By Juliet Umeh
Christmas celebration is over but most people are still on vacation and have so much time to spend on social media platforms.
While social media platforms have their benefits, connecting family and friends, however experts have warned that using them too frequently can make people feel increasingly unhappy and isolated in the long run.
Studies and psychologists have also said that reliance on social media can have a detrimental effect on people’s mental health with the average social media avid checking their phone as much 28 times a day.
A study at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, said that too much Facebook browsing at a festive season and seeing all the “perfect” families and holiday photos, is more likely to make people miserable than festive.
It particularly warns about the negative impact of “lurking” on social media without connecting with anyone.
The study of more than 1,000 participants, mostly women, says that regular use of social networking such as Facebook can negatively affect one’s emotional well-being and satisfaction with life.
Some of the harmful effects include:
- Unrealistic social comparisons
It said there is bound to be ‘Unrealistic social comparisons.’ Researchers warn of envy and a “deterioration of mood” from spending too long looking at other people’s social media stories, induced by “unrealistic social comparisons.”
If this suggests a picture of long irritable hours over a screen, depressed by the boasts and posts of others, then the researchers say that it does not need to be this way.
However, another study published in the journal, Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking suggests that rather than lurk around social media, people should actively engage in conversation and connect with people.
The study says: “This seems to be much less gloomy than “passive” users who spend too long “lurking” on social networking websites without getting involved. Another approach to improve well-being, the study says, is to stop using social media altogether for a week. Some of the other harmful effects include:
- Low self-esteem
People comparing themselves to others on social media by checking their aesthetically perfect Instagram photos or relationship status on Facebook could do little to assuage one’s feelings of self-doubt.
The University of Copenhagen found that many people suffer from “Facebook envy,“ with those who abstained from using the popular site reporting that they felt more satisfied with their lives.
A psychologist who is also an author of ‘When Likes Aren’t Enough,’ Dr. Tim Bono, said: “When we derive a sense of worth based on how we are doing relative to others, we place our happiness in a variable that is completely beyond our control.
- Fear of isolation
It’s important for people to communicate and forge personal connections with one another. However, it can be hard to do so when one is glued to friends’ digital facades than their real-life personas.
For example, a former model, Stina Sanders, who has 107,000 followers on Instagram, explained how social media sometimes makes her feel like she’s being left out.
Also, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology that assessed 5,208 subjects found that overall, regular use of Facebook had a negative impact on an individual’s wellbeing.
- Distort information
According to Bono, social media can distort the way one remembers certain things in life. He said many are guilty of spending too much time trying to take the perfect photo of a visual marvel, all the while not actually absorbing the firsthand experience of witnessing it with your own two eyes.
He said: “If we direct all of our attention toward capturing the best shots for our social media followers to admire, less will be available to enjoy other aspects of the experience in real time.”
- Poor sleep
Bono explained that having enough sleep is important. But the study revealed that getting worked up with anxiety or envy from what one sees on social media keeps the brain on high alert, preventing users from falling asleep.
He said: “The light from our mobile device just inches from our face can suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps people feel tired.”
- Mental health
Not only has social media been proven to cause unhappiness, but it can also lead to the development of mental health issues such as anxiety or depression when used too much or without caution.
In March 2018, it was reported that more than a third of Generation Z from a survey of 1,000 individuals stated that they were quitting social media for good as 41 percent stated that social media platforms make them feel anxious, sad or depressed.
In the view of a Clinical Psychologist at the department of Psychiatry, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Juliet Ottoh, said people should always be prepare themselves because social media is free for all and a medium people express anything without supervision.
Ottoh said to some persons it is an avenue to show off or feel good which could pose as a problem to other vulnerable people.
She advised: “Just be yourself and be contented and appreciate who and what you have.”
Love yourself and be happy
To prevent being depressed, Ottoh said: “Practice managing and regulating emotions. Take ownership of self -sabotaging thoughts patterns and habits. Set and hold boundaries around complacent and toxic people.
“Improve relationship with others and build resilience. Celebrate your small achievements. Prioritising your needs and practice self positive thoughts,” she said.