Looking after your mental health on social media

The global rise of social media has meant that we are now more connected than ever before. In a matter of seconds, we can interact with other users from around the world.

Social media platforms have their benefits, they help us to stay in touch with friends and family, keep updated with the latest news and connect with like-minded people. However, the social pressure they can place on individuals is leading to rising mental health problems, particularly amongst young people.

In fact, a recent study has drawn a connection between the development of mental health in young people and their experiences on social media. It has found that social media can encourage addiction, cyber bullying, peer pressure, unhelpful comparisons as well as jealousy.

These negative behaviors can be the result of a reliance on online communication. When social media replaces in-person social interaction, it can foster low esteem and put pressure on young people for social approval. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok all encourage users to like and comment on each other’s posts, an action that can often be used as a benchmark for popularity.

Signs that social media might be damaging your mental health include:

  • Damage to sleeping patterns due to overuse
  • Inability to pay attention to everyday tasks due to social media
  • Compulsive urges to check social media throughout the day
  • Thoughts of anxiety, sadness or depression when using the platform
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide when using social media

If you feel like any of the above may relate to you or if you’d like to learn how you can protect your mental health online, here are some of YoungMind’s top tips:

Know your limits

Know what to avoid and be firm with yourself. If you know that certain content is going to trigger difficult emotions, avoid accounts where you might come across that content.

Know your settings

Look at the settings on the social media platforms you’re using and make sure you know how to change your privacy settings, or block and report people if you need to.

Don’t compare yourself to others

Instagram posts are selected highlights of someone’s life – they don’t show the reality of what someone’s going through. Think about the friends you follow on social media that you know offline too, chances are you know that the pictures they post are only a glimpse of their life.

Turn off notifications from time to time

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, turn off your notifications. You can always switch them back on later, once you’re feeling better.

Do an activity – and don’t post about it

Sometimes, when we do something and post about it on social media, the quality of what we have done is measured by how many likes you get. The way we remember or enjoy an activity is often determined by what others have said. So how about doing something you really enjoy and just leaving it at that. Plus, it will give you something to talk about when you next see your friends – something they don’t already know!

Have some screen-free time

Take a rest and remember that a world exists outside of Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.

Talk to someone

If you’re struggling with social media, talk to someone about it. It could be a friend, family member, teacher or helpline – but remember you aren’t alone, you can speak to someone about what you’re going through.

We hope this is helpful. Do let us know if you have comments or questions. You can post them in the comments section below.