We live in a world where technology has become a necessity. Our phones, computers, and social media platforms help us to stay socially connected. This is especially important in times like this, when social distancing is necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19. And sometimes these social networks are good; social interaction is an essential part of our wellbeing as humans. But social media and mental health are deeply connected, and not always in positive ways.
Interestingly, November 17th is National Unfriend Day—a time to log off and check in with yourself emotionally to fend off the psychological dangers of social media. Finding a balance between social media and mental health is what this article is all about. Read on to find more information about this connection between social media and mental health and how you can get mental health help if you need it.
What Is National Unfriend Day?
Talk show host Jimmy Kimmel used his platform back in 2010 to create this unique holiday to reassess your virtual social life and “unfriend” people who are toxic or make you unhappy. Though Jimmy Kimmel is known to make jokes about social media, his intentions in creating this day were sincere. The goal of National Unfriend Day is to reflect on the impact of social media on your mental health so that when you do go online, you are surrounded by support rather than negativity.
Think about it: Social media allows you to be connected to people you haven’t seen in a while—neighbors you grew up with, family members who live out of state, and your best friends throughout the years. This virtual connection can often be a lifeline. National Unfriend Day doesn’t ask you to get rid of all of this. However, this day gives the opportunity for you to assess the potential psychological dangers of social media, specifically related to who you might be socially interacting with.
If you don’t have the right people by your side, social media use can cause mental health problems that need to be addressed through more intensive mental health interventions. On National Unfriend Day, you should take a moment to remove people from your “friends” list who no longer have a positive impact on your life.
Positive Effects of Social Media on Mental Health
It would be an oversight not to look at the positive effects of social media on mental health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. For starters, in the past year, social media has become an even more significant part of our daily social interaction desires.
The coronavirus public health crisis has left families and friends physically unable to stay socially connected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) documents that the pandemic has had a substantial impact on people’s mental health, mainly due to anxiety surrounding the virus as well as social isolation. Social media can be a wonderful way to approach this concern. When used with discretion, social media is an effective vessel for communication. You can see pictures of your loved ones, send messages to your friends, and even video-chat with people in your life who are immunocompromised.
Moreover, social media encourages safe social interaction through COVID support groups. On the Internet, you are never truly alone. Of course, too much social media exposure can be harmful and even trigger an obsession with checking your phone or computer. This is when social media and mental health do not mix well.
Negative Effects of Social Media on Mental Health
While social media has been beneficial to keep everyone connected during the pandemic, it is truly a double-edged sword. Social media also has the potential to spread false news and panic about the virus. In fact, the CDC recommends putting social media on pause in moments of mental health crises to reset the mind before the anxieties worsen.
This connection between social media and mental health problems has always been true—not just during COVID. Considering the negative effects of social media on mental health is particularly important for young people. According to a study conducted by the PEW Research Center in 2015, “Young adults (ages 18 to 29) are the most likely to use social media…”
There are certain aspects of social media that have a significant impact on adolescent mental health. For example, a lot of young adults come across pictures of supermodels or social media “influencers” and begin to develop harmful thoughts about their appearances.
Social media and mental health data shows that young adults are more likely to have mental health problems, such as depression, if they spend a lot of time on social media—even more so than adults. Some of these mental health problems include experiencing:
- Body dysmorphia
- Depressive symptoms
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol
- And harmful changes in sleep patterns.
The time spent on social media has an impact on how severe the psychological dangers can become. For some young people, adults, and even elders, social media has become a full blown addiction or obsession that needs treatment.
How to Balance Social Media and Mental Health
For most people, social media is simply the trigger to preexisting mental health problems. In all cases, mental illness treatment is the most effective way to find a balance between social media and mental health. There are many different kinds of mental health treatments and the one that will be best for you depends on your exact needs. A mental health professional will walk you through which treatment program would be most beneficial based on your age, diagnoses, and current mental health symptoms.
Whether it’s residential treatment, partial hospitalization, or a dual diagnosis program, you will have the opportunity to reconnect with your emotional wellbeing while having meaningful social interactions with others who understand exactly what you’re going through.
Consider mental health treatment if you have been feeling attached or put down by what you see on social media and also have any of the following conditions:
- Substance use disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
If you are currently in a crisis and need more intensive treatment, consider a crisis care program. For immediate help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or alert local authorities.
Finding Healthy Social Interaction at Port St. Lucie Hospital
The staff at Port St. Lucie Hospital is happy to work with you to provide healthy social interaction, mental health treatment, and life-long skills you need to make it through this evolving world.
Don’t hesitate to use your phone for good—call 772-408-5871 or confidentially contact us by filling out our online form to get professional mental health care. Remember, social media is meant to be a tool that keeps us connected in times of need. But many times, it goes too far. What’s behind a screen can be just as hurtful— if not more so—than what’s right in front of you. So, be a friend to yourself this National Unfriend Day and seek mental health guidance today.