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Social Media: The Surprising Effects of Social Media on Mental Health

Social media and mental health: Social media seems to rule our lives...but it also brings a lot of baggage with it. Read more in our blog.

Social Media: The Surprising Effects of Social Media on Mental Health

Table of Contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

August 1, 2023

The Edge Treatment Center

In the modern era, social media has seamlessly integrated into our culture. Social media is made up of various online platforms that foster connection, encourage sharing, and facilitate active participation.

With its widespread adoption, social media has transformed into a digital landscape where individuals can openly express their thoughts, emotions, and actions, making it an indispensable part of our everyday lives.

However, the potential implications of social media on mental health have garnered considerable attention, highlighting the need to acknowledge its adverse effects. In addition to their positive aspects of fostering connection and support, social media platforms have also emerged as hubs for illicit activities such as drug sales and exposure to inappropriate content.

This poses a grave danger, particularly for vulnerable age groups that may unintentionally encounter harmful material. We may better grasp the complexity involved and address the requirement for knowledge and appropriate usage by extensively evaluating social media's positive and negative effects on mental health.

What Are Some of the Risks of Social Media?

The detrimental impacts of social media can result in severe consequences, including anxiety, depression, and various other mental illnesses. Sometimes, the harm inflicted becomes overwhelming, necessitating professional assistance to effectively mitigate its impact on individuals' lives.

Social Media: The Plus Side of Social Media and Mental Health

The extensive reach of social media has undoubtedly produced positive results in various areas. One notable advantage is its ability to foster connections and create a sense of belonging. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have provided opportunities for individuals to establish and nurture relationships with acquaintances, loved ones, and even people from different parts of the world. This virtual interconnectedness has the potential to alleviate feelings of isolation and cultivate a sense of community.

Social media has emerged as a vital source of mental health support, particularly for marginalized communities. Online platforms have allowed individuals to find like-minded peers, share experiences, and advocate for their rights. It has become a platform for social activism, enabling individuals to raise awareness about important issues and mobilize for change.

Moreover, social media has facilitated positive mental health initiatives and awareness campaigns. Various organizations and individuals leverage these platforms to spread information, promote self-care practices, and reduce mental health stigma. Hashtags like #MentalHealthMatters, #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth, and #SelfCareSunday have gained significant traction, encouraging discussion and well-being.

Conversely, social media's positive impact can also have a darker side.

The Darker Side of Social Media

For many, social media has become a means to build careers and earn a livelihood. Influencers, content creators, and social media managers have turned their online presence into successful professions.

However, this pursuit of success can sometimes lead to ethical dilemmas. Some individuals may resort to unscrupulous tactics to gain virality and increase engagement, potentially compromising their integrity.

Furthermore, for those whose livelihood depends solely on social media, the pressure to constantly perform and maintain a lucrative online presence can take a toll on mental well-being. The fear of losing followers, negative comments, and the relentless pursuit of viral content can create immense stress and anxiety.

It is crucial to acknowledge that while social media may offer opportunities, it can also place individuals in a precarious position where their self-worth and income are deeply intertwined.

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Social Media and the Importance of a Critical Eye

In a nutshell, social media's positive effects cannot be ignored. It has facilitated connection, supported marginalized communities, and played a significant role in mental health advocacy. However, it is essential to recognize the potential pitfalls, such as the ethical challenges and the impact on individuals who rely on social media for their livelihood.

Striking a balance between the positive aspects and the potential risks is crucial for a healthy relationship with social media.

The Dark Side of Social Media: Recognizing the Negative Effects on Mental Health

While social media has its benefits, it is essential to acknowledge the negative effects it can have on mental health. One concerning aspect is social media addiction, which can have detrimental consequences.

Terminally Online: The Risks of Too Much Time Online

Excessive time spent on social media platforms can disrupt daily routines, impair productivity, and contribute to feelings of isolation and anxiety. The constant need for validation through likes, comments, and followers can create a cycle of dependency that negatively impacts one's well-being.

Harmful Behavior on Social Media and Its Effect on Mental Health

Cyberbullying, harassment, and trolling represent pervasive issues on social media platforms. The anonymity and physical distance afforded by the internet often entice individuals to partake in destructive behaviors, inflicting emotional distress and anguish upon their targets. The psychological ramifications of such online abuse can be profound, leading to heightened anxiety, melancholy, and even contemplation of suicide.

