Human beings are social creatures. Whether we consider ourselves introverts or extroverts, we all want - and need - social connection. Fortunately, with today’s technology, it’s easy to stay digitally connected to friends, family, classmates, coworkers, etc. and at the peak of COVID-19, these options were a blessing! However, it’s important to remember that these digital tools and social media are not a replacement for real-world, in-person human connection.
“It requires in-person contact with others to trigger the hormones that alleviate stress and make you feel happier, healthier, and more positive. Ironically for a technology that’s designed to bring people closer together, spending too much time engaging with social media can actually make you feel more lonely and isolated—and exacerbate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression (helpguide.org).”
How we interact with the world impacts our emotions. For many of us, social media plays a significant role in our lives. Pathfinders Pastoral Care Ministries is sharing how social media can impact our mental health - positively and negatively.
Positive Aspects of Social Media
The most significant - and obvious - benefit of social media is its ability to connect us with a larger community. Whether it’s connecting us with family across the country or introducing us to people across the globe, social media creates the unique opportunity to have connection in the palm of your hand.
Social media has also changed the way we learn and discover. From news outlets to online classes, social media makes it easy to stay up-to-date on current events, find new learning opportunities, and share our own experiences and knowledge.
From health scares to global crises, many of us feel like we’re surrounded by bad news. Fortunately, social media provides an outlet for sharing positive news. Whether an update on your grandchildren, a birth announcement, or a simple bible verse, consuming positive news stories can decrease stress levels and increase your overall heart health.
Negative Aspects of Social Media
Part of social media is consuming information about other people’s lives. Who just bought a new house, who just got engaged, who just started a new job; these updates make it easy to compare our own accomplishments. As a result, we perpetuate the idea that we’re inadequate or “failing” at life.
“A study at the University of Pennsylvania found that high usage of Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram increases rather than decreases feelings of loneliness (helpguide.org).” For those living with mental health issues, social media can heighten feelings of anxiety and depression.
Social media can act as a mask for many, making it easier to say hurtful or hateful things. Exposure to these types of comments and content can chew away at our self-esteem, self-worth, and overall self-image.
“Social media platforms are designed to snare your attention, keep you online, and have you repeatedly checking your screen for updates.. But, much like a gambling compulsion or an addiction to nicotine, alcohol, or drugs, social media use can create psychological cravings (helpguide.org).”
A 2018 study found that reducing social media use to 30 minutes a day resulted in a significant reduction in levels of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and sleep problems. However, if that’s too significant, the same study found that just being more mindful of your social media use can have beneficial results on your mood and focus.
At Pathfinders Pastoral Care Ministries, our Christian counselors specialize in helping individuals improve their mental wellbeing and discover effective strategies that work for them. Contact us to learn more about how this type of counseling could benefit you or someone in your life.