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How Social Media Affects Mental Health

Since the advent of social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, a few studies about its effect on mental health have surfaced. For one, social media sites have evolved throughout the years, making it a one-stop-shop for everything you need. From the mere Harvard address book, rating how attractive one looks, Facebook is now a platform for almost anything. It has successfully created a demand for something that we didn't know we needed. The mere intention of Facebook at that time was considered Taboo. As much as everybody rated everybody on their physical appearance, talking about it out loud was deemed rude. But sharing your thoughts for everybody to see is something short of blasphemous. But now, people on social media make an effort to look better than everybody else. It is widely accepted, encouraged even.

Before social media, having a great time with friends and loved ones meant spending time with them. It meant real-life conversations over drinks or regular family lunches to catch up with their lives. Nowadays, we find comfort in knowing that an old friend and family is one video chat away. Apart from this, people tend to invest so much time and effort to make their profile look good - better than everyone else. Though this might be a good thing, this can be harmful to the people looking in from the outside. As much as social media has been a great platform to communicate with family and friends or a medium to share significant events and milestones in your lives, its harmful effect on mental health overweighs its positive impact. Studies have shown that social media addiction is real. It causes anxiety, depression and can cause thoughts of self-harm or, worse, suicidal thoughts.

The feeling of insecurity

Studies have shown that as much as we know that most selfies posted online are filtered, these images can cause insecure feelings towards one's self. Other than pictures, most life events posted online are highlights such as a promotion, a new car, or awards received for philanthropic works. Moreover, rarely do we see posts about low points of one's life. We all know everybody experiences those one way or the other, but not everyone posts them online. Despite that, the feeling of dissatisfaction and envy about yourself is still inevitable.

The fear of missing out

FOMO is not something new. But Twitter made sure that you don't get left out by highlighting Trending Topics. This feature of Twitter made sure that everybody is in the know. Though this may seem like a good thing, it can trigger anxiety and affect your self-esteem. FOMO in the age of social media keeps you picking your phones up to check what is happening. Doing so makes you distracted and unable to focus on what is happening in real life.

The feeling of isolation

Despite social media's offer of connectivity with family and friends, a study from the University of Pennsylvania found that the use of social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram can actually make you feel lonely rather than feeling included. It further explained that their sadness while browsing their social media feeds goes away by reducing usage.

Feeds depression and anxiety

Humans are social beings; this is how we are built. We love being with people and spending time with others, whether it be family or friends. Social media creates this artificial feeling of being connected, all the while making you prioritize your social media life over real-world interaction. This makes you susceptible to mood disorders which may lead to anxiety and depression.

Fosters self-centeredness and the feeling of rejection

Studies prove that getting likes on your posts triggers a little psychological high through the release of dopamine. Scientists think that dopamine is responsible for the feeling of pleasure; thus, the more likes we gain, the more pleasurable it is for us. Nowadays, likes are a sort of social standing. The more you are 'liked,' the more you think you are accepted by society. This can create a sense of self-centeredness, where you believe that everything you post should be liked by everyone else. On the other hand, receiving no likes develops a feeling of rejection. This can affect a person's self-esteem, making them more likely to overanalyze things about themselves.

So the question is, how do we stay mentally healthy when social media is all-around? The simplest answer to that question is to stay away from social media. It may be difficult, especially now that everything we need is online, but limiting your access to these sites can make a world of difference. The University of Pennsylvania study revealed that being mindful of your social media usage can have positive results on your mood and focus.

You can turn off notifications on your phone so that it doesn't continuously remind you to check it for updates. Leaving your phone away from your bed while you charge at night can help you reduce social media times during idle times. Or you can just turn off your cellphone totally while you're at it. These are just some ways you can improve your mental health by limiting yourself from social media time. Find one that works for you. We must never forget that nothing beats real-life interaction. What social media offers is something different from reality. Talking to a person while looking at them in the eye makes for better social interaction.

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