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Social media attracts millions of followers, with Facebook taking the lead (with over two billion users), followed by YouTube (1.5 billion), Instagram (800 million) and Twitter (330 million). There can be no doubt that our lives and society have been hugely impacted by social media.
Social media platforms originally started out as a place where people could connect in an easy and convenient way with their friends and relatives. They gave us an opportunity to easily stay in touch with old friends or with people that lived far away from us and keep them informed on our lives. Social media platforms also allow for brands to share their messages in a very cost effective way with mass audiences.
But research indicates that it isn’t all rose colored: social media can also be just another factor causing chronic stress, with scientists warning that it has ties to mental conditions like depression. In this post, we highlight a few interesting findings and suggest ways to get the most out of social media, without letting it harm your mental health.
A study by Daria Kuss of Nottingham Trent University, found that Facebook use may sometimes classify as addiction, because those who use this social media site excessively seem to have many things in common with those addicted to substances or other habits. These include neglect of one’s personal life, stress, escapism, and hiding the addictive behavior. Meanwhile, other studies have shown that those who stop using social media can experience withdrawal symptoms and anxiety, with changes affecting the physiological as well as the psychological state.
Another study published in PLOS ONE found that “the more people used Facebook at one time point, the worse they felt… the more they used it over two weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels decline over time.” The researchers added that the findings did not vary depending on size of social network, loneliness, self-esteem, or depression. They concluded that although social media seemingly allows us to fulfil the need for human connection, it may in fact be undermining it.
In essence, what we view on Facebook or Instagram is curated content; it is not real life, but rather, the life our friends wish to present. Many users fail to take this into account, however, and the tendency is to compare oneself to the “perfect” lives we are viewing and to feel inadequate.
The situation can be particularly stressful for those who are already battling anxiety or depression; many people already have problems with self-acceptance and self-compassion and viewing incessant gourmet food outings, holidays, and ‘perfect relationships’ can add to the sense of mounting pressure that contributes to adrenal fatigue.
There are many ways to lower the stress associated with social media. If it is causing serious stress or anxiety, it should be treated as any other addiction, and avoided altogether. However, if its use is kept under control, perhaps a happy medium can be achieved.
There are specific apps and programs that can be downloaded, which limit social media use. Moment, for instance, allows you to set daily limits. Offtime blocks distracting apps like Facebook. BreakFree actually gives you an “addiction score” and some programs completely block social media use for a specific amount of time.
Of course, managing social media use is something each user can do on a personal basis, trying to limit use to a reasonable time and being well aware that sometimes, what is portrayed is a ‘snippet’ of life; not the whole picture.
Social media is just one common stressor; human beings face many on a daily basis, which is why it is important to create a holistic strategy that includes creating a more amenable environment through features such as water fountains, whose sounds reduce stress since they are reminiscent of natural water features such as waterfalls or streams. Opt for peaceful instead of stressful colours in interiors, and make sure your home is filled with plants, which are also powerful stress busters.
Exercise and sound nutrition are also key, as is having a regular bedtime routine, and making time for mindfulness practises such as yoga and meditation. Social media has been found to affect human beings in negative as well as positive ways, producing a sense of loneliness as well as of connection. It is vital to be aware of the effect sites like Facebook can have on stress, anxiety, and depression, and to use them moderately. Finally, creating a peaceful environment at home and leading a healthy lifestyle will help keep the effects of stress to a manageable minimum.
Get our free Stress Management Workbook to help you identify and track your stress, and provide you with a variety of proven techniques that you can use to counteract stress. It helps you: