Sep 21, 2021 | Updated: 07:19 PM EDT

Social Media and Mental Health: How Technology Affects Wellbeing

Jul 15, 2021 04:53 PM EDT

If you look at the online habits of most teenagers and young adults, you'll quickly find that social media has become a dominant pastime of a huge chunk of internet users around the world. Social media refers to platforms that allow members to share information and content with others in an online network, and these platforms include such popular apps and sites as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Discord, and even LinkedIn.

While social media platforms have allowed individuals to be more connected today than ever before in the course of human history, these platforms also worsen or encourage a wide variety of mental health issues. It's important to be mindful of the risks of social media sites to minimize the harmful effects of social media on your mental health. In order to help you better understand these risks, here are five mental health illnesses and conditions that social media contributes to in a negative way.

Histrionic Personality Disorder

Histrionic Personality Disorder (or HPD) is characterized by an excessive desire for attention. It's usually propagated through various behaviors and tendencies deemed inappropriate or otherwise inhibitive to a person's everyday routine and functions. Histrionic Personality Disorder symptoms include individuals with a tendency to manipulate social situations so that they are the center of attention, excessively provocative or flirtatious behavior, emotional instability, dramatic actions, and body language, and an extreme need for external validation and approval by others.

While direct causes of HPD are not known, experts generally attribute HPD to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Even though social media is not directly linked to the development of HPD, social media has been shown to worsen the effects of HDP by offering ample opportunities for individuals suffering from HPD to seek external validation and approval, making treatment more difficult.

Individuals suffering from HPD may also be more vulnerable to other harmful effects of social media. Their disorder can compound their feelings of rejection, isolation, and anxiety when these individuals with HPD do not obtain the validation or attention they crave through social media. For their wellbeing, individuals with symptoms of HPD should try to stay away from excessive social media use and seek help from a mental health professional.

Anxiety

Social media may make it easier to share your life with the rest of the world, but that's not always a good thing. Heavy social media use has been shown to increased feelings of anxiety in individuals, due in part to a constant feeling of being judged and scrutinized by peers, especially in young adults and teenagers. Social media platforms also encourage users to constantly be in a state of artificiality, pressuring users to try to portray their own lives in as positive a light as possible in photographs, videos, and posts.

Additionally, social media use can harm individuals with social anxiety disorders by inducing overreliance on virtual rather than face-to-face social interactions, prohibiting individuals with social anxiety from attempting to overcome their anxiety in public spaces and real-life interactions. Texts and online comments can also cause anxiety in individuals due to a lack of tone or body language, vital aspects of in-person communication.

Depression

The use of social media has also been linked to increased instances of depression in users, as well. Indeed, there are many consequences of social media use that can contribute to a heightened risk of depression. For instance, many teenagers (and young adults) often find it difficult to go to sleep at an appropriate time due to the ever-present stimuli of social media, resulting in less sleep and poorer quality sleep over time.

In turn, this can lead to increased feelings of sadness, fatigue, or even the eventual development of clinical depression. Furthermore, social media also makes it harder for these vulnerable demographics to detach from social interactions and communities. This can make it even more difficult for these individuals to take time for themselves and gain some perspective outside of their online social media groups.

Isolation

Ironically, a platform designed to make social interactions and connections easier has actually been shown to create greater feelings of isolation and loneliness among users. Social interaction doesn't just mean talking or sharing information with other people. Instead, real-life social interactions have so much more to them. Facial expressions, body language, physical touch, laughter, smiles, emotions... all these vital components of interaction are lost when using social media.

It's important to remember that social media is only an augment to actual social interaction, not a replacement for it. You still need to carve out time in your day to spend with your friends, no matter how high your Snapchat streaks with them are. Unfortunately, prolonged loneliness can have a variety of dangerous long-term effects on your physical and mental health.

Dissatisfaction

Finally, social media can increase feelings of dissatisfaction in individuals, lowering their overall happiness. Social media accounts represent an artificial construction of what others want you to think their lives are like. Each person's social media profile exaggerates the good parts of their lives while hiding the bad parts. Unfortunately, individuals reflecting on their own lives have no such convenient filter to hide inconvenient truths.

This can lead to individuals making unfair comparisons between their real lives and the online profiles of other people, resulting in greater feelings of jealousy and sadness. The comparison trap can also make them start to feel discontent about their own lives, picking apart any perceived flaws in it. Depression can soon follow, further compounded by these negative emotions. Because of this, it's especially vital to be aware of the potential mental health risks of social media.

By staying attuned to your own relationship with social media, you can be more mindful of the way you spend time on the internet and use these social media platforms in your day-to-day life. That's not to say that technology can't be good for your health, though. However, while social media is convenient, it's equally (if not more) important to socialize with friends and loved ones outside the confines of social media platforms as well. Indeed, something as simple as a hug or smile -- one from the real world, of course -- can ultimately help you feel much better.

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