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Social Media: Is it making us sick?
Asking The Important Questions Blogging and social media Personal

Social Media: Is It Making Us Sick?

Asking the Important Questions: a series of not so important questions that have crossed my mind. Some more trivial than others.

YouTube, arguably one of the most popular forms of social media today became big in 2005. Facebook leaped onto the scene in 2004 (I was going to explain the back story, but that’s a tangent and I’m sure you’ve seen The Social Network) but it wasn’t until 2006 where it was made available to people worldwide. Twitter was founded in the same year and Instagram followed four years later in 2010; the same year that Facebook met its 500m mark. This is all fact heavy, and nothing that you probably don’t already know. But it’s necessary to make the next point.

A life online

The past couple of years have seen an increase in people searching for things like “do I have anxiety?” and there’s a question about whether this is linked with social media or not. Is it just the ease and availability of asking Google instead of visiting a professional for a diagnosis or is social media having negative impacts on us?

As it stands, we’re a generation who live our lives online. Every new haircut, job, relationship, driving test passed, graduation gown worn, wedding day and baby born – it’s all online. We’re a culture of needing validation in the form of how many likes or RTs we can get on a new selfie or tweet. We’re obsessed with sharing how well we’re doing with our “friends” online, but is the filtered version of reality ruining our mental health?

Everyone is guilty of this, I know I am. I sit there refreshing Instagram after I upload a new picture and it gets me down if the likes don’t come rolling in – in fact, I’ve seen friends delete pictures because they didn’t get enough likes. But why do we do this? Why do we care so much about our presence online? It’s because people find talking about themselves intrinsically rewarding.

Harvard University conducted a study: people hooked up to MRI scans were asked to talk about themselves or listen to other people talk. Most turned down money to listen to others, preferring to talk about themselves. The study found that talking about yourself lights up the same part of the brain that activities such as eating and having sex do. The pleasure centers were even more active when people had an audience. And there’s no bigger audience than a generation of people attached to their phones, eagerly scrolling through their timeline.

Are we missing out?

I think people’s decisions to join in on social media is led by the fear of missing out. It puts the world in your hands. Without social media, you’re out of the conversation. Back when I was a compulsive tweeter (I’m talking about a-hundred-tweets-a-day, get-put-on-a-tweeting-ban-by-twitter obsessed) I decided to give up Twitter for Lent and for those six weeks I found that I didn’t have a clue what was going on in my friends lives or the world. I was missing out and it was uncomfortable.

Social media also has a way of amplifying the fear of missing out. We’re constantly looking to see what other people are doing that we aren’t. A few weeks back, I saw that my best friends went for breakfast without me via their Snapchat Stories. I was deflated and spent the whole day locked away in my room crying. I withdrew myself from them because I was hurt that I was missing out.

It’s the same for everyone; you see Instagram lunch dates and Facebook party photos and it makes you feel like shit when you aren’t there. My friends assured me that it was a coincidence they all happened to be in the same place with an hour to kill. They didn’t hate me at all. But this is the problem with social media; we see what’s online and then assume the worst and I’m not saying it’s the same for everyone but for me personally, it aids my low days.

The reality

Like I mentioned earlier, social media presents a filtered version of reality. We choose what we put online and it’s usually only the good stuff that makes the cut. In the world of social media, we have a perfect life, the perfect relationship, the perfect diet etc. We don’t put the greasy kebab we eat at 3 am on Instagram in place of a fancy bean salad. We don’t write a status about the argument we had in place of telling friends about how lucky we are. This opens up the possibility to compare yourself to other people and what they have, and often leads to a sense of despair and envy. And what we’re coming ourselves to is someone else’s rose-coloured life. It lowers your self-esteem which in turn could lead to depression.

Related post: Why I’m scared of Instagram.

So, is social media making us sick?

To answer the question, do I think social media is making us sick? I don’t. It’s easy to use social media as a scapegoat for problems that have been around for years before the curation of it. There’s always been stigma connected to being mentally ill and sadly, I think there always will be. So it’s no surprise that people feel more comfortable seeking help through a Google search rather than going to the doctor.

I’m not saying we aren’t obsessed with social media, and that some days it may be more of a problem than others. I think in a world where we’re more connected to information through the internet, it’d be ridiculous not to use it. We’re the digital age and that’s never going to change – we just have to embrace it.

What are your thoughts about social media and mental health? Is there a correlation? Do you think that social media is making us sick?

Feature Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

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54 COMMENTS

  • lifephotographic

    My Mum sent me a quote the other day that read “Remember when people had diaries and got mad when someone read them? Now they put everything online and get mad when people don’t”

    I think it’s so true especially for people who have grown up in the social media age and I think it’s especially dangerous for teenagers whose whole lives (for a majority of them) seem to be based around how popular they are on social media rather than who they are as a person. But I agree with you I think that the mental health issues are already there but may be made worse by social media?

