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Social Media Can Hurt Your Mental Health

Michael T. Gibson
Personal Injury Attorney, Michael T. Gibson

In today’s world, we are always connected and always sharing our lives with others. Sometimes we do not know the people with whom we are sharing things. And vice versa. Regardless, what we see on social media is what someone else wants us to see.

Whether we see a Hollywood star’s glamorous life by their hillside pool or our friends showing us their fabulous dinner, we are seeing a curated version of that person’s life. Pan the camera out a bit and their lives almost certainly look entirely different. But that’s part of what makes social media appealing – you can project the image you want to project, even if it is not the reality.

And yet, many people, especially younger people, hold themselves to the standards they see online. This near-impossible standard can prevent a person from enjoying what they do have. Don’t let someone else’s perfect and staged world disrupt your ability to love and live your life without worrying about measuring up to impossible standards. In extreme cases you could benefit from talking to a personal injury attorney and discussing your recovery options.

Facebook Depression

The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned about potential negative effects of children and teens spending too much time on social media. These warnings are based on the effect of media on children’s physical and mental health.

There are physical concerns because when a child spends time on their phone, tablet, or computer, they are not spending time outside playing or otherwise moving around. There are also potential psychological effects to which parents should pay close attention. Even parents are not immune. Anyone who spends time on social media can see negative impacts on their lives, including a withdrawal from life and feelings of depression. These are serious signs that must be noticed and addressed.

When you or your child spend too much time on social media, you risk depression. A recent study shows that people who spend too much time on social media sites are more likely to have a major depressive disorder. The study concluded that this is the case because people who spend a lot of time on social media sites like Facebook or Instagram compare their lives to what they see online. But we must remember that what we see online is not someone else’s “real life” but rather the life they want others to see. Whether someone is outright lying or they are making their life appear better to get more followers and maybe some brand exposure, the people viewing these images may have trouble resisting comparing themselves to what appears to be someone else’s perfect life.

In addition, people who experience social media-related depression are less likely to post pictures of themselves and actively engage on social media. They simply become viewers of other people’s lives and compare their lives to what they see online. This is a dangerous mindset that can quickly spiral out of control. This often leads to depression in all age groups, especially younger and more psychologically vulnerable children.

Social Media Addiction

Over three-quarters of all Americans have at least one social media account. As with any addiction, a person who falls into the addictive cycle always needs more. One drink today. Two drinks tomorrow. Ten minutes of Instagram today. Fifteen minutes tomorrow. The cycle can become endless.

Addiction can have many consequences, including:

  • Depression;
  • Anxiety;
  • Loneliness;
  • Insomnia; and
  • The development of additional addictions

That’s right, one addiction can lead to another. As a person craves social media more and more, they can end up spiraling out of control, looking for more and more sources to feed their desire. This can lead to withdrawal from friends and family, which further fuels the need for social media-based interaction. It’s a vicious cycle and extremely hard to break.

Social Media and Mental Health

There is a link between increased social media use and negative mental health effects. Generally, these effects are tied not to interacting on social media, but to simply viewing and passively participating.

social media & Mental HealthAs a person scrolls through different feeds, they absorb information. They see other people living their lives, even if those lives are staged. What is clear is that when a person reduces the amount of time they spend on social media, their feelings of loneliness and depression decline. They may also experience a decline in anxiety and fear of missing out. Because they aren’t spending all day seeing other people live their lives, they have an opportunity to live their own. And that is important.

But this is easier said than done, since social media-related depression can be a vicious cycle. Lonely people often turn to social media to feel connected. The problem is that this isn’t a real connection and it can make them feel even more lonely than they did previously. Social media users often deliberately put their best face forward, maybe even a false face, to make their lives look wonderful. Because no one’s life is flawless, this can lead an observer to retreat into loneliness and depression.

Personal Complications

In addition to the psychological issues that are associated with a social media addiction discussed above, this type of addiction can impact other areas of a person’s life. Addiction can lead a person to withdraw from friends and family, and withdrawal often negatively impacts those relationships. The person might even realize they are withdrawing from their relationships but part of addiction is that they often simply do not care. This lack of connection can further spiral the addicted person out of control.

