Social media is more than a casual way to connect with other people. It’s a regular feature of our lives that creates powerful emotions and tunes us into what’s happening in society and the world in general.
To use social media effectively without getting overwhelmed by it, it’s important to be aware of how it affects us.
With knowledge, we have the ability to leverage social networks and stay mentally healthy. So, let’s start by understanding the effects that social media can have on our wellbeing.
Short-term dopamine-driven feedback loops
Every time we consume an engaging piece of content, get a like, a positive comment, or a share, we feel a small amount of pleasure. This is the generation of dopamine in our brains which compels us to continue rewarding ourselves by staying on a social network.
We end up in a feedback loop and find it hard to put down our devices which prevent us from getting work done. Soon, we feel overwhelmed and stressed out trying to catch up with work. Being aware of how social media content creates a cycle of rewards and content consumption will make you aware of what’s happening and break out of this experience.
Social media creates FOMO
FOMO stands for the Fear of Missing Out. This term is a specific type of emotion we experience from using content online, especially from following the lives of other people and influencers. Here’s how FOMO from social media impacts us:
- People become afraid of missing events, news, and important status changes if they stay away from social media
- Many young people go into debt to keep up with their peers
- FOMO creates negative feelings like envy, jealousy, sadness, and disappointment.
- A large number of young consumers compulsively because of FOMO
These facts may reinforce what you already know, that social media leaves you dissatisfied in general. Being aware that your fear of missing out has emotional and financial effects on you can help you use social media with awareness.
It leads to comparison
Have you noticed how some people can’t go for more than one hour without checking social media? We have an ingrained desire to feel like we belong. When we ‘belong’ to our peer groups on social media, we avoid feeling like an outsider.
Your peers and the influencers you follow often present only the positive aspects of their lives. Because of this, you can end up comparing yourself to others based on unrealistic representations of life.
Many people judge themselves and are unable to view their experiences realistically, understanding that it’s normal to have ups and downs. This kind of constant comparison with others will lead to long-term unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
You can boost your life through learning
So far, we’ve looked at undeniable and powerful ways that social media can negatively affect your mental wellbeing. But if you’re vigilant and aware, you can use this platform to experience life-enhancing effects.
Be selective and get on social media to learn lessons and build skills. Doing online courses or getting difficult questions answered can help you grow in your personal life and your career.
Platforms like YouTube and certain podcasts can be inspiring and motivational. Following experts who have the specific knowledge to help you grow and be your best will take you forward in life.
The key is to be deliberate and careful about what you’re trying to achieve. Use social media to destress by playing restful music or by learning something new. Avoid falling into the trap of endless content consumption or getting emotionally stirred up by provocative content.
Here, I’ve highlighted the good aspects of social media alongside the bad. The important thing to remembers is that you need to deal with social media the way you would with fire.
Use it only when necessary and put it away when it has served its purpose – whether it is to communicate or learn something.
But avoid browsing it even for pleasure. You would better off going for a walk, having a call with a friend, or reading a book. Use the information here to be more mindful and have a personally fulfilling life by using only as much social media as needed.