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What’s the connection between social media and mental health?

May 11, 2023

Humans are social creatures, so it’s no surprise that more than half the global population are active users of social media. But what impact do online platforms have on our mental health?  


In 2023, it’s estimated 4.67 billion people around the world now use social mediaracking up an average of 2.5 hours a day on platforms like Meta, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. There’s no denying it. Social media has become an important part of daily life and of how we connect with others. And while it has its rewards, it also comes with potential risks.  


How does social media affect our mental health?

As our screentime has increased, so has interest in the connection between social media and mental health. Some studies suggest online platforms can exacerbate mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety. But social media isn’t without its positives, particularly when it comes to maintaining our social connections, which may be critical to protecting our mental health. Social media offers easy access to various resources, helps connect with like-minded people, and serves as a platform for self-expression.  


Here’s how it works: the more you use social media, the more interactions and notifications you’ll receive. Each little vibration or ping of your smartphone triggers a release of dopamine as a reward. However, these little pings can impact your focus, damage your relationships by taking you out of the momentand disturb your sleep. Sleep issues may have an adverse effect on your health and can be secondary to a mental health condition like depression or anxiety 


As always, there are two sides to every coin. Here are the pros and cons of social media: 



  • Stay in touch: stay in touch with family, friends and like-minded individuals across the planet 

  • Activism: share information, resources and learn about social issues, like mental health awareness 

  • Self-expression: Express your thoughts and share your creativity with a huge network of people 

  • Access resources: Gain knowledge and ask questions thanks to a wide range of groups and forums 

  • Support: Individuals can turn to social media when they are struggling and looking for emotional support from like-minded people, anytime of day  


  • Increases unhelpful thoughts and feelings: overuse may increase feelings of loneliness, inadequacy and fear of missing out 

  • Cyberbullying: online platforms allow people to harass people online anonymously and inescapably 

  • Tensionsocial media may be helping further divide groups and create tension 

Of the mental illnesses exacerbated by social media, depression is at the top of the list. Those who overuse these platforms may feel lonely, be afraid they are missing out on a better life, feel inadequate when comparing their lives to others, and/or feel depressed.  


Online platforms can make it hard for some people to socialize in their real lives, which may lead to social anxiety. People with this specific anxiety disorder may be fearful to interact with others, avoid speaking with others, and expect worst-case scenarios to occur in social situations. Social media may enhance other forms of anxiety, often due to frequent exposure to negative news stories and doom scrolling.  

Am I negatively impacted by my social media use?

As humans, it’s natural to seek out social situations and ways to connect with others. Social media is wonderful for this. If you’re concerned about spending too much time on social media, there are signs these social platforms may be impacting your life. Keep an eye out on the following symptoms:  


  • Feelings of inadequacy: Don’t play the comparison game, because what we see on social media isn’t necessarily true to life. People share their highs, rarely their lows.  
  • Feelings of loneliness: If you’re feeling isolated, you may be spending too much time online and not enough connecting with real people. 
  • Feelings of self-centeredness: Instead of creating memories with your loved ones, you’re focused on your online image 
  • Enhancement of anxiety and/or depression: Putting our online world first may cause us to feel lonely and disconnected, or fearful of how we stack up in real life interactions. 
  • Inability to focus: You may find your work or relationships suffer, because you’re distracted and reaching for your smartphone too frequently 

Can I change the impact of social media on my mental health?

You can always stop cold turkey. But then you’d miss out on the positive benefits associated with social media.  


  • Turn off your phone’s data connectivity so you’re not tempted to scroll while driving, at work, or with loved ones 
  • Keep your smartphone out of reach in the bedroom 
  • Turn off notifications 
  • Have a detox period by taking a break, even limiting to 30 minutes a day if you can’t quite go cold turkey
  • Avoid passive consumption of content and actively engage 
  • Take it offline and connect with friends and family in real life 
Let’s talk about it. 

Do you find your social media use negatively affects your mental health? If so, you’re not alone. And help is available.  


No matter how subtle or severe your symptoms are, a registered psychologist can help you work your way through any mental health challenges enhanced by the use of online platforms.