Social media addiction can also negatively impact a person’s finances. If they are spending all day on social media, they might become less productive at work. Their employer may see them posting online or might see them using their phone too often in the office. In the extreme, they might lose their job.

Many people who end up sucked into social media sites have good intentions. Adding more friends and seeing what other people are up to is fun. But this activity must be kept within reasonable time limits.

Having more online friends does not make a person more social. Using social media to set up times to meet with friends offline is a great use of the tool. But interacting only through social media is not a replacement for in-person interactions. Feeling social is different from being social and virtual social activities do not have the same benefits as in-person and face-to-face social time provides.

This does not mean there are no benefits to social media. There are. We can stay connected across vast distances. We can keep in touch with more people, maybe even some people with whom we would otherwise have lost touch over time. That’s a great benefit and one that is only available because of social media sites like Facebook.

However, social media should be used in moderation. Time spent interacting online cannot replace true social contact, and limiting social media use is vital when attempting to avoid the potential negative effects of social media addiction.

Digital Wellbeing

The most important thing to remember is that we all need to take time to take care of ourselves. Whether you are a young millennial who was born with a smart phone in your hand or you are a member of an older generation who is still learning to use social media, these platforms should all be used in moderation. Don’t scroll too much.

Remember those people sitting on the other end of the couch. Get outside with them. Enjoy conversations together. Most smart phones today offer digital wellbeing settings. Use these settings to your advantage. Set time limits on the number of minutes you can spend in each of the social media apps. You might be surprised at how quickly that time expires because when you are engaged in social media, time often seems to fly by. And stick to your time limits. If you limit yourself to thirty minutes per day, stick to it, then put your phone down and live your life.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying happens when someone uses electronic means, usually social media, to bully or intimidate another person. This happens most often with school children but can happen to a person of any age.

Forms of cyberbullying can include:

  • Harassment – A cyberbully may make threats or statements intended to alarm or put the object of bullying into a state of fear.
  • Impersonation – A cyberbully may seek to damage or intimidate the target of their bullying by impersonating the target online.
  • Attacking or trolling – Sometimes cyberbullies directly and/or consistently attack their target, making it difficult or impossible for that person to engage in any online activities without dealing with their bully.

Each of these scenarios is not only a potential crime, but poses a risk of psychological harm to the victim. If you or your child has experienced any form of cyberbullying, act fast. While laws surrounding this type of behavior are new, the psychological impacts you or your child might face are very much solidified in science. There are serious and potentially long-term impacts on your mental state. To help you or your child recover and get the psychological attention you deserve, a lawyer can help guide you to the right medical assistance and hold the bully accountable for the psychological harm you or your child has suffered.

Parents’ Reactions

Cyberbullying can have dire consequences. The Megan Meier Foundation was created after a 14-year-old girl committed suicide after being cyberbullied by a former school friend and the friend’s mother. It was an absolutely tragic—and avoidable—situation.

But many parents are unsure about what to do or even how much time their children spend on social media. As a society, we’ve become attached to our phones and devices to the extent that we even take them to bed with us. This is terrible for our sleep and detrimental to our mental wellbeing.

While state laws are still trying to catch up, many school districts have instituted policies that attempt to prevent and reduce the likelihood and occurrence of cyberbullying.

These policies often include:

  • Teaching school children to avoid and ignore harassing content, even if it’s directed specifically at them;
  • Alerting parents and teachers to any instances of cyberbullying by taking screenshots or recording calls;
  • Documenting any fake accounts set up in a child’s name;
  • Changing social media privacy settings;
  • Deleting a social media account, even if the child sets up a new one at a later date; and
  • In serious cases, contacting the police and opening an investigation.

While conversations about cyberbullying tend to be focused on teens and other school-aged children, adults are not immune to this type of behavior. Anyone with access to the internet is a potential victim. That’s why parents must speak regularly with their children about any online activity to keep them safe. But even the best approaches and preventative measures will not prevent all acts of cyberbullying. And if someone tries to cyberbully you or your child, consider the mental health implications and legal remedies.


Michael T. Gibson P.A.
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue, Suite 150
Orlando, FL 32814
Phone: 407-422-4529

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Baldwin Park Office
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue
Suite 150
Orlando, FL 32814
P: 407-422-4529
Copyright © Michael T. Gibson, P.A. 2020