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How Does Social Media Affect Mental Health?
Health & Fitness

How Does Social Media Affect Mental Health?

Excessive use of social media can directly impact mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. How does social media affect our mental health?

Frame Therapy


4 min read

May 17, 2022

Therapist Casey Strenski, MA, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist based in Los Angeles, CA. 

Did you know that an average American spends close to 4 hours per day scrolling through social media platforms such as Instagram and close to 3.5 hours per day watching television?  As the rate of depression and anxiety continues to rise annually, our digital worlds contiue to expand.  Even digital art is growing!  During the pandemic, we all went as far as speaking to our therapists online because it was was convenient, and we needed it.

However, scrolling through social media doesn’t always cultivate the sense of community, connection, and meaning that we all tend to desire. It is confusing, mostly because – continuously – social media creates a dopamine bump, pushing our brains to think and say"yes, I'm feeling pleased with the content I'm being exposed to, and it feels like a reward."

This might sound great for a while, but then we realized that we haven’t truly created a meaningful connection. This sense of digital community isn’t necessarily creating purpose, but rather creating comparison and contrast to how others are living their lives vs. how we live our own. A shared social purpose can give us strength at our core, but sometimes it’s healthier to have that experience in person.

Social media may not necessarily offer meaningful social connections to its users.

Limiting Social Media Consumption

How can one limit social media consumption? Start with the most basic approach: limit your social media intake to an hour a day and watch your mood elevate. Go ahead, give it a shot. If it’s a little too difficult, that’s also okay! It’s also important to try.

Whenever you find the time, make sure to connect with your peers for an early morning meet-up group session. This can be by grabbing coffee, soaking in the sun, or even going on jogs; as long as your natural hormones are stimulated. We live in Sunny California, so why not? If you’re preoccupied in the mornings, an after-work happy hour meetup can always be an option, too! Socialize with old friends and make new connections, you never know who you might meet!

Hormone stimulation is super important, so try taking regular weekly fitness classes to find a healthy way that guarantees said stimulation. Meeting up with your fitness buddies before or after your sweat session is also always an option!

Meet up with friends before or after your weekly workout routine for the fresh social buzz you might need.

Social Media Can Also Affect Your Productivity

Social media has been a successful platform to engage with others; even I have met my partner of 7 years on a dating app! However, social platforms can also lead to our fear of missing out. We start to distract ourselves with the sense of not wanting to be left out and we resort to pulling up social media and scrolling through certain apps upon having these thoughts. We become addicted to the swiping, the matching, the scrolling, and the “ding” of being messaged.

It has even become a numbers game. How many inside jokes are we a part of amongst friends? How many likes did we gain on a post? Is it as many as my co-worker received on their post? We start to realize how long we’ve been scrolling for and the absence of accomplishments in that lost amount of time, leading to increased stress, anxiety, and even depression, not to mention how overwhelming our already-busy schedules would look like. When we are heads-down on our phones or computers, we also risk missing beautiful moments with friends, significant others, or anyone who desires your genuine attention.

Go for a hike or join a book club with your friends and partners to form deeper relationships with them.

Sustaining Meaningful Relationships in A Digital Age

We always can, though, focus on creating meaningful relationships and connections with friends and partners in a few steps. For example, create a once-a-day check-in time with your partner or friend. Not just the typical, “how was work today” kind of talk, but something a bit deeper such as “what do you love about life?” You can also plan a weekend hike where you leave your phones in the car and just be in nature with one another, promoting active awareness and connection.

Challenge your intellectual stimulation with your partner and read a book together, discuss it, or simply join a book club. You can also stimulate your physical capabilities by heading for hikes or trips in the California deserts, like Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, or Pioneertown; take some time to reset and focus on each other. Listen to some music in the car or simply talk. Try to put your phones away and leave the computers behind. Work can wait until Monday!

Finding purpose in life can be through meditation, freeing yourself from addictive substances, traveling as much as you can, to name a few.

How To Gain Insights Into What We Desire?

We, as human beings, strive to search for meaning in life. What is my purpose?  How am I making a difference?  Am I satisfied with my career path?  We all ask ourselves these kinds of questions at some point in time, but social media can strongly influence a narrative surrounding meaning. We can follow social media accounts that promote a positive mindset. We can ask ourselves, how does this information I consume contribute to my life narrative? We get to choose how and what we let influence us. It’s about tapping into the awareness surrounding our behavior. We can use social media for personal growth, but we must cultivate consciousness around what we absorb from it.

Gaining insight into what we desire sounds tougher than it actually is. For instance, you can simply meditate on “what do I want in life” in a quiet space to see if clarity comes to you free of other outside stimuli. Also, take a close look at who you surround yourself with. Does my social group promote my well-being and growth? Are my passions being encouraged in a healthy way?

It’s also worth trying to clear your mind, free yourself of toxins including alcohol and other addictive substances, and see how you feel with a cleansed mind and body. Finally, travel as much as you can and soak in the wonders of the world. There’s only so much to see.

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