Social media has revolutionized the way we communicate and access information today. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow users to stay in touch with friends, share their thoughts, access news in real time and become part of communities with individuals who share common interests.

All things considered, it’s easy to see why many view social media as a useful tool. However, there are others who are worried about the impact it can have on people’s lives - particularly their mental health. Let’s take a closer look at a few ways social media use can affect state of mind. If you’re concerned about your social media habits, we’ve got some tips to help you remain in control of your usage and limit the negative impact it can have on your life.

Excessive use

With viral videos and memes galore, it’s easy to lose track of how much time you spend using social media. While it’s a form of entertainment, much like watching TV or listening to music, it’s important to be wary of the negative impact excessive use can have on your mental health.

A study conducted by Michigan State University revealed a connection between heavy social media use and impaired, risky decision-making, likening the effect to the same impaired decisiveness found in the brains of people with substance abuse problems and gambling addiction.

The study surveyed 71 participants, with questions designed to measure their psychological dependence on Facebook. Users were asked about their preoccupation with the platform, their feelings when unable to use it, attempts to quit and the impact that Facebook has had on their job or studies.

The participants then proceeded to attempt the Iowa Gambling Task, an exercise used by psychologists to measure decision-making. To successfully complete the task, users identify outcome patterns in decks of cards to choose the best possible deck.

The results revealed that excessive social media users performed worse by choosing from bad decks. Conversely, participants with lower social media use did better in the task.

There are plenty of useful apps that help you to combat social media addiction by monitoring and managing the amount of time you’re spending online. iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users iOS 12 or later can use an app called Screen Time to manage their social media usage, in addition to overall device usage. Screen Time gives you real-time reports on time spent on apps, websites and more. This allows you to make more informed decisions about how you use social media, and set limits if you’d like to. Android users, on the other hand, have access to Digital Wellbeing, an app with similar features.

Social comparison

Humans have a natural tendency to compare themselves to others. There are even studies which suggest that individuals evaluate their own opinions and abilities by comparing themselves to others. Social media has been found to play a major role in these social comparisons.

Exposure to idealised images and curated snapshots of other people’s lives on social media can result in upward social comparisons, which results in more negative feelings about the self. Individuals who were otherwise content could develop a sense of dissatisfaction by labelling themselves as less successful, happy, or adventurous, in comparison to the individuals they follow on social media.

If you’d like to reduce your chances of falling prey to social comparison, you can make a conscious effort to change the type of content you view on social media.  Filter out content that might make you self-critical and replace it with more constructive, inspirational content or positive sources of instruction or education.


Using Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and similar social media apps to keep in touch with friends and build new connections can add vitality and communion to your life. However, studies suggest you are more likely to experience feelings of loneliness and inadequacy if you use social media as a substitute for real connection. But how can you feel disconnected when you’re constantly able to interact with other individuals on social media?

A survey of 55,000 people conducted by the BBC revealed that people who report high levels of loneliness don’t actually use social media any more often than other people. They do, however, use it differently. The study revealed that these individuals have more Facebook friends, who they are only friends with online and who don’t overlap with their real-life friends.

The participants were asked which solutions have worked for them or others they know in alleviating loneliness. Many of their responses pointed to maintaining or creating real-life connections. Suggestions included: joining a social club, starting conversations with strangers, and talking to friends and family.

For general information on mental health and to locate treatment services in your area, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA also has a Behavioral Health Treatment Locator on its website that can be searched by location.



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