Gone are the days when one would gather around with friends and family members and play a game of carrom or basketball on a whim. Now, you may find most of us slouching on a couch, endlessly scrolling through a networking platform – usually feeling lonely and sad. These platforms aim to connect the world and unite us through our mobile screens. However, in certain cases, it may do the opposite, i.e., it may increase your loneliness and leave you feeling empty and miserable.
Heavy Internet usage may harm your mental well-being and heighten your risk of developing conditions such as loneliness, anxiety, and depression, as it reduces real-time social connection. Yes, the more time you spend liking stories and tweeting about irrelevant matters, the higher it may affect your mood. You may begin to ignore the real world and be less aware of your surroundings.
But how does it induce loneliness, you ask? Well, social media increases our tendency to compare ourselves with others. Their success stories, glamorous vacation pictures, and the lives that they are living may make you feel insignificant and worthless at times. However, these platforms hardly ever portray the truth. People tend to share only what is perfect, often doctoring their posts to look a particular way. Comparing yourself to those individuals may reduce your sense of self-worth and bring about the feeling of being alone. Excessive Instagram and Facebook use may turn unhealthy and cause stress and anxiety.
Ways it Can Make You Feel Lonely
There are multiple ways through which it can make you feel inept and trigger feelings of isolation. Social networking sites aim to distance you from real life, increasing the urge to check on your friends constantly. You build various connections and watch their lives unfold through a screen. Over time, this may turn into second nature, and you may find it hard to pull away from these platforms. Social media sites, slowly and steadily, may become your only medium of communication, and you may begin to harbor feelings of social isolation.
Spending too much time on a social network may lead to multiple negative experiences. From FOMO (fear of missing out) to social comparison, let’s look at how it can generate feelings of isolation.
- Fear of Missing Out: FOMO is nothing but the anxiety we feel when we notice others living a joyous life and having new experiences without us. You may encounter multiple instances of people simply having fun while scrolling through Instagram. This might negatively affect your mood, as you may feel bad about all the things you are missing. The desire to stay perpetually connected might heighten your stress levels and promote feelings of loneliness. Since you will always have the fear of missing something, you will be glued to your device, trying to keep up with the online world.
- Social Comparison: Your friends or peers may flaunt their new cars or achievements on Facebook or Snapchat, leaving you feeling inadequate and bitter about yourself. It is human nature to compare ourselves with others, and with the advent of networking platforms, the comparison is at an all-time high.
Comparing ourselves to people who seem better off than us may worsen our morale and make us feel worthless. People often portray themselves in their best light on social networking sites, and watching their near-perfect lives might lower your self-esteem and increase your anxiety levels. The more time you spend scrolling through pictures and videos of your friends, the more likely you are to compare yourself with them. Remember, not only will this heighten your social anxiety, but it will also trigger feelings of social isolation.
The Impact it Can Have on Your Mental Health
Heavy social media usage may affect your mental well-being. Look for the signs listed below if you feel that it has changed your life for the worse:
- Depression: The lack of face-to-face interactions, real-life connections, and increased screen time can cause severe depressive symptoms in people. Social interaction is necessary to develop meaningful relationships, but these platforms reduce face-to-face connectivity and promote the online world. This leads to an increased risk of isolation and depression. Social media addiction is a behavioral addiction that must be curbed to maintain healthy real-time relationships.
- Lowers self-worth: You may begin to question your self-worth after comparing yourself to picture-perfect posts. These platforms have the ability to lower your self-esteem by showcasing pictures that may make you feel bad about yourself. All the parties that you may not be uninvited to, the trips that you could not take – they may tend to make you feel insignificant and worthless.
- Lowers productivity: The Internet, and especially networking platforms, are designed to get you addicted to the endless stream of content. Continuously using such platforms means a heightened depression, stress, and anxiety risk. All these conditions may come together and harm your productivity, disabling you from doing any significant work. You may begin to miss your homework or have trouble keeping up with your office work. Consistently engaging in online interactions is linked to higher levels of loneliness which may lead to depressive symptoms in younger people and young adults.
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How to Have a Healthier Relationship With Social Media
Balancing your usage and limiting your internet time may help eradicate the issues that occur with excessive usage of the platforms. Follow the tips given below to maintain a healthy relationship with the online world.
This might sound obvious, but limiting your time on social networking sites can work wonders for your mental health. Heavy use can give rise to negative emotions and cause mental health problems. To curb this, you can set up digital timers that block the applications automatically once the allotted time is up. Not only will it help eliminate self-comparison, but it will also bring about a positive mindset. Read a book, or take a stroll in the park if you find yourself going back to Instagram again.
Follow what brings you joy and motivates you to be a better person. Take inspiration from positive organizations and unfollow whatever makes you feel awful about yourself. Break the chain of negativity. Reducing your association can promote better life satisfaction.
Turning off the notifications of all networking applications may lessen your distraction and help you maintain boundaries. Remember that it is not necessary to be constantly online. Take a break and make some time to focus on yourself. Additionally, limit your usage of social platforms before you sleep. This will help eliminate any negative thoughts and feelings that you may have while scrolling through the endless stream of posts.
Maintain relationships outside of social networking sites. Engage in fun activities in real life to help curb any addiction to virtual platforms that you may have. Build deep and meaningful relationships in reality instead of building a fictional life online.
When Should You Get Professional Help?
If you feel that your life is getting negatively impacted due to social media platforms, it may be time to seek help from a therapist. Extreme usage of these platforms may increase your stress and anxiety levels and induce feelings of loneliness and depression. Look out for other signs, such as decreased productivity, low self-esteem, and a feeling of inadequacy. If you feel anxious when you’re disconnected, chances are you might be suffering from FOMO. Consider getting help from a specialist if your day-to-day activities are affected by heavy usage of social media.
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