Also, the ubiquitous nature of social media exacerbates the challenge of evading these detrimental encounters, leaving individuals with limited avenues for escape.

Social Media: The Downside of Social Comparison

Social media also fuels the phenomenon of social comparison, where individuals compare themselves to others, and their seemingly perfect lives are showcased online. This constant comparison can erode self-esteem, trigger feelings of inadequacy, and contribute to the development of negative body image. The curated and filtered images often presented on social media can distort reality and create unrealistic beauty standards, further impacting individuals' mental well-being.

Social Media and Its Effects on Health

Excessive utilization of social media has been associated with sleep patterns and general well-being disturbances. The emission of blue light from screens can disrupt the body's natural sleep cycle, resulting in challenges in initiating sleep and obtaining optimal rest.

Furthermore, the constant exposure to meticulously curated and frequently unrealistic depictions of others' lives can engender sentiments of discontent and inadequacy, thereby intensifying stress levels and provoking anxiety.

Why Recognizing These Effects of Social Media Is Important

Recognizing these negative effects and taking steps to mitigate their impact is crucial. Implementing healthy social media habits, such as setting boundaries, taking digital detoxes, and prioritizing offline connections, can help restore balance and protect mental well-being. Promoting digital literacy and empathy on social media platforms can also foster a safer and more supportive online environment.

By being aware of the potential risks and actively practicing self-care, individuals can navigate the social media landscape more mindfully and protect their mental health.

Mental Health Conditions and Social Media

The correlation between mental health conditions and social media entails a complex and multifaceted dynamic. Anxiety disorders, in particular, are frequently impacted by social media usage. The continuous exposure to meticulously crafted showcases of highlights and the expectation to uphold an impeccable online persona can incite sentiments of inadequacy and anxiety.

Worse, the fear of missing out (FOMO) triggered by witnessing others' seemingly gratifying lives can intensify these symptoms.


Depression is a mental health condition that has been associated with the utilization of social media. Excessive engagement on social media platforms can induce a state of social comparison, instigating discontent and diminished self-esteem. Furthermore, the online sphere can perpetuate a culture where validation is sought primarily through likes and comments, establishing a cycle of seeking external affirmation that can exacerbate depressive symptoms.

Feelings of Isolation

Social media platforms can also contribute to sentiments of loneliness and social isolation, which presents a paradox considering their promise of fostering connections. Engaging in comparisons between one's social life and the seemingly lively and active online presence of others can amplify feelings of loneliness and isolation.

This effect is particularly pronounced when individuals perceive themselves as falling short compared to the social experiences portrayed online.

Feelings of Low Self-Worth

The influence of social media on self-worth can be substantial, frequently playing a role in the development of conditions such as eating disorders. Persistent exposure to idealized and digitally altered images can distort individuals' perception of their body image, promoting unrealistic beauty ideals.

Consequently, this can give rise to an excessive preoccupation with appearance, disordered eating patterns, and an adversarial connection with food and body image.

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Why Recognizing the Impact of Social Media on Mental Health Is Important

It is imperative to acknowledge the potential influence of social media on mental health and proactively take measures to safeguard oneself. This encompasses cultivating a healthy rapport with social media, such as establishing boundaries on usage, prioritizing self-care practices, and being mindful of the content consumed.

Seeking assistance from mental health experts and cultivating offline relationships can contribute significantly to overall well-being. Social media platforms can play a pivotal role by promoting positive body image, fostering supportive communities, and implementing robust measures to combat cyberbullying and harassment.

Impact of Social Media on Specific Demographics

Social media has distinct impacts on various demographic groups, including children and adolescents, men's and women's body image perception, and the mental health of older adults. 

Social Media: Children & Adolescents

Among children and adolescents, social media can offer benefits such as connecting with peers, exploring interests, and accessing educational resources.

However, there are potential risks, including cyberbullying, exposure to inappropriate content, and negative effects on self-esteem and body image due to the pervasive culture of comparison.

Social Media: Body Image

Social media substantially influences body image perception, impacting both men and women. The proliferation of extensively edited and idealized visuals can foster the adoption of unrealistic beauty ideals and instigate dissatisfaction with one's body. Women often encounter pressure to conform to thinness standards, while men may grapple with body image concerns associated with muscularity.

The constant exposure to these unattainable benchmarks can contribute to developing body dysmorphia, disordered eating patterns, and a detrimental effect on self-esteem and mental well-being.