    Just like I don’t agree that violent games lead someone to commit violent acts…. but that’s another rant for another post.

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      That’s such a true quote! Made me chuckle! I definitely agree that social media can amplify these mental health issues, for sure! Which is why it’s so important to unplug from time to time!

  • This is such an honest post! I agree if we use social media for the wrong reasons, we can get addicted and it will make us spiral down. But I use Instagram to catch up with friends – it’s so quick and easy. I also use it to share my art and books and I love looking at other people’s art and although I do get a bit envious – I am more inspired than anything. Love also seeing what people are up to, and I’ve found great places to visit through insta.

    Twitter is more for my blog and the odd random thoughts haha.

    Great post – so glad you wrote it!
    -Lena
    x

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Like all things in life, I suppose you need to get the balance right! Thanks for reading, lovely! x

  • mariexceline

    I think some social media is worse than others. We should never confuse followers with friends. That’s why I wrote my post yesterday about best friends being the best 😁 and why I try to unplug by engaging in pastimes that I don’t need my phone for. The irony being that I then photograph my creations and blog about them, or put them on Instagram. If we have been somewhere interesting then I like to make a video and put it on YouTube!!!

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Definitely agree with you there, and you mentioned some really good points in that post! I’ve started unplugging a bit more and it’s definitely refreshing! It’s all about the balance!

  • Rachyreviews

    Love this! It really summarises very well just what problems social media can bring if used excessively or incorrectly.

    You should be very proud lovely! A lot of people will find this very useful.

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Thanks, Rachel! Glad you enjoyed! 🙂 x

  • Geraldine

    I love this series! I think it’s an important question to consider, especially in this day and age, where we are glued to our phones, like, all day! I definitely think social media is making us sick and turning us kind of into robots where we all feel like we have to be posting constantly and it’s a competition for some to be able to post the nicest pictures with the best adventures or the coolest gifts you got from your significant other, etc. I think there was only one time where I had a social media detox and did not look at my phone for a day or two (LOL) but honestly I can say it was a breath of fresh air. It is so hard not to look on my phone because I’m afraid I’ll miss something. I’m also like you where I constantly monitor my phone if I posted a new picture up because I want it to be liked! Not there yet where I’m feelinde pictures and I certainly hope I don’t get to that stage! Again, a lovely post Han ☺️

    Geraldine | https://geraldinetalks.com

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      I didn’t think about the aspect of us being turned into robots, that’s so true! I do wonder what life would be like if we weren’t all so reliant on technology! Thanks, Ger! x

  • Ashli

    I don’t think it’s making us sick – I think SOMETIMES it can and for some people it can become an obsessive things but I don’t think it’s happening to everyone. And I think if you’re honest on social media then I think that can be beneficial to some people and help them too so it can be a good things sometimes too!

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      A really great point there! I think Twitter can be really refreshing and honest sometimes and it makes you feel less alone because you see someone is going through the same thing!

      • Ashli

        Yes!! I love the group I’ve come across on Twitter!! It’s so helpful!

  • Amie. (@acurvyvegan)

    It’s so important to have a balance when it comes to social media, I talked about something similar! I’ve taken a bit of a step back and I’m just enjoying life!

    Love, Amie ❤
    The Curvaceous Vegan

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      It really is, I took a step back last week and it was a bit like a breath of fresh air! x

  • Chloe Chats

    This is a great post Hannah! Every thing you post I love! This is a very interesting topic, and I’ve seen a fair few studies relating social media and mental health. Unfortunately, I do believe that social media can affect our mental health negatively, mostly from what you have explained, we post things on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter for it to get likes and when we don’t get any or hardly interaction we feel upset and maybe even embarrassed (hence why some people then remove the posts). Also, seeing others on social media talking about how amazing their career is going, or even just seeing people post on Instagram looking totally amazing, with a “perfect” body, it can make us feel disappointed in ourselves and a lot of the times (especially for younger people who may be easily encouraged) that that is the “norm” and that’s how we should look – but in reality we should just love ourselves for who we are and love the body that we are in.

    However, I also feel there are lots of positives with social media. I have had moments where I have felt so alone and just being able to interact with people on Twitter has helped me. Also, like blogging, it’s a creative outlet. For example, Instagram we get to show off photo’s that we took and are proud of. I could go on but I’m about to write another bloody ‘blog post’ in your comments ahaha.

