Is Social Media Hurting Your Self-Esteem and Mental Health?

For something that is used so often and by so many, can it really be that bad?

Sad woman looking at social media on her phone.

You’ve probably heard a rumor or two about the negative effects of social media. Does social media truly affect your mental health and self-esteem? According to different studies and research, social media has indeed been linked to higher levels of loneliness, envy, anxiety, depression, and stress.

But why? What is it about social media sites, which were made to bring people together, that ironically makes them even more lonely and hinders their ability to truly connect with others?

The drive to gain “likes” and followers creates a false impression of the world and has negative effects on mental health. Those who find themselves in this category often make toxic comparisons between themselves and those they follow online, and they come face-to-face with society’s perceptions of perfectionism, which is never truly obtainable.

The average person spends more than two hours a day scrolling through social media feeds. For a lot of people, that number of hours spent scrolling is much higher. A new study shows that to improve or sustain your mental health, you should reduce your social media time to 30 minutes a day or less.

Related: Screen Time for Children: How Much Is Okay?

There’s a whole world offline that you are missing out on because of the addictive and enticing social media universe. While social media is a great way to connect with friends and family, promote positive messages, share hilarious memes, and even grow your business, it should be used in moderation—like all good things.

If used wisely and moderately, you can scroll through your newsfeed filled with your friends’ baby announcements, engagements, and vacations with a smile on your face—feeling content with the direction your life is headed. However, you can also find yourself mindlessly scrolling and becoming resentful of others because of what you perceive you lack.

Taking time away from social media is a great way to unwind and reconnect with yourself. It can also improve your mental health. You’ll have a newfound appreciation for your life and may find you actually do have time to take up that new hobby or get back to an old one.

3 ways to reduce social media use

Even if you do use social media in moderation, you can continue to cut down on the time spent scrolling through the feeds, allowing you more time to be present in the moment. Here are three ways to reduce your social media use.

  1. Delete apps off your smartphone
    Having apps on your phone makes it easier to open them at a moment’s notice (and soon, you’ve just lost an hour scrolling through mindless posts). You can still log in through the web or from a desktop computer if there’s something you need to check. If this is too big of a commitment for you, try placing the apps somewhere that is more difficult to get to. For example, you may place the apps on the last screen and if you want to use them, you’ll have to swipe through your screens before accessing the apps.

  2. Abide by etiquette boundaries
    If you’re speaking with someone face-to-face, resist the urge to use your phone or another device. Make it a rule not to have devices during mealtime. Change notification settings. Turn off anything that isn't essential except for direct messages or mentions, that way you’re only getting notified when a real person is messaging you.

  3. Set limits
    Determine how long you’ll allow yourself to be on social media a day and block out time that your focus needs to be elsewhere. If you are at work, you can place your phone in a desk drawer or out of sight. You won’t be tempted to grab it if you don’t see it. Also, don’t keep your phone within reach of your bed—this will help you not use your phone before bedtime and first thing when you wake in the morning. Use a separate alarm clock other than your device to keep you from reaching for your phone on your nightstand.

Pretty soon, you’ll be back in control of how much you’re on your smartphone and you’ll be more mindful about social media use.

Related: 4 Reasons to Ditch Your Device

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