The Dark Side of Social Media: Getting Real About Mental Health


When we read stories about bullying via social media, one of the most common remarks we hear is the victim’s statement that “the bullying followed them everywhere.” Operating outside the limits of face-to-face harassment, negative messages on social media can attack you from your bedside table in the middle of the night or in the morning while you’re brushing your teeth.

Spaces that may have seemed safe now become places of anxiety because your phone is always with you, therefore the bullying is too. While this isn’t an article about bullying, the sad reality of cyber-bullying is present in other negative aspects of social media as well.

Social Media and Depression

You don’t have to be bullied for social media to have a negative impact on your mental health. If that seems like an odd statement, think about the number of times a day you check your phone. Maybe you’re waiting for a text back; in those moments, apps that have “read” indicators seem like they were purely designed to torture you and can cause a spiral into anxiety as you wonder why someone hasn’t replied.

Similar concerns pop up with posts on social media, as it gets tempting to measure your self-worth through likes, friends, and followers. Don’t even get me started on the pressure to maintain a social media presence. The pressure to keep up with our peers, to show that we look the right way and keep up with the right trends is the kind of pressure we used to associate with celebrities and building a “brand” for your public. But today, that pressure has been extended to everyone, and it’s not healthy.

It gets even worse when you consider additional downsides like feeling excluded through social media. Who hasn’t experienced that little heart-dropping moment of rejection when you see pictures of a party you weren’t invited to? Who hasn’t scrolled through their Instagram feed only to feel their mood suddenly fall as you wonder why everyone else is having fun and your life is so boring? With moments like these occurring every day, it’s no wonder the average high-school student today has the anxiety levels of an average psychiatric patient in the 1950s, and it’s not like our daily lives aren’t stressful enough already! The pressure to balance life and university, to make healthy choices and manage your time well is already enough to trigger anxiety in a lot of students. We have enough to deal with without inviting toxic influences into our safe spaces too.

Getting Real About Mental Health

What can you do to protect yourself from the toxic side of social media? In my opinion, the best place to start is by asking yourself some questions. Take a look at how you use social media and why. Think about which apps you use most often and what you hope to gain from them. If you find that you focus on certain apps primarily so you can keep up appearances, it may be time to take a step back. Although avoiding social media altogether isn’t the answer, detoxing might be. Consider cutting down on the amount of time you spend on your phone and avoid following accounts that you know will make you upset. Instead, try to focus on connecting with people who have a positive impact on your life.

Navigating social media safely can feel like a minefield, but it doesn’t have to be. Being honest with yourself about mental health and taking steps to protect your mind are a great start to making social media less toxic, and cultivating a happier you.

More articles in The Darker Side of Social Media
  1. The Darker Side of Social Media: Blue Whale
  2. The Darker Sides of Social Media: SnapMaps
  3. The Darker Side of Social Media: Snapchat’s Race Problem
  4. The Darker Side of Social Media: The Lighter Side of Life
  5. The Darker Side of Social Media: Effects on Employability
  6. The Darker Side of Social Media: Cyberbullying
  7. Darker Side of Social Media: Internet Stalking
  8. The Darker Side of Social Media: Helping the Less Fortunate for Likes?
  9. The Dark Side of Social Media: Getting Real About Mental Health

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