The impact of social media on your mental health

Does social media affect your mental health? Providence mental health expert, Dr. Robin Henderson, answers questions in a new podcast about social media and the impact it has on your well-being.

  • Maintaining balance is a key component for healthy social media use.
  • Comparing your life to the carefully crafted online lives of others can make you feel isolated, depressed and inadequate.
  • Taking a social media break can be an effective way to minimize its negative effects on your mental health.

[3 MIN READ]

Facebook can be a fun way to catch up with old friends and share pictures and silly memes. It can also lead to feelings of isolation, depression and sadness. The key, it seems, is balance.

In a recent #TalkWithADoc podcast, Providence psychologist Robin Henderson, Psy.D., partnered with Masha, founder of Coding Blonde, a professional development resource for women in tech, to discuss the effects of social media on our mental health.

We’ve gathered answers from Dr. Henderson to the most burning questions of this topic.

Is social media bad for my mental health?

For many people social media can be a positive way to connect with loved ones, meet new people and share common interests. “It’s not that social media is bad for your mental health. It’s what you do in the social media space that can impact your mental health positively and negatively,” Dr. Henderson said.

“It’s not that social media is bad for your mental health. It’s what you do in the social media space that can impact your mental health positively and negatively,” Dr. Henderson said.

If you’re using social media to rant and rave against any number of issues from your neighbor’s fence to the political climate, “that actually does have some damaging effects,” she said.

“What you put out into the world helps determine what you get back.”

She cautions that falling prey to the “comparative nature” of social media can hurt your emotional health by making you feel like you don’t measure up to the lifestyle you see portrayed online. “The reality is, that’s becoming overwhelming for a lot of people. We need to start posting more about what real life is like. Real life isn’t pretty. Real life isn’t perfect,” she said.

“We need to be “as real as we feel safe.”

Is social media making me feel lonelier?

For some people, social media magnifies their isolation by making them feel as if they don’t have sufficient friends, followers or likes.

For others, social media provides a way to expand their horizons with people who share similar likes and dislikes. For these users, social media is a way for people to feel engaged and connected.

“It’s all about balance,” Dr. Henderson said. “Every new innovation has a period of time where people learn how it influences their life and how it works.”

Should I take a break from social media?

Dr. Henderson recommends going offline for a few hours or even a few days if social media is making you feel overwhelmed. It can help you regain your perspective.

“Taking a scheduled break helps bring you back down to reality. And that’s a good thing,” she said.

Social media’s comparative nature can make you feel “less-than” if you believe everyone else is living their best lives while you make do with a mundane existence—behavior that’s unhealthy at best.

Why does social media sometimes make me feel inferior?

Social media’s comparative nature can make you feel “less-than” if you believe everyone else is living their best lives while you make do with a mundane existence—behavior that’s unhealthy at best.

“We should be celebrating our differences and others’ successes. Or a really good selfie,” Dr. Henderson said. “If we did more lifting people up and celebrating each other, imagine what a kinder, gentler world we’d live in.”

Dr. Henderson had lots more to say about social media and the important role balance plays in your mental health. Listen to the full conversation here.

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Find a doctor

The mental health experts at Providence can help you create the healthy balance you need in your life—both online and off. Find a doctor using our provider directory. Or you can search for a primary care doctor in your area.

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Get your healthcare questions answered at #TalkWithADoc and share insights you gain with readers @psjh.

Regional resources

Washington: Behavioral Health Services

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.

 

About the Author

The Providence Body & Mind Team is dedicated to providing medically-sound, data-backed insights and advice on how to reach and maintain your optimal health through a mixture of exercise, mindfulness, preventative care and healthy living in general.

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