Social Media’s Influence on Emotions
You reconnect with an old friend, view pictures of a friend’s wedding on an exotic island, post videos of your kids’ dance performance – social media has integrated into our lives as a platform to express ourselves. While it has benefited us in countless ways by making communication easier and bringing together communities in times of distress, there’s another side to it we can’t ignore. As social media continues to mature and evolve, it plays an increasingly bigger role in our lives, and we may not realize how much we depend on it. Do you mindlessly scroll through social media feeds for minutes at a time or even hours? With so much time spent “virtually” and on-line, have you thought about your mental health and emotional well-being, and how it could be jeopardized? While conclusive findings may be limited, ongoing research is confirming that too much time spent on social media may not be in the best interest of our collective psychology.
Excessive Social Media Use: What it Does
The negative effects of social media go beyond affecting young kids and teenagers. Adults too are impacted. Studies have shown that extensive social media use among adults may have damaging results for mental and emotional well-being.
Do frequent notification alerts from your mobile device make it difficult to stay focused and on task? Experts have come to agree that social media use can be addictive. A study conducted by Nottingham Trent University looked at earlier research conclusions regarding addiction criteria attributed to some people with excessive use of social media networks. The study concluded that extensive use of social media can lead to a neglect of personal life, mental preoccupation, escapism and unstable mood. A study from Swansea University found people to experience psychological withdrawal symptoms and angst when they stopped using their digital devices. Other studies suggest the more we engage in social media, the less happy we seem to feel, with a generally lower sense of spontaneous happiness and life satisfaction, and increased feelings of social isolation.
In today’s climate, our social media discourse resembles an endless stream of stress. Those who are glued to their social media feeds also have an increased awareness of other people’s stress, which may induce feelings of grief. Reading what others post could also bring rise to feelings of envy, loneliness, and general hopelessness. For example, reading a post of a friend’s child making the honor roll may make you feel inadequate as a parent, if your child didn’t reach that mark. Or maybe seeing pictures of your ex-partner’s happiness in a new relationship may conjure up feelings of jealousy. Mood can swing, which may cause higher levels of restlessness and worry, which may in turn lead to difficulties in sleeping and concentration.
Teenagers are Particularly Sensitive
It’s well known that teenagers are highly vulnerable to social stress, including that brought on by social media. Their sense of self is shifting radically as they struggle with self-image, social relationships and uncertainty about educational and career goals looming closer. Judging self against classmates and social peers is bad enough in person, but comparing your life to the glowing images posted online or not receiving support for your own postings can add an intense layer of sadness and feelings of inadequacy. Bullying on the playground can create distress in elementary school, but cyberbullying is even more damaging and dangerous.
What Can Be Done?
Social media use affects people differently, depending on an individual’s personality traits and pre-existing conditions. Excessive use or exposure, as in all other pursuits, may be inadvisable.
Leave it out of the bedroom. Obsessively “checking” social media feeds and updates may contribute to disturbed sleep. And lack of sleep can lead to restlessness and despair.
Take a break from social media. Allocate time daily for family activities free of social media. Spend more time talking to one another, sharing meals at the dinner table together as a family, and engaging in non-digital entertainment.
Attend a class or go to a social outing that forces you to take a break from social media.
And if your child or teenager has a hard time letting go, set limits yourself and be consistent in enforcing them. Sometimes a daily break is enough, but in extreme cases, taking a long-term break may be very beneficial.
All of these could help reduce stress, boost psychological well-being and improve inter-personal communications.
If you would like additional information and guidance on this topic, please consider these resources written by Dr. Gregory Jantz, our partner in developing our Hope & Possibility targeted natural supplements and founder of The Center ∙ A Place of Hope: “Ten Tips for Parenting the Smartphone Generation” or “#hooked”.
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