Social Media: Mental Health

Social media's impact on mental health extends to older adults, emphasizing the importance of this demographic. While social media can provide avenues for connection and mitigate feelings of isolation and loneliness in some older adults, others may feel inundated or excluded due to these platforms' fast-paced and technology-driven nature. These emotions can exacerbate social isolation and have detrimental consequences on mental well-being.

Additionally, older adults may be particularly vulnerable to online scams, misinformation, or targeted advertising, leading to financial stress and anxiety.

Understanding Social Media and Its Impacts on Us

Understanding the impact of social media on specific demographic groups is crucial for promoting their mental well-being. Implementing age-appropriate online safety measures, digital literacy programs, and mental health support tailored to children, adolescents, and older adults can mitigate potential risks and enhance the positive aspects of social media use.

Encouraging body positivity, fostering healthy online communities, and promoting media literacy can contribute to more positive body image perceptions among men and women. Lastly, providing support and education to older adults on safe internet practices and facilitating inclusive and accessible social media experiences can help alleviate mental health concerns in this demographic.

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What Causes Unhealthy Social Media Use?

One of the most common causes of unhealthy social media use is comparison. It can be difficult to resist comparing ourselves to others when constantly exposed to carefully curated pictures, stories, and lives on social media. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and even depression when it seems like everyone else has a perfect life.

Another cause of unhealthy social media use is a lack of online safety or privacy. With so much personal information available on social media, it can be easy to forget that it is often publicly accessible. This can lead to potential data breaches, identity theft, and other issues for users who may not have taken the proper security precautions when setting up their accounts.

Finally, the overuse of social media can have a negative impact on mental health. It can be difficult to take a break from the constant stream of notifications and messages, leading to feelings of anxiety or loneliness. Spending too much time online also detracts from other important activities such as exercise, studying, and socializing with peers in real life.

These factors all contribute to an unhealthy relationship with social media, which can be addressed by taking conscious steps to limit usage and create healthier online habits. This may include setting up social media accounts with strong passwords, avoiding comparing oneself to others, and establishing boundaries for when and how much time is spent on each platform.

Taking a break from social media every once in a while can also help restore balance and perspective.

Fear of Missing Out: How FOMO Is Driven By Social Media

The term “Fear Of Missing Out” (FOMO) has become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to describe the anxiety felt when someone is not able to attend an event, activity, or conversation. This feeling is often intensified by the constant updates and notifications from social media networks, which can make it difficult to take a break from what others are doing.

FOMO is driven by the fact that social media gives us constant access to what our peers or people we admire are up to. This can lead to feelings of being left out and not “measuring up”, as well as a need to constantly be informed about the latest news and trends.

The best way to combat FOMO is by understanding that social media does not always depict reality. It’s important to remember that everyone experiences highs and lows in life, even if they don't post about it on Instagram or Twitter. Taking breaks from social media can help alleviate the pressure of being constantly connected, and focusing on personal goals instead of comparing oneself to others can go a long way in reducing feelings of anxiety.

It's also important to remember that life is not a competition, and it doesn't matter which events or experiences one has attended. Taking time to enjoy the present moment and appreciate what one already has can help lessen the feeling of FOMO. Additionally, spending time with friends and family without being distracted by devices can be effective to reduce feelings of loneliness and disconnection.

The key is to remember that social media is not a reflection of reality, but rather just one part of it. While it can be tempting to continuously scroll through feeds looking for validation or entertainment, it's important to take breaks and focus on the things that truly matter.

What Are the Signs of Social Media Harming Your Mental Health?

It is important to be aware of the signs that social media use may be harming your mental health. These can include:

  • Feeling anxious or isolated when not connected to social media

  • Feeling like you need to constantly check for notifications and updates

  • Comparing yourself to others on social media and feeling inadequate

  • Spending more time than intended on social media

  • Feeling jealous or resentful when seeing posts from friends or peers

  • Becoming overly concerned with the number of likes, comments, and followers one has.

If you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone close to you, it is important to take steps to address them. This may include setting limits for time spent on social, forming stronger relationships with friends in real life, and finding activities to do that don’t involve devices. It is also important to recognize when it is time to take a break from social media and find healthier ways to cope with feelings of anxiety or loneliness.

By connecting with peers offline, focusing on self-care activities such as exercise or meditation, and unplugging when needed, it is possible to break the cycle of unhealthy social media use and regain balance in life.

