it, turning off notifications, removing some social media apps from your phone, leaving your phone out of reach when you go to bed or turning off your phone at certain times during the day.”

If you find that you’re spending increased time on various platforms, and you’re noticing negative side effects, it’s time to set some rules around how you use social media.