If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, you may feel like social media is your life line to others who are feeling the same way. While you probably haven’t met anyone in your neighborhood who has struggled with mental illness, and perhaps none of your friends have suffered depression or anxiety, you can find thousands of people on the internet who share similar journeys. Still, it’s important to use social media carefully when you’re in the midst of struggling with depression or other related mental illnesses.
Hopping on Facebook or Instagram may make you feel connected, understood and supported, but it can also make you more depressed and prevent you from taking the steps needed to get help.
With that in mind, here are five things you should know about depression and social media.
1. Other people’s stress can impact your own mental health.
Not all of it is unwarranted, but there is a lot of negativity and anger on social media. Spend just a few minutes on the internet and you will no doubt encounter arguments, bullying, and the ever present hateful trolls. Believe it or not, the more awareness you have of other people’s stress and unhappiness, the more it can negatively impact your own mental health.
2. Social media can make you feel more alone.
Some of us have 20 followers and some have 20,000. Some of us share our experiences on social media and get tons of loving responses, while others share and get nothing. It’s easy to equate your worth with how many followers you have or how many comments of support you receive, but it isn’t healthy. The host of reasons why you may not get support the minute you post is endless, however the lack of “likes” or support you expect and need at that moment may make you feel ignored and cause deeper depression.
3. Comparison is the thief of joy.
It’s a known fact that many people present a more idealized version of themselves on social media. Along with unfounded feelings of failure, social media also can create a false pressure to achieve. Comparing yourself to other people’s “highlight reel” can make you feel “less than” or like you are doing life wrong.
4. Social media keeps world events on the top of your mind.
We have become a culture that gets our news from social media. When tragedy strikes, the social media world starts buzzing; pictures, stories, and comments about tragic events fill our feeds for days. If you are depressed, you are more likely to get overwhelmed with world events and constant reminders can cause your depression to increase.
5. Social media can steal your time.
It’s happened to all of us. The intention is to take a quick look at Instagram and suddenly hours have gone by and you have accomplished nothing. This is fine every now and then, however it becomes a problem when it keeps us from activities designed to nourish our souls. When we neglect our self care such as exercising, eating healthy, or engaging in our real-life relationships, our mental health can deteriorate.
Social media is not going away, and it is a wonderful way to stay connected to the world. However, it is important to understand that it can have a negative impact on your mental health and that it is necessary to create a plan to ensure that social media does not interfere with your daily wellness.