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Social Media and Mental Health


“Look, I have 3 new followers on Twitter!”  “I have over 500 friends on Facebook!”  We wear it like a badge of honor.  For some of us, our virtual friendships have become just as important (or more so) than the friendships that we live out in our actual day-to-day lives.  Social media has taken over our (social) lives.  Many people have instinctually felt that this cannot be healthy — surely personal, face to face relationships are much more fulfilling!  That gut feeling may be very true.

So many things flood your social media feed.  You get to see pictures of your newborn nephew, your cousin’s graduation video, and hear how that old high school buddy is doing out in California.  Those are all positive events, and are the things that most of us look forward to when we log on.  However, that nefarious feed holds other events that may not lift our moods so much — how about that pic of our ex’s new boyfriend/girlfriend?  Our uncle’s racist rant?  Our high school bully that now owns a yacht and lives in a mansion?  Or, how about the argument that you get in with people you have never met over a political meme?  Research has shown that the time we spend on social media increases our feelings of jealousy, conflicts with social media friends over their posts, and increases the time it takes for us to get over our last breakup. 

Friendships on social media can be healthy at times, but most commonly when they are with someone whom you also see in real life, someone who is both a social media friend and a “real life” friend as well.  However, having too many digital relationships instead of real life relationships have been linked to an increase in depressive symptoms.  Social media, if relied upon too heavily as your primary source of social interaction, can definitely wreak havoc on your mood and anxiety levels. 

Here are a few suggestions for social media use:

  • Edit what you follow. If certain types of content bring you down, then don’t follow people who post that type of content.  Make your news feed a place of positivity.  Unfollow people who are unhealthy (and your ex!). 
  • Limit your social media time. The amount of screen time that is considered optimal varies among experts, but less than two hours-per-day seems reasonable.  Some say studies show that limiting SM time to 30 minutes or less per day significantly decreases loneliness, depression, and anxiety. 
  • Take a social media sabbatical. Give yourself a break from social media for a week or even a month.  See how you like detoxing from that screen!
  • Take advantage of all your newfound free time. If you start limiting your time on your phone scrolling through endless memes, arguments, and kitten pics you will find that you have a lot more time on your hands. Take advantage of that and start a new exercise routine, picking up a hobby, doing something artistic – anything that will bring your mood up and make you a healthier, happier person. 


Photo Credit: Aleksei –

 Shensa, A., Sidani, J. E., Escobar-Viera, C. G., Chu, K.-H., Bowman, N. D., Knight, J. M., & Primack, B. A. (2018). Real-life closeness of social media contacts and depressive symptoms among university students. Journal of American College Health, 66(8), 747–753.)