Is Social Media Affecting Your Mood and What Are The Signs?

Social media is an almost universally embedded aspect of modern life. It provides many benefits and enables us to stay connected 24/7 with our family, friends and loved ones wherever they are on the globe.

But how much do we really benefit from this technological revolution?

Many studies have found worrying trends linking use of social networking sites (SNS) with symptoms of anxiety or depression and an increased feeling of social isolation.

Why does social media use negatively affect us?

  1. Compare and Despair
    It has long been understood that we all have an inherent desire to evaluate our own abilities and performance. Often we lack anything external to impartially compare ourselves against so we tend to compare ourselves to those around us.Social media opens the possibilities of being able to compare yourself to a wide range of filtered, doctored images and information about people’s lives.

    It is little wonder that comparing yourself to an edited representation of others people’s lives on social media may leave you feeling self-conscious. You may even start to feel inadequate about your own life and seek to improve it or make it appear more perfect to match up to what is depicted online. If you understandably find yourself unable to make your life match up to the “picture-perfect” online platforms you may feel quite down or a sense of failure about yourself and your life.

  2. Fear of Missing Out
    Have you ever looked online at your friends and peers and felt their life is better than yours?Or wondered why you didn’t get invited to that dinner or get together?

    Or not quite got the “in-jokes” friends are posting online and felt worried that you weren’t part of the “in crowd” and were somehow being excluded by them?

    Or do you feel a bit distressed or worked up when you see your peers appearing to have more holidays and a richer social life than you?

    All of these concerns can indicate you are experiencing a Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). Research in Australia and worldwide has found FOMO generated by excessive social media use can affect your mental health leading to increased social anxiety and feelings of depression.

  3. Social Isolation
    New research has even found that increased use of social media may make you feel even lonelier. It found that if you use social networking sites for two hours a day, or longer, your chances of feeling socially isolated are twice as high. It is not yet know whether social media use leads to loneliness or whether lonely people are more likely to use social media for longer.

Possible signs that your social networking use may be affecting your mood:

  • Do you find yourself feeling jealous of your family or friends after using social media?
  • Do you compare yourself to others online and feel their life is better than yours?
  • Have you found your posts often contain negative language, which at times leads you to want to backtrack or even delete your posts?
  • Do you delete your posts if they do not get enough likes or comments?
  • Do you feel unable to limit or reduce your social media use despite repeated attempts to reduce it?
  • Do you feel anxious or distressed if you’re unable to access social networking sites due to the situation you are in or technological issues?
  • Does your social media use impact on your sleeping patterns, eating habits or available free time?
  • Does your social media use impact on the time you have available for real life social interactions?
  • Do you find yourself checking people’s profiles before you meet them for the first time and this only seems to increase your feelings of stress and insecurity around meeting them?
  • Do you often find yourself getting into arguments with “friends” online leading you to “defriend” them or find others are regularly “defriend”ing you?

If you answer yes to a number of these questions it may be helpful for you to think about your social networking use and its impact on your life and real life relationships.

What can I do to help myself?

One-way to tackle FOMO or compare and despair process would be to define your own individual idea of what “success” is and how to measure it. By holding your own values more firmly in mind you will have more internal resilience in the face of unrealistic images of life on social media.

The internet is literally awash with “experts” in fitness, fashion, style, health, diet, travelling, cooking, motor cars, design, renos etc. If you are comparing your life against an online “expert” you could expect to eventually find yourself lacking in some way. Remember that the success of these blogs, or websites is based on the blogger demonstrating their expertise in their chosen field. It would be helpful to remind yourself who you are stacking yourself up against when you find yourself feeling low or overwhelmed after using social media.

If you look at your friends and family on-line and are left concerned that the quality of their life is “better” than your own. Pause and remind yourself that most people are posting a polished version of the “good” stuff. You probably wouldn’t want to post a picture of yourself slouched on the couch surfing the TV and most of your friends and loved ones wouldn’t either! Keep in mind that people are usually posting the “best” bits about their life and some are even editing/enhancing their selfie’s/images using technology widely available on their phones.

It may also be useful to think about yourself and your own tendencies in relation to the possible impact of social media. If you often compare yourself negatively to others or currently feel unhappy with an aspect of your life, browsing social networking sites may only increase your feeling that other people are having more fun and not inviting you along to the party. This could understandably lead you to ruminate on your life or increase your negative thoughts about yourself.

Reflect honestly about how social media use may trigger, or reinforce your current patterns of thinking or behaviour to gain some objectivity and self-awareness. If you are able to do this, you give yourself the possibility of taking control back and making changes that will reduce social media’s impact on your life.

Another area to be honest with yourself about is how you use social media. Most research indicates it’s not solely the amount of time you spend on social media that determines how it impacts on you but the quality of how you relate to it. If you find yourself consumed by thoughts around using social media whether you are online or not; or are constantly looking for opportunities to go online despite knowing it’s causing issues in your real life relationships, work, lifestyle, health or finances; it may be time to question whether you are compulsively using social media and how much actual control you have over your use. A research study has even found that social media is more addictive than cigarettes.

If you are thinking of going cold turkey you are not alone. The Guardian recently asked their readers about their experiences of giving up social media and you may find it helpful to read some of their responses.

If you have tried to quit and can’t and realise social media is making you more anxious or down on yourself and is even adversely affecting your life seek help. Get out, meet up and talk in person with your friends, colleagues or family. If you are concerned about any matters arising from this article you could also try getting professional help or support.


Mark Tonkinson




Category : Anxiety & Blog & Mood & Self Esteem & Social Media & Stress Reduction

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