Emotional Wellbeing

Mandy Kloppers

The negative effects of social media

The times have changed and now, more than ever, we spend our lives looking at what others are doing. The negative effects of social media include presenting a distorted view of reality. This distorted view is something that many people buy into. When we see others looking gorgeous, thin, having a great time and enjoying a seemingly perfect life, it can highlight what is wrong in our own lives. Our insecurities and fear of missing out is magnified tenfold.

Over the past few years psychologists have begun to look at the effects of social media on mental wellbeing and a consistent finding of much of this research is that the heavy use of social media is associated with poorer mental health.

A recent University of Pittsburgh study of young adults suggested that heavy social media users were three times more likely to be depressed than occasional users.  A Canadian study from the Center of Addictions and Mental Health that’s examined data from over 10,000 adolescents, found that young people who use social media more than two hours per day were significantly more likely to rate their mental health as “fair” or “poor” compared with occasional users.

Fake reality

Don’t believe what you see on social media. Social media is harmful to mental health because it triggers anxiety and depression. Anxiety is triggered because it makes us wonder why we don’t have what others seem to have. Depression can result from the constant comparisons that we engage in when we check out other people’s social media profiles and updates.

Heightened insecurities

We don’t need much to feel bad about ourselves. Most of us are our own worst critics and social media magnifies this process. We become more self critical and feel even more inadequate. The problem with this though, is that we believe what we see on social media and forget to do a reality check. No one is going to post pictures of their latest wart or a video of a recent fight with their boyfriend or girlfriend. We all want others to think we live happy perfect lives. The truth is that social media is harmful as it perpetuates dishonesty and inaccurate reflections of real life. Don’t be taken in by it. Everyone has challenges to deal with, even if they try to make you believe otherwise.

Social anxiety

I have dealt with clients who have social anxiety and being on social media has made their social anxiety worse. They feel inadequate and think badly of themselves and then avoid going out. The less they go out, the less they feel confident about going out and the cycle reinforces itself. People spend more time forging relationships on line and miss out on practising some of the necessary skills required for face-to-face interactions.


Bullying is becoming a huge problem on social media. The landscape of bullying has changed and it now occurs over the internet, in people’s homes. It can be hard to escape.

As we are increasingly living our lives online, cyberbullying is something which can affect anyone at any time:

  • 17% of those surveyed have experienced cyberbullying.
  • 29% of those surveyed reported experiencing cyberbullying at least once a month.
  • 16% surveyed said they were cyberbullied at least once a week

Cyberbullying can have serious impacts on the self-esteem and mental health of people who experience it:

  • 41% of people who were cyberbullied developed social anxiety
  • 37% developed depression
  • 26% had suicidal thoughts
  • 26% deleted their social media profile
  • 25% self-harmed
  • 25% stopped using social media
  • 20% skipped class
  • 14% developed an eating disorder
  • 9% abused drugs or alcohol.

When asked about what happened to those who were cyberbullied, here’s how they responded:

  • 39% had a nasty comment posted on their profile
  • 34% had a nasty comment posted on their photo
  • 68% has been sent a nasty private message
  • 18% had their profile wrongfully reported
  • 23% had been bullied in an online game
  • 24% had their private information shared
  • 18% had somebody impersonate them online
  • 41% had rumours about them posted online
  • 27% had photos/videos of them that they didn’t like

Irregular sleep pattern

Spending too much time on social media can affect sleep negatively. It’s addictive and this can eat into normal healthy sleep time. Lack of sleep affects mental health and general coping skills.

External Validation

Social media can become an addictive source for maintaining someone’s self esteem. It’s a dangerous strategy to depend on the “likes’ of others to feel good about yourself. In effect, this gives others far more control over a person’s emotional well being than is healthy. Learning to like yourseld irrespective of what others think is far healthier and will help you feel more confident about life. Leanr to be more self reliant.

While social media offers benefits, it is important to be wary of the negative effects of social media and to make sure that you control your social media and not the other way around.

Mandy X