16/05/2017 10:29 BST | Updated 16/05/2017 10:30 BST

Three Tricks Social Media Plays On Mental Well-Being

Social media can be your best friend or your worst enemy, it can uplift you or deflate you and people can love you or berate you. How often do you think about its effects on your mental health and well-being, and on your relationships, and do you use it with caution? Like many people, you probably don't even think about the effects but you probably experience some of them at least sometimes.

There are short-term positive and negative effects of social media use and long-term positive and negative effects of social media use. For example, new research on 1,787 young adults (aged 19-32 years) has found that adults with high social media use feel more socially isolated than those with lower social media use. To give you an idea of mental health guidelines, those spending more than two hours a day on social media were twice as likely to show signs of social isolation than participants who spent no more than 30 minutes a day on social media sites.

When you think about it, social media can lull us into a false sense of security about the benefits we're getting from it, both immediately and in the long-run. In the past I have written several articles on my blog about social media's effects on our mental health and well-being.

For example, one of the challenges we face with social media is being thoughtful about whether we are using social media to suppress negative emotions, and by doing so, delaying dealing with our real concerns. Many people don't want to confront their emotions because they fear what their emotions may reveal and any changes they would be required to make in order to eliminate those emotions. After all, within our emotions lie answers, truths and instructions.

Nowadays there is a sense of pressure for us to do and have it all, the successful career, marriage, kids, active social life, good looks, general knowledge, wealth and fashionable clothes. If we want to stand out from the crowd even further then a celebrity-like status is a must that can be garnered by engineering loads of "fans" on social media like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

So - much - pressure...and so little time to actually stop and think and reflect.

In this busy, pressurised world, problems are not welcome; too often they are suppressed, along with suppressing emotions attached to them. For example, if I can pretend it's not happening, I don't have to:

  • add more pressure on myself;
  • make changes I'm scared to make;
  • face the fact that perhaps a relationship break-up is on the horizon;
  • face up to a career change I have to take;
  • confront my low self-esteem issues;
  • recognise that I have made a mistake;
  • and so on.

For those who want to pretend that their reality is not their reality, they can indulge in various forms of emotional suppression such as emotional eating, excessive alcohol consumption, drug taking (legal or illegal), working too many hours, obsessing over fairly insignificant matters and even using social media.

3 Ways You May Be Tricking Yourself

In that same way, there are three major benefits that you can try to seek from social media and you really have to think about whether you actually are getting those benefits or just think you're getting them. In this short video I talk about three ways in which social media can trick your mental health and well-being and what you should do about them. The three areas are:

  1. aiming to gain emotional support;
  2. aiming to feel less lonely;
  3. aiming to boost your self-esteem and confidence.

A good tip to remember after you've watched this short video is to pay attention to how you feel internally before, during and after you've logged on to your social media platforms. Use that feeling to help you make better decisions about when to use social media for fun and pleasure.


Primack, B. A., Shensa, A., Sidani, J. E., Whaite, E. O., Lin, L. Y., Rosen, D., Colditz, J. B., Radovic, A., & Miller, E. (2017). Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S. American Journal of Preventive Medicine.