Hi guys! My name’s Liz Thurrell and I’m a doctoral student in clinical psychology at Immaculata University. I’m currently working as a therapist at a private practice in Pennsylvania treating children and adults with anxiety, depression, ADHD, interpersonal difficulties, and so on. Recently I’ve noticed that a lot of my clients talk about anxiety and depression tied to social media use. So I decided to take a deeper look and write my dissertation on the impact of social media on mental health, specifically in young adults. So here’s what we know so far in the research…
We’re more connected than ever but as a society, we’re also more anxious and depressed. In our defense, being connected is a part of life in 2019. We use our phones to keep in touch with friends and family, read the news, work, play, and the list goes on. While there are many benefits of social media and technology, there are also disadvantages to this constant connection. Research is showing that excessive and frequent social media use is correlated with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and poor sleep quality. When we’re using social media it’s easy to make comparisons to others. These comparisons are usually dangerous because we’re trying to compare someone’s external (and probably filtered) experience to our internal experience. It looks like everyone’s going to brunch, working out, sitting on the beach, and having SO much fun while we’re sitting at home in our PJs after a rough day feeling #gross.
So what can we do about this? Social media isn’t going anywhere and there are all those benefits we talked about. Here’s what I typically recommend to my clients: Set limits on your social media use. This sounds really easy but when it’s a habit, it can be hard. If you have a smartphone, there are features such as “down time” on the iPhone where you can set periods of time each day where you cannot access social media apps on your phone. If you do click on an app, your phone will ever so gently remind you that you’re in downtime mode. It also may be helpful to unfollow pages or people who aren’t helping your own mental health. Most apps have features that allow to unfollow or ‘silence’ others so that they never know about your decision! In the same light, start following inspirational and uplifting pages and people. Find pages and people who post content that helps you meet your mental health goals or just generally makes you smile. And finally, and this is a hard one, try avoiding screen time the hour before you go to bed. Studies show that using your phone before bed increases sleep disturbance which, in turn, increases the risk of anxiety and depression. And always, always, always, be compassionate with yourself if you have a hard day. Talk to yourself the way you would a loved one.
My biggest takeaway point is ALWAYS there’s no shame in asking for help and there’s always help available. If you or someone you know is struggling, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us is a great resource to find a local therapist that fits your needs.