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How social media affects your mental health

Wellness By Audrey Masitsa

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With the increased use of social media platforms, it has become progressively easier to access information about your friends and life as a whole. Smart phones have made this even easier since this information is in the palm of your hand. While social media has benefited businesses and individuals, there are disadvantages to using it too much.

A study by Nottingham Trent University found that people who use social media excessively tend to exhibit traits of addiction like tolerance and concealing addictive behaviour, mental preoccupation, neglect of personal life and escapism.

Below are ways in which social media affects your mental health.

1.  Depression and anxiety

Excessive use of social media can lead to depression and anxiety. A survey done on Generation Z revealed that out of 1,000 people interviewed, one third quit social media because it made them feel anxious, sad or depressed.

Getting too involved in other people’s lives can have an adverse effect on you. A study published on Guilford Press found that comparing your life to friends who are doing better or worse than you is linked to depression.

These “perfect” lives which we see on social media can increase feelings of envy and jealousy which can in turn lead to depression.

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2. Self-esteem

Social media makes it easy to keep abreast of everything that your friends are doing. Seeing perfectly edited photos of your peers can intensify feelings of insecurity and increase self-doubt.

A study by the University of Copenhagen found that people who steered away from Facebook were more satisfied with their lives. You will no doubt begin to compare yourself to your friends who seem to be doing better than you. This will tear down your self-esteem and make you dissatisfied with your life.

3. Sleep

Many people spend a lot of time on social media, particularly at the end of the day when they should be asleep. Increased feelings of anxiety and envy, just before sleeping, can prevent you from relaxing enough to sleep.

It has also been found that the light from your mobile phone prevents the formation of the sleep hormone, melatonin, which makes you tired. This will further interfere with your sleep.

It is recommended that you avoid touching your phone 40 minutes to one hour before you sleep.

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4. Social life

Inasmuch as social media aims to connect people more easily, it can also lead to isolation. Spending too much time online can make one perceive that they are isolated.

Virtual connections don’t necessarily mean that one has actual friends, a study published on The Royal Society stated. In order to maintain true friendships you need to have social interaction and since these are lacking in social media friendships it can lead to loneliness. Loneliness plays a big role in a decline in your mental health.

Because people feel the need to keep their followers updated on their activities throughout the day, you end up missing out on life as it happens. You are more focussed on taking the perfect photo instead of enjoying the moment.

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