    Chloe xx

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Haha, definitely agree with what you said! It’s all about the balance! I definitely agree that social media can make any mental health problems we have worse and I think when we’re going through that it’s important to take a step back, especially when we start comparing ourselves! Twitter lets you know other people are going through similar stuff so that can always be helpful x

  • Abby

    Hannah, this post is amazing. I mean, yes it makes me think of my social media obsession. And the fact that I want to manage multiple businesses social medias. And maybe I have a problem. BUT BESIDES THOSE THINGS. This was eye opening. And I love that you were honest about everything but in the end you didn’t blame social media. It is incredibly easy to blame the issues of the world on it, but those people don’t want to look within. I also think social media has wonderful aspects about it. Although, agreed, we are def an obsessed culture.

    ❤️Abby

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Thanks, Abby! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂 There are definitely some wonderful aspects to it, its all about getting the balance! x

  • lucymarytaylor

    I loved reading this! Social media has taken over our lives so much in the last 3-4 years, we live in such a digital age now it’s quite scary of how much we use it, I’m not surprised that we don’t get sick by it! xx

    Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      I always realise how scary it is when kids know how to use an iPhone better than I do! xx

  • Laura

    Social media has its place but I do think young people are extremely impressionable and don’t always realise that things posted on social media are not always as they seem x

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      This is so true! x

  • budgetbelles80

    I hate to admit it but sometimes I have a fear of missing out when I am not online. But sometimes I glad not to be online!

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Yea, I turned my push notifications off this last week and it was refreshing not to be online for a while!

  • Tasha Louise

    I definitely think social media can make mental health problems worse and it’s so easy to become obsessed with how other people lead their lives (or the perfect bits we see of them!) But I don’t think it’s actually making us sick. I think we need to just take things we see online with a pinch of salt sometimes and focus on our own lives not comparing ourselves to others but it definitely can be hard! Great post!

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      I completely agree with this! Thank you for reading, I’m glad you enjoyed! 🙂 x

  • I don’t think social media is as toxic as people make it out to be. I view social media as any indulgence out there and depending on the person, a little “too much” of social media is either fine or harmful for an individual. My housemate is addicted to Facebook and she whines about it all the time, yet she makes no attempts to limit her time online and tells everyone how harmful social media is. I can recognize when social media is getting to me so I usually take several months breaks throughout the year to cleanse myself of social media and to just live in the moment and not feel that pressure to impress my peers.

    I believe social media comes down to how the individual uses it and whether they can see the reality vs Instagram reality. I fill my feeds with people I genuinely want to keep up with and stay away from pages that I don’t care too much about.

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      very well put! Definitely is down to the way an individual views/uses it!

  • This is so wonderfully written and explored, Han! I honestly wonder just how cyclical our relationship with social media and our own healths are. Maybe this is just something we have to learn to adapt to now, since there really isn’t a way to escape it now. I’m too tired to even think further into it!

    Alex| http://californiapollution.com/

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Thanks so much, Alex! Thats a good point, it probably is something we need to learn to adapt to!

  • Lauren

    It’s difficult to say if there is a correlation unless there were a study that were to show how anxious teens or young adults were before social media and compare that to the same age group after social media. It’s possible that the generation that grew up with social media while in high school has experienced more feelings of missing out than the one before it.

    The internet has allowed many to make our voices heard and so we have an avenue to discuss our mental health issues. Readers and questioning their own mental health, wondering if they have anxiety, too. Information is easy enough to access and I find myself Googling way more than I did even just three years ago.

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Very good points here, it definitely has been a useful place to get mental health issues heard!

  • beautifulday2balive

    I love this post! I can tell you thought long and hard about this. I often think of similar things and believe that social media breaks are a must sometimes. I recently took a month off before relaunching my blog. It gave me so much time to reflect on myself and everything around me. I think social media is a happy medium between making people feel lonely and helping people to not be so alone. I truly feel that it depends on the state of mind of their person using the platform and how they are feeling at the time of use. Also as you stated the sense of feeling you get when people like your stuff makes you happier like a reward. I do my best not to let those things effect me especially because I am so new to the social media and blogging world. However, it isn’t easy to ignore when others get a thousand or more likes on things and all you have is one. You definitely tend to wonder if you are good enough or if what you have to say is just boring or if your pictures aren’t pretty enough. Anyways I guess I am saying I totally agree with this post and I can’t wait to see what else you are going to write about!

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      It’s crazy how much time you have to reflect and stuff when you’re no on social media all the time! Thank you so much, glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 x

  • Nikki Ranson

    Morning Hannah,
    I wrote something similar yesterday (popping by Twitter). I recently deleted Snapchat and Instagram, I started to notice how fake my so called friends were becoming and it truly played a massive effect on my anxiety and depression. Now I know that Social Media isn’t the cause for this, offline personal issues caused this, however Social Media for me is the fuel for the fire, so I took the negativity away for me! Decided to create my blog, something positive for me, if friends and family want to read, then great, if they don’t I’m not bothered. I created it to boost my confidence and a way to document my young family’s achievements (something to look back on!). I do however feel , coming from the Era of writing journals to not letting anyone read them, to posting everything on social media too much

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Social media really can fuel the negative thoughts, for sure! I agree that a blog is a really helpful online medium, I feel like it gives me a purpose which is really nice.

