Social media can be one way to maintain a connection with people who share your interests and circumstances. At Willingway, we’re happy to provide a presence on Facebook and Instagram to help foster a community among individuals celebrating sobriety and create a gateway to others seeking treatment they can trust. But when is social media not helpful?
When Social Media Is Good, It Can Be a Lifeline
Even when we think of ourselves as independent, the most introverted among us still takes solace in being close to people who care for and relate to us. This is why online interactions are sometimes helpful. In fact, during the pandemic, people in recovery found tremendous encouragement with online support during that time.
According to Pew Research Center, more than 70 percent of adults use some form of social media. In many situations, social media enables people to reinforce connection, whether it’s to share creative pursuits or find resources for hobbies, careers, and support.
Mesfin Awoke Bekalu, a researcher for the Harvard School of Public Health, conducts national studies on the effects of social media, both positive and negative, based on how much a person uses it and their emotional connection. His team assesses three health-related outcomes: “positive mental health, self-rated health, and social well-being” and finds:
- On the plus side, using social media routinely and engaging with what other people share appears to benefit all three of those outcomes.
- Additionally, “social media may provide individuals with a platform that overcomes barriers of distance and time, allowing them to connect and reconnect with others and thereby expand and strengthen their in-person networks and interactions,” Bekalu said. “Indeed, there is some empirical evidence supporting this.”
The key to positivity is to be a mindful participant on social platforms. For example, in an article for Greater Good Magazine, author and psychiatrist Ravi Chandra recommends that we:
- Use it to support real-world and more substantial relationships, instead of just needlessly scrolling.
- Clean up news feeds to allow content from people you really care about to come through more easily, and only follow “reputable news, information, and entertainment sources.”
- Define our intention for using it and remember that it’s perfectly fine to not participate as frequently as others—or even, not at all.
“We can also become more mindful and curious about social media’s effects on our minds and hearts, weighing the good and bad. We should ask ourselves how social media makes us feel and behave,” Chandra writes.
But What’s the Negative Side of Social Media?
Yes, it’s true: social media can make us feel worse about ourselves. Bekalu states that an “emotional connection to social media—for example, checking apps excessively out of fear of missing out, being disappointed about or feeling disconnected from friends when not logged into social media—is negatively associated with all three outcomes.”
Additionally, Bekalu’s team references studies that demonstrate “social media use is negatively associated with mental health and well-being, particularly among young people—for example, it may contribute to increased risk of depression and anxiety symptoms.”
In Chandra’s research, he’s discovered that “exposure to the carefully curated images from others’ lives leads to negative self-comparison.” Further, the greater quantities of social media interaction may actually lessen our enjoyment of “meaningful real-life experiences.”
Healthline reports some similar aspects: when we see others’ perfect vacations, tidy homes, flawless bodies, and other aspirations, we tend to feel “less than” and feel that we can never measure up to these other lives. Yes, this might be simply a perception, but it can have a stronger impact on our state of mind over time. Too much social media before bedtime also depletes quality sleep, according to 2019 research.
Find Balance Online and in Real Life
Remember, you’re in control of all your habits, including how much time you spend on social media and why. Here are some tips for better management and improved mental health:
- Define your purpose. Broaden your perspective for more quality engagement, such as staying connected with people who matter, following a favorite interest, cooking your favorite foods, and so on.
- Schedule a specific time to scroll. Enjoy it for a while, but when it’s time to log off and return to the real world, do.
- Use social media for inspiration. It’s easy to get sucked into complaining. Instead, share the positive you can easily find each day and follow people who lift you up.
- If you already feel anxious, upset, or blue, try something else instead. Unless there’s a specific group with people you can talk to online, get out into the real world by taking a walk, meeting a friend for coffee, or some other activity to shift your energy instead of “doom-scrolling.”
- Remember the benefits of real life. What and who you dedicate your attention to in face-to-face interactions will make the most difference over time.
Willingway Offers Quality Care For You and Your Family
If negative social media influence is just one of many symptoms of addiction, depression, or anxiety you’ve noticed in yourself or a loved one, the time to seek proper treatment is now. For 50 years, the board-certified professionals at Willingway have provided premier drug and alcohol rehab in GA, both in our inpatient rehabilitation facility and extensive outpatient services, as well as The Pines, our dedicated adolescent facility. Consult a member of our admissions team today to learn how we can help your journey of recovery.