Social media allows us to connect with the world in some pretty amazing ways. It’s easier than ever to keep up with what friends and family are doing, and it can be a lot of fun to share life with people with only a few taps on a screen.

But too much of any good thing can be dangerous, and social media is no exception. In fact, social media can be pretty harmful to your mental health.

Here are six ways to tell if social media is hurting your mental health:

1: You Find Yourself Comparing

Social media is where people share their best moments: the things they want others to see.

Your friends will post their accomplishments: their good grades and game-winning goals. They’ll post the fun things they do and the things that made them laugh. And it’s tempting to believe that their lives are only the fun moments, with none of the un-exciting things you do each day that aren’t worth posting about.  

Don’t believe it. When you start comparing your life to what you see others posting on social media, you’re comparing their highlight reels to your behind-the-scenes. You’re guaranteed to feel worse about yourself and your life if you make comparisons like this.

Most of what goes on social media is carefully chosen, heavily filtered, and looks better than it really is. Instead of comparing someone else’s best moments with your everyday ones, remember that social media doesn’t show you everything – only what your friends want you to see.

2: It’s All You Want to Do

Social media is great for staying connected, especially with people you don’t get to see as often. But too much of it isn’t so great.

If you’re constantly checking your phone (even when you are with friends and family), or you scroll through social media for hours at a time, you may be getting a little too attached. And being too attached to social media will hurt your mental health.

Real, solid friendships can be great for mental health and self-esteem. Trying new and fun things is also a great mental health booster. But you’ll miss out on a lot of that if you’re glued to social media.

If you notice that you’re spending more time looking at your phone than the people you’re with, you may be doing some damage to your mental health.

Try putting your phone on silent or out of reach when you’re with friends and family. Instead, just enjoy being with them and doing whatever you’re doing. You’ll feel better and you’ll create memories that will always be around to cheer you up.

3: You Can’t Get Enough Likes

We all know the feeling of having someone important to us like or comment on something we’ve posted. It feels great to think that others care about our lives and what we’re doing.

And it is good to share your life with your friends and family.

On the other hand, needing social media likes in order to feel good could be a sign that something is wrong.

If the only thing that makes you feel loved, interesting, and cared for is the number of double-taps you get on an Instagram photo, you may be searching for validation in the wrong place.

Validation from social media likes is temporary. So it’s important to find validation in things that are more secure and long-lasting. Without something meaningful that gives you purpose, you’ll go back to feeling low after your post has stopped getting likes.

4: You Often Feel Alone

It seems kind of backwards – online, you’re connected to hundreds of people, but offline, you’re lonely.

But Instagram followers aren’t necessarily the same thing as friends.

If you feel lonely when you haven’t checked social media in a while, social media could be hurting your mental health.

It’s important to have relationships with people outside of social media. Having someone you can talk to about the things that are going on in your life and to do things with will help you feel less lonely.

That doesn’t mean you can’t connect with people on social media. It means that social media shouldn’t be the only way you connect.

It’s important not to confuse social media followers and friends with genuine friendship and love. Real friends will help keep your mental health strong and your loneliness at bay. Social media-only friends will do the opposite.

5: You’re Afraid to be Yourself

Social media has magnified the ways we go out of our way to impress others. Instagram filters, photo editing tools, deleting and re-writing captions a hundred times before posting… There are a million ways that what we post online doesn’t reflect our true selves.

Our true, natural selves can be scary in the social media world. Because everyone looks their best online, it’s easy to try to show off our most flattering angles, funniest captions, and best moments.

And even then, we filter, edit, and tweak.

But being so careful to only show what’s best could reveal a deeper fear – a fear of being ourselves, of being real, because we’re afraid that others may not like the real.

No one can be most comfortable when trying to be someone other than themselves: so don’t. It’s hard to keep up and only ends up making you feel worse. If social media pressures you to be something other than your real self, it could end up really hurting your mental health.

6: The FOMO is Real

Fear Of Missing Out becomes so much more prevalent and feels stronger because of social media.

Because we can see so much of what our friends and family are doing, it’s easy to feel like we’re missing out on the good stuff. Instead of participating, we watch fun things happen via our phones.

If you worry about missing posts when you can’t check social media for a few hours, or if you’re jealous of the things you see on social media, your FOMO could be hurting you.

FOMO means that you’re more concerned about what other people are doing than what you’re doing. And too much FOMO can lead to jealousy, bitterness, resentment, and low self-esteem. All of these things are dangerous to your mental health.

Don’t give in to FOMO. If you’re offline and afraid of missing something good, it might be a sign that it’s time to unplug for a while.

A Better Approach

Your mental health is important and social media can have an impact on it, so it’s important to be careful. Enjoy social media for what it is – a great way to connect with those you care about – but slow down or stop when you notice these signs.

Article written by Nancy Razkalla