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  • The Dangers of Social Media On Mental Health And What You Can Do About It

                If you follow Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook you will notice in his Intro reads “Bringing the World Closer Together”. The tech giant’s social media platform has, however, done precisely the opposite. Many studies link Facebook and other social media outlets as directly contributing to depression and loneliness.

                Social media is designed to be addictive by nature. One of the biggest reasons why people find themselves compelled to use it is the fear of missing out. So many people are on it that everyone else feels pressured to join the crowd so that they can keep up with old friends, see photos, and message others.  Some feel pressured to be on social media if their very own workplace is integrated with it or if they run a business and need to use social media to advertise.

Social media also offers positive feedback for people. The like button has turned out to be one of the most luring mechanisms in modern history. Humans naturally desire to be affirmed emotionally. Having the ability to post things about your life online for potential affirmation coming from people “liking” your post offers gratification for that desire. Gratification, however, is not necessarily a solution, nor always healthy.

                While Zuckerberg claims that Facebook brings the world together, his social media platform brings loneliness and detrimental social practices to the world. People who join social media for fear of missing out often end up only creating a substitute for actual human interaction. A person feeling awkward at a party can easily just pull out their phone and scroll through their newsfeed to avoid interacting with others. However, this social “security blanket”, ends up becoming a prison. Pretty soon social media becomes a comfort zone cop-out for actual human-to-human interaction. Many people now will go out with friends and spend more time on their phones than talking to their friends.  Less human interaction, in the end, leads to loneliness.

While social media creates a false sense of social integration, it also creates a false sense of affirmation and teaches people to affirm themselves in harmful ways. People now often derive a false sense of confidence based on the number of likes a post receives or derive low self-esteem from the lack of likes and/or nasty comments they receive on a post. Further, the lust for social media affirmation is so strong that people, thanks to the help of new technology, are able to filter their appearance to look more beautiful than they actually are. Gone are the days when only celebrities and swimsuit models got all the eyeballs and glamour by being on the cover of magazines. Now, with the help of filters, many people can look just as beautiful and get tons of attention. Social media has also created new avenues of attention-seeking that are deeply unfulfilling and unhealthy. Sharing endless selfies, sharing your intimate personal thoughts, or posting long hateful rants about politics may be a way to get attention, but not a good way to truly feel loved and validated. Social media, designed to be addictive, encourages people to continue in these behaviors. With this in mind, it is no wonder that children and teens that are exposed to social media earlier in life show higher levels of anxiety and depression.

What is the correct way to respond to this social disease that affects so many people? Proper treatment first requires proper diagnosis. So ask yourself the following questions: Do you use social media as a security blanket during social situations? Do you spend more time on social media than with friends or find yourself checking it constantly when you are with friends or at work? Do you constantly check your social media to see how many likes you are receiving? Do you find yourself making attention-seeking posts? If you answered yes to any of these questions you may have a problem. But there are some things you can do about it to live a healthier life with more human interaction.

One way to start to treat unhealthy social media use is by limiting the time you spend. You can use apps such as Freedom, Moment, and Zen Screen. With these apps, you can set limits on how much time you spend on social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat and also designate certain times where you don’t allow yourself to have any screen time at all. Besides using these apps, there are other things that you can do such as getting an old-fashioned alarm clock to wake you up every morning instead of your phone. This eliminates the need to even bring your phone into your bedroom so that you wake up to the world rather than to a screen. You can even just flat-out remove social media apps from your phone or even delete your account if you really want to go all the way!

The other way to treat unhealthy social media use is by changing your focus back on the real world. Find a new hobby or get coffee with a friend. Find groups such as running groups, wine tasting groups, or mixers, and attend their events. Get to know your neighbor! Getting off the screen and back outside is truly the way to bring the world closer together.