How many social media accounts do you have and use every single day? Certainly more than two and probably more than four. Social media has gained central importance in our lives.
In just over a decade, we have become heavily dependent on these platforms of our social interactions, both at a personal and professional level. Lately, it has also had an enormous impact on our consumer behavior.
They offer us tons of benefits: we can be in constant touch with our friends, share relevant information quickly, reconnect with old friends, follow people who inspire us, find a job and increase our network, read the opinions of relevant people on various topics, purchase unique products, and many other things.
The list is truly endless. But the excessive use of social media can also have serious negative effects on your life – and especially on your mental health.
1. A decrease in sleep quality
Let’s be honest: Most of us spend the last minutes of the night in the dark clinging to our little smartphone screen and scrolling through our Twitter and Instagram accounts. The next thing you know, these minutes have stretched out too much and you are not even seeing anything anymore. You are just scrolling for the sake of it.
This habit can rob you of precious sleep time and alter your sleep patterns. In turn, this leads to a noticeable decrease in your overall sleep quality. If this problem extends over a long period, serious health complications may develop in addition to the fatigue and loss of productivity that you will feel immediately.
2. Poor social life
This is one of the weird effects of social media. It gives you the illusion that you have a lot of friends if you look at your Facebook account or the number of messages exchanged in your favorite online chat. But, it really is just an illusion.
The fact that you meet and keep in touch with many more people through social media has a negative impact on your social life.
This might seem contradictory, but to improve your social skills and maintain meaningful relationships, personal interaction is absolutely necessary – virtual interaction is not enough, especially at pivotal times in life such as the death of a loved one, a change of careers, or the birth of a child.
In times like these, the emotional support of your friends and family is crucial. If you rely solely on virtual interactions, you will probably feel very lonely very often.
3. Low self-esteem
Social media can affect your self-esteem in many ways. The most obvious one is related to body image. Celebrities and people with popular social media accounts always look incredible in the photos they share. Besides contributing to the construction of a somewhat unrealistic beauty ideal, it will inevitably make people feel extra conscious about their bodies and looks.
Also, constantly watching happy people in a social context while you are at home by yourself may give you the illusion that everyone has a fantastic and extremely active social life but you. Well, no self-esteem can survive such negative feelings!
4. Being someone you are not to meet unrealistic expectations
When you spend a lot of your free time staring at a smartphone’s screen, your view of the world may start to become distorted. After all, on social media, everyone seems to be living a great life, which is far from true.
Social media give us the possibility to control exactly what we want to show the world. For that reason, almost everyone chooses to share only positive images and amazing experiences.
This creates a series of unrealistic expectations about what life should be like, and people start pretending to be what they are not and doing things they don’t really like just to meet those expectations.
This modern form of bullying is more dangerous than it seems. Hidden in the anonymity that the internet confers, some people will do anything to try to hurt someone else, and social media is a prime setting for the practice of these malicious acts.
In some cases, these online attacks provoke such negative effects on the victims’ mental health that even lead them to commit suicide. Cyberbullying is a very serious matter that, unfortunately, is only now beginning to be treated as such.
6. Changes in appetite
Sharing appetizing food pictures on Instagram is hugely popular. Everybody does it, and it’s nearly impossible to scroll through a feed without coming across a picture of a tasty hamburger or a cheesy slice of pizza.
According to a study published in 2015 in the Brain and Cognition journal, these food images (as known on the internet) can make you crave unhealthy food even when you are supposed to feel full.
If you can’t control these sudden desires, your calorie intake will drastically increase, and it won’t take long before you put on some extra weight.
7. Anxiety and depression
The accumulation of all these problems we talked about can have a big impact on your mental health.
Anxiety and depression are among the most worrying problems of this modern era, especially as they are now affecting a great part of the younger generations. In part, we can blame social media for this. It is obvious that many young people are not mentally prepared for the social impact of these platforms.
It is also important not to be afraid to talk about the symptoms of mental illness and seek professional help to overcome any difficult situation. There is still a great deal of social stigma attached to mental health issues.
8. Spend more money
Every time you access your social media, you are immediately exposed to all kinds of marketing stimuli from all kinds of brands. This fact, combined with the major development of e-commerce, is making people spending more money on impulse.
But that’s not all. As we have stated before, some people feel obliged to have new experiences and buy new things to meet the expectations of their followers. This also drives them to spend money unnecessarily and often go beyond their means.