Social Media – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Social media has grown tremendously in the last few years and the influence and impact it has on people today is huge. By just clicking on social media, you are entering a world guaranteed to affect you. It has bought a lot of advantages to society, but it has also affected us in a negative way. A lot of us aren’t truly aware of the impact social media is having on our mental health, well-being and relationships. Although I knew social media often affected my mood, both positive and negative, until I wrote this post I never really thought about this affect in depth. I hope this post will help highlight the impact social media is having on your own health, and will encourage you to be aware of when social media is being beneficial to your well-being and when it isn’t. Here are the good, the bad, and the ugly impacts of social media:

The good:

  • It is an amazing way to connect with people online – One of the best things about social media is the ability to find and connect with people from anywhere in the world. I have found social media invaluable this year as there is a huge online M.E. community where I have met very supportive individuals. Instagram has helped me create so many friendships that have been indispensable and I am truly grateful to social media for allowing that to happen.
  • It helps you stay connected to friends and family – Not only does social media allow you to find and connect with new people, it is also a great way to stay in touch with friends from school or relatives who live halfway across the world. It keeps us connected across great distances, and helps us find people we’d lost touch with years ago. Social media has really been a lifeline for me this past year as I have been too unwell to see any of my friends or my grandparents, so it has enabled me to keep my connections and communication up with close friends and family without having to see them in person.

  • Find people with common interests – Social media is also a great way to find people who have similar interests to you, especially when you can’t find anyone in person. For example, I’ve found so many people online my age who also share a passion for meditation and mindfulness, and we often share tips and talk about how much it has helped us. I’ve also found lots of people on the Goodreads reading app who share my passion for reading, and we contribute our latest book reviews and recommendations with one another. Going online is a great way to share your passions with others and connect through your shared interests.
  • Location has no boundaries – I’ve had people message me from Australia, Canada, Texas, Philippines, Germany, and Italy, all saying they’ve read my blog post! It’s amazing to know anyone in the world can read my blog and we can connect with anyone instantly regardless of location.

  • Awareness – Social media is a great way to raise awareness for things such as causes or misunderstood illnesses. I was recently able to share a video for a trailer of the film “UNREST”, which is an award-winning documentary on M.E., and that alone got watched by over 700 people (and counting). With just a click of a button we can help raise awareness and educate people through the power of social media.
  • News spreads fast – Nowadays, social media is the main place people go to read and check the latest news. Although arguably, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter don’t always facilitate conversations around the important issues of the day, it is still helping people engage with what’s happening around the world and increasing people’s knowledge.

The bad:

  • Seeing the world through our screens – The increase in phone usage has meant we’re living less in the present moment and instead seeing the world through our screens rather than through our eyes, which makes it a lot harder to feel connected to others and the world around you.

  • We’re substituting it for face-to-face interaction – A lot of people argue that social media promotes antisocial behavior. Online interaction is being substituted for offline interaction, meaning instead of going to see a friend in person, you’re much more likely to just send a text. This results in losing out on the interaction of being physically present with another person in the real world.
  • Time waster and procrastination – How often do you pop onto your computer or phone to check an email, and end up spending an hour scrolling through Instagram or Facebook feeds? I’m going to say a lot. Browsing social media is addictive and can feed procrastination habits and become something people turn to in order to avoid certain tasks or responsibilities. It also means a lot of people can literally waste an entire day behind the screen, and as a result not do anything constructive with their day.
  • Distraction – Social media is a huge distraction for people, and because of this it is leading to all sorts of dangerous problems such as checking your phone whilst driving, walking across the road without properly scanning for cars, or even some extreme cases recently of people walking off cliffs because they were too busy looking at a device.
  • Sleep disruption – There is a definitive link between sleep disruption and social media, but it is still not understood which is causing what. Social media use could contribute to sleep problems, for example, staying up late to post or disrupting sleep through exposure to the bright light of the screen, or sleep problems could contribute to increase social media use, for example, using social media to pass time when you can’t sleep. It’s also very likely both could be occurring. Either way, it is a proven fact by many that people who check social media more frequently or spend more time on social media are more likely to experience sleep problems than those checking less frequently or spending less time online.

