According to scientists, the obsession with social media, selfies, and always staying connected is linked to narcissism, addiction, and mental illness. The relationship between digital use and mental health is a very close one, as more and more psychologists are seeing patients as young as 12 years old struggle with body dysmorphia and more because of their obsession with social media. What may seem like a simple selfie could be the beginning of an unhealthy mental condition.

Let’s look more at the effects of social media on our youth’s mental health:

Social Media Can Lead to Narcissism

Narcissism can occur in both young adults and older adults. The case affects people of all ages and is only becoming worse with social media. With so many filters, effects, poses, and makeup looks, we can feel like a million bucks just by posting one photo.

While self-confidence is healthy and good for our well-being, narcissism takes it over the edge. Studies have shown that people who post multiple selfies are more likely to suffer from narcissism, or the excessive interest in oneself. According to Pamela Rutledge in Psychology Today, “selfies frequently trigger perceptions of self-indulgence or attention-seeking social dependence that raises the damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don’t spectre of either narcissism or very low self-esteem.”

Social Media Sets Unrealistic Expectations and Jealousy

Social media has a major effect on how we communicate and build relationships today. These platforms serve as our “highlight reel,” so we often find ourselves comparing our lives to those of our friends that we see on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

For example, you may see someone on an exotic vacation and get jealous, but not know the hard work or expenses it took to get there (because this part isn’t on our feed!). These feelings of jealousy are amplified when we can see what everyone is doing, when they are doing it.

Social Media Can Lead to Depression

According to a study done by UC San Diego, the more people use Facebook, the more likely they are to experience mental health issues, such as negative life satisfaction. This correlates to the above point, that we think our lives aren’t good enough when we compare them to other people’s. In addition, even teens themselves believe that social media is making bullying, body image anxiety, and depression and loneliness worse.

Social Media Can Stunt Our Social Growth

As great as social media is for building and maintaining relationships with people that we don’t see very often, it’s also hindering the relationships we already have.

As mentioned above, social media feeds our jealousy because we are hyper-critical of every movement. Think your significant other is cheating? Check their direct messages on Instagram. Not sure if he likes you? Swipe on a new boy on one of the many dating apps. Feeling blue? Post a selfie to make someone jealous. These are just some of the reasons why our relationships are being put on hold because of social media. All of this leads to higher levels of attachment anxiety and trust issues.

Social Media is Addictive

Did you know that going on social media is literally addictive? Studies have shown that scrolling through your newsfeed releases some of the same brain chemicals as drugs do. This can be detrimental to anyone, but especially to teens and young adults because the teen brain is more vulnerable to addiction. In addition, these addictive traits can make existing mental health conditions, like depression or anxiety, worse. This forms a type of dual-diagnosis, or substance abuse paired with mental disorders.

How to Help

Do you feel like social media is taking hold of your life in an unhealthy way? There are many ways to take control of your life and stop the scrolling pandemonium. Here are some ideas:

  • Do a technology detox, where you don’t use your phone (or any technology) for at least a day
  • Limit notifications or put a block on social media for a few hours right before you go to bed
  • Put your phone on “do not disturb” mode so you don’t have constant notifications interrupting your day.

These are just a few ways you can take control of your technology and social media usage and focus on yourself. Remember to cherish your loved ones and spend quality time with them in real life, rather than from behind a screen.

Article written by Trevor McDonald