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Would you like more information about the impact of social media on mental health? Reach out today.

How Can Parents Help Their Kids Stay Safe on Social Media?

Parents can play an important role in helping their children stay safe on social media. The first step is education: talking with kids about the dangers that are present on social media and helping them understand how to use it responsibly. This includes explaining the importance of online privacy, setting boundaries for device usage, and helping kids identify when content is inappropriate or potentially harmful.

Parents should also set up their own accounts on the same platforms as their children so they can monitor what they’re accessing. This allows parents to stay aware of what their children are seeing and protect them from potential dangers. Additionally, it’s a good idea to keep devices in shared areas of the house so parents can monitor usage more easily.

Finally, it is important for parents to practice healthy social media habits themselves. Kids will often imitate the behaviors of adults they look up to, so setting a good example is essential. This may include limiting screen time, setting boundaries for online conversations, and emphasizing the importance of digital citizenship.

By taking these steps, parents can ensure that their children are using social media safely and responsibly. It is also important to remember that social media can be a great way to stay connected with family and friends while learning about different topics or cultures

Strategies for Promoting Positive Mental Health on Social Media

To promote positive mental health on social media, adopting strategies that maintain a healthy relationship with these platforms is important.

Setting boundaries, such as limiting screen time and designating device-free periods, helps establish a balanced approach. Practicing self-care activities, both online and offline, allows for self-reflection and rejuvenation.

Additionally, taking regular digital detoxes and breaks from social media can provide much-needed respite and reduce feelings of overwhelm.

Cultivating a positive online environment involves promoting empathy and kindness, engaging in respectful interactions, and avoiding online conflicts. By implementing these strategies, individuals can foster a healthier and more uplifting social media experience.

Why Is It Important to Seek Professional Help for the Effects of Social Media on Mental Health?

Social media's negative impact on mental health can be serious, leading to the development of a variety of mental diseases. Recognizing the significance of these repercussions and the need for professional help to address them is critical.

The human mind is a complicated and fragile area, and the effect of social media can worsen or even precipitate pre-existing mental health difficulties. Anxiety disorders, sadness, and body dysmorphia can all be directly linked to the use and influence of social media platforms. Moreover, social media's negative impact can intertwine with other challenges, such as substance abuse.

Mental illness and drug addiction often co-occur, creating a problematic cycle that exacerbates the other. Influencers and peers may normalize drug use or depict it as an escape, leading vulnerable individuals to seek solace in substances.

Additionally, social media can facilitate easy access to drugs, further perpetuating the problem. This cyclic nature underscores the interconnectedness of mental health and substance abuse, underscoring the significance of addressing both concurrently.

In such cases, seeking professional assistance becomes imperative.

How Professional Help Can Make All the Difference

Mental health professionals possess the expertise, skills, and knowledge to provide an accurate diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and support. They can help individuals navigate the intricate interplay between mental health, social media, and co-occurring challenges such as substance abuse. Attempting to tackle these issues alone can be hazardous and ineffective, potentially disregarding the underlying causes and exacerbating the problem.

Seeking professional assistance provides individuals with a comprehensive and customized approach to tackling mental health concerns related to social media and its co-occurring challenges. Therapy, counseling, and evidence-based interventions offer valuable tools for gaining insights into thought patterns, developing effective coping strategies, and acquiring healthier ways to engage with social media.

Additionally, mental health professionals can offer guidance on managing substance abuse and facilitate access to suitable treatment when required.

To conclude, it is essential to recognize and acknowledge the significant negative impact that social media can have on mental health. Seeking professional assistance becomes paramount in addressing the complex interplay between social media, mental illness, and co-occurring challenges such as substance abuse. Through professional help, individuals can break free from destructive cycles and embark on a journey towards enhanced mental well-being and overall life satisfaction.

The Edge Treatment Center: Effective, Evidence-Based Care for Mental Health and More

Addressing problems like drug addiction or mental illness triggered by social media is critical. The Edge Treatment Center uses proven, evidence-based techniques to treat a wide range of mental disorders, drug & alcohol abuse, and more.

Guided by a trauma-informed philosophy, The Edge is a serene, welcoming environment where mental health can be explored and treated safely. Our expert team of therapists and case managers will guide you (or a loved one) to the life you genuinely deserve.

Don’t let social media and the problems it can cause ruin your life. Reach out today to The Edge Treatment Center and learn more about our successful mental health treatment program and more.

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