Some research indicates that social media may be negatively affecting our mental health. Why and how does this occur — and what can we do to help solve mental health issues related to social media use?
The integration of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and many other platforms into our lives over the past decade have given us a great deal of connectivity and communication ability. Facebook allows us to reconnect with childhood friends we thought we may never hear from again, whereas Twitter allows us to interact, personally and publicly, with celebrities, politicians, and the rest of our cultural interests. YouTube, Vimeo, and Vine have launched a new generation of celebrities.
Too Many Friends?
Today, the social network of the average human is larger than it has ever been before. The Machiavellian Intelligence Hypothesis postulates that humans are able to maintain 150-200 friendships and acquaintanceships at a time, a theory known in anthropological and sociological circles as Dunbar’s number, according to New Yorker.
Social media stretches this number well past its limits: Pew Research reports the average number of Facebook friends alone as 338. This constant stream of information sharing and social engagement can leave many users exhausted, to the point where some might quit their social media accounts altogether.
“Social overload,” as Nautilus magazine observes, “is the flip side of what other researchers have found to be one of the positive aspects of social media.” The benefits of sharing and remaining in constant contact via Facebook can oftentimes turn into too much of a good thing. While it can be wonderful to catch up with old friends and acquaintances that may otherwise have remained lost to circumstances beyond our control, it can conversely be depressing to witness friends living seemingly awesome, productive lives.
The Psychology of “Facebook Depression”
“It is a very tricky feeling,” says Hanna Krasnova, an information systems researcher at Switzerland’s University of Bern. “Sometimes the feeling [of envy] could get so suppressed we don’t know what we’re feeling and why we’re feeling so angry or sad, or so irritated or stressed.”
This phenomenon, known as “Facebook depression,” often factors and feeds into actual depression. The more people use Facebook, a University of Michigan study found, the less happy they feel. Medical Daily observes that those who already face mental health issues can exacerbate their symptoms by spending too much time scrolling through their Twitter or Facebook feeds.
And for those who may feel the need to seek outside help, not having the financial resources — including proper insurance coverage — can be an enormous obstacle to combating social media-fueled depression.
So What’s the Solution?
It is impractical to fully remove oneself from the internet, and deactivating a Facebook account is usually only a temporary move. With Messenger as a simple universal chat tool and many other websites and accounts requiring a Facebook account for login, it is difficult to fully unplug.
But if things go too far and your mental health is an issue, seeking professional help can often go a long way toward your well being. Having access to healthcare, no matter your level of coverage, is possible through SingleCare, which gives its member access to a wide network of the best mental health professionals available. With no premiums or hidden fees, members can save big while staying mentally fit.
(Main image credit: jean-marie guyon/Thinkstock)