  • Sophie

    This is such an interesting and honest post! Thank you for sharing. I often wonder what the world would be like if, for some reason, social media/social technology just completely disappeared…I genuinely don’t know if the planet would be happier or not. I loved your honesty and the fact you didn’t actually blame social media in the end, thank you for giving an alternative viewpoint.

    Love, Soph x
    http://www.sophie-elise.co.uk

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Glad you liked it, Sophie, thanks for reading! I think a lot of us would have a hard time adjusting to a work with no technology, it would be so odd! It would be really interesting to see if it would make everything happier though!

  • Ellie

    This post is super interesting. I totally agree with you, social media has taken over for sure. And I do think it amplifies mental health problems. We should all try to take back control and reduce our social media time!

    My recent post: https://lifeofellabella.blogspot.com/2019/01/skincare-saviours.html

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Definitely need to find a balance with it!

  • carnyschronicles

    This was a well written post. Sometimes it is easy to put blame on social media platforms and then leave. I am not sure if we should put it on us or social media. But I believe that we are human beings with a brain and sometimes it’s okay to take a step back and evaluate the situation. Just last year,i was having a hard time with instagram because everyone i followed was living their dreams and was nowhere near that, so i disconnected a bit and had a conversation with myself. I am not saying social media platforms arent chitty, but we as individuals can have control over them though it requires self awareness and self love😊

    Nice read as always Han

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Thank you so much! And some really good points here as well! Taking a step back is really necessary sometimes! x

  • Lavrax

    Such an incredible piece of writing Han! This is definitely something that is in the back of everyone’s minds, and we are totally in a culture of needing validation from likes online, I am so guilty of this, and even to those who preach that these things aren’t important, we still kind of get caught up. There is 100% a correlation between your mental wellbeing and social media, it’s just that horrible comparison game! I think there definitely needs to be more talk about how what you see online is never the reality of someone’s life.

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Thanks so much, Lav! It so easy to get caught up in it and I 100% agree about there needing to be more talk about what’s online isn’t always the reality, especially for the younger generation!

  • Ella Catherine

    Wow this was so eye opening, I was sat there just agreeing with all of this and it really is quite scary to think about. Also, I absolutely love your photography 😍😍😍

  • Ella Catherine

    I am not sure if I just deleted my comment or what happened – but I was just saying that this post was so eye opening to read. I think we all know how bad social media kind of is but it’s admitting it! The new thing on iPhones that tell you your screen time is terrifying! And also I absolutely love your photography- you’ve managed to make a desk photograph amazingly 🙂 xx

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Thank you so much! Screen time really is terrifying, though it has made me consciously try and not use my phone as much! Ahh, I wish I took that, unfortunately its a stock photo! xx

  • rachelmarcelle1

    I love your honesty. I also love social media and hate it at the same time. I love how it helps me to connect with people (I don’t leave my house that often but love and need to socialize) and learn about people from all over the world. That said, I hate the feeling of sadness I feel when some a friend posts and posts and posts all day but is too busy to answer the phone when I call them for a chat. But I don’t let it make me sick or blame it on social. I was born in the early 80s but can recall enough before the internet to confirm people were annoying/bad friends/narcisstic before we had access to all these great sites.That’s part of life, so I take the bad with the good. But I totally understand that not everyone can be like this, so for some people, limiting social media is probably a really good idea.

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Thank you so much! It really is a thin line to walk along with social media! And you do have to take the good with the bad, that is a part of life. Thanks for reading and commenting! x

  • alisonw30

    I think there is a balance and sometimes I do think we are missing out on good old fashioned conversation face to face! It saddens me to see groups of people out together all on their phones and not speaking to each other. Is it making us ill? Possibly, I think anything to excess isn’t a good thing.

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      You’re right, too much of anything is bad for us!

  • justnatonya

    Hey Hannah this was so thought provoking. Personally I think social media brings out a world of insecurities already brewing in a person. I think I’d you don’t feel good about yourself, social media should be one if the last places to visit. While social media is great for networking, creative inspiration and even job hunting, you need a strong mindset to see past the negative energy. You may come across someone who is doing better than you but if you don’t feel good about yourself, this could increase low self-esteem. I say open social media accounts when your emotionally ready and if not then don’t get an account, real life is much more fun anyways.

    GREAT POST!!!🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾

    Natonya | https://justnatonya.wordpress.com

    • hanmwill
      AUTHOR

      Some really great points you put across! Definitely agree about needing a strong mindset to see past the negative energy!

      Thank you so much, I’m so glad you liked it! 🙂 x

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