The ugly:

  • Social media can increase thoughts of loneliness, decrease self-esteem, and is linked with depression and anxiety –  There have been numerous studies supporting these claims, including studies that have found adults with high social media use (more than two hours a day) feel more socially isolated than those with lower social media use (no more than 30 minutes a day). There have also been studies to show photo-sharing apps such as Instagram can negatively impact people’s body image, and countless of other studies linking extended time on social media with depression and anxiety. To be honest, I don’t think we need studies to prove this, because a lot of us already know that feeling all too well, such as when we’ve spent too long on social media and come off it feeling rubbish and down in the dumps.
  • Fear of missing out – Fear of missing out has become such a wide known phenomenon that it’s now become an acronym: FOMO, and was added to the Oxford dictionary in 2013. FOMO can be defined as, “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere”, or “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”. High levels of FOMO are associated with lower levels of life satisfaction, increased feelings of being singled out, increased feelings of loneliness, and increased feelings of person inadequacy. Those who scored high in FOMO are more likely to use social media immediately before sleep, upon waking, and during meal times.

  • We compare our lives – The internet is full of people and images that can make us question our self-worth and compare/judge the lifestyles of others to our own. Regardless of how illogical these comparisons may be, such as comparing ourselves to a celebrity, our emotional responses to such images can be so strong that they completely overpower our sense of logic. Comparing our lives with others is mentally unhealthy and very damaging, and it will nearly always bring your mood down.
  • It can lead to jealously – Due to the comparison factor in social media, it often results in people becoming jealous and envious of others. Social media envy leaves you feeling down and miserable, and unfortunately this can often result in the “envy-cycle”: Seeing others on holiday in tropical locations, or having “the time of their life”, can make a person jealous, which in turn often means that person then posts a picture to make his or her life look better, therefore posting jealously inducing posts of their own, hence the cycle.
  • We get caught in the delusion of thinking social media will help – Part of the unhealthy cycle is that we keep coming back to social media, even though most of us already know it doesn’t make us feel very good. It is shown that people often use social media to relieve themselves of their loneliness, when it is often social media causing people to feel lonely. Social media becomes like a drug; we think getting a fix will help, but it makes us feel worse, and using it as an emotional lift is a very bad idea.

  • Social peer pressure – For people struggling to fit in with their peers, especially teens and young adults, the pressure to do certain things, act in a certain way, or dress in a certain way, can be even worse on social media than it is on any other offline setting. In some extreme cases, the overwhelming pressure to fit in with everyone posting on social media can lead to serious stress, anxiety and even depression. We allow social media and a virtual network of “friends” to influence our experience and behavior. We lose touch on individuality as so many of us want to conform to the norm, meaning many people don’t feel able to be their true selves which in turn makes them miserable.
  • The addiction is real – One of the biggest and must underrated problems with social media is that people are becoming more and more addicted to using it. Being addicted to social media is one of the root causes for all these problems listed, and it will have a serious impact on your life unless you admit you have a problem and try and do something about it.

I hope this post made you think about the effects social media is having on your mental health and wellbeing, and perhaps will encourage you to make some changes. In my next post we’ll talk about how to create a positive space on social media to help you have less of the bad and ugly effects with social media, and more of the good ones.

Metta, E xx

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2 thoughts on “Social Media – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”

  1. Great article Evie. I have a love hate relationship with social media. It has been my friend when I am bored or lonely very handy when killing time in the doctors waiting room or whilst waiting for a train. Sometimes it makes me anxious because I am wasting so much energy reading, scrolling, commenting and getting very fatigued, anxiety follows. I like to have at least one day a week where I do not use Facebook or text messaging but am always using WhatsApp to keep in contact with my immediate family members. If smart phones were banned and we went back to texting and calling only I would cope just fine.

    1. Thanks Kirstin!

      I think a lot of people have a love-hate relationship with social media. Same, I like to have one day a week or something go to the extreme of having a week off social media! Exactly, it’s still brilliant to be able to contact immediate family members.

      Thanks for your comments and thought! Hope you have a good weekend, Evie xx

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