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Human companionship and interactions are important for mental health. Social isolation is one of the contributing risks for suicide. Unfortunately, not all social interaction is healthy. In recent years social media on the internet has become a major factor in human interaction. This mode of communication has added much to our lives. Unfortunately, social media and mental health problems are also too often related. Psychologists have studied how social media and social interaction work. It turns out that for the kind of interaction that triggers positive hormones and reduces stress, people need to interact face to face in the real world and not via online chats.

Loneliness in the Social Media World

There is strong evidence that too much time on social media makes anxiety and depression more frequent and worse. Research shows that self-harm and suicidal thoughts become more prevalent in individuals who live and communicate exclusively in the social media world. Individuals whose lives revolve around social media contacts commonly have a fear of missing out. A sense of inadequacy is common when people are constantly confronted with idealized versions of people, airbrushed photos, and glamorized lives of the rich and famous.

Loneliness in the Social Media World

Built In Addictive Mechanisms in the Social Media World

From the viewpoint of the social media user, the point is to interact with others, communicate, learn things, and be entertained. From the viewpoint of the social media company, the point is to addict the user so that they will spend more time on social media, buy things, and provide user data for advertisers. Algorithms behind what you see when you search on Google, Facebook and other sites are all aimed to provide profit for the company running the show. Unfortunately, this commonly allows unhealthy aspects of social media to thrive and hurt users.

Who Is At Greatest Risk From Social Media?

Interestingly, if you look at when people use social media, those who use it more on weekends than weekdays are at greater risk of mental health issues. Why this is important has to do with why a person is using social media. When social media use is primarily to gain information and engage in factual communication there is minimal risk of mental health problems. When a person uses social media to seek fulfillment, happiness and a sense that they belong, that is where a manipulative and addictive social media can be dangerous to their mental health. The first group of people use social media during the week and find fulfillment, meaning, and happiness away from social media on the weekend. The second group gets trapped in social media on weekends and increases its social isolation.

Who Is At Greatest Risk From Social Media?

Social Media Use and Feelings of Loneliness

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found an inverse relationship between social media usage and a sense of loneliness. In other words, spending more time on social media when a person feels lonely ends up making them feel more lonely. Anxiety and depression get worse when a person does not have enough face to face interaction with people who are important to them. About one teenager in ten reports that they have been bullied via social media. Individuals who are seeking something positive in social media end up feeling threatened and insignificant.

Life Is Not Just All About You

Something that we learn as we grow up and interact with other children as well as adults is that there is more to the world than just us. Unfortunately, people who tend to become self-absorbed too often find social media a willing accomplice. Selfies are common. Expressing your innermost thoughts again and again directs attention inward when it should involve the rest of the world. We know that social isolation is a risk factor for suicide and when a person is suffering from a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, looking farther and farther inward is decidedly unhealthy.

Escape From Social Media

Social media for many people is addicting. It is built to be that way. The cure is to not use it. Spending time with people in the real world, getting some exercise, joining a real world group, volunteering for a useful activity, and more are all ways to escape from the social media trap. Finding a hobby, joining a club, taking dancing lessons are all things that get a person away from the social media trap. Because they are typically fun to do that enjoyment counteracts the nagging desire to retreat into social media again and again.

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