While our phones have become an intrinsic part of our daily lives, these little devices can be incredibly harmful to our mental health. They might help you stay connected with family and friends, but they can also exacerbate feelings of loneliness, heighten anxiety and spike your stress levels—especially if you’re glued to social media during your screen time.
We’re not saying that it’s time to nix social media but rather think carefully about how you’re using it. Here are a few ways your scrolling could be messing with your mood.
1. Feeling Lonely
Forging digital connections might feel like a social activity, but lengthy browsing sessions could leave you feeling more isolated than before you tapped through to Facebook. A University of Pennsylvania study found that reducing your social media use could actually help you feel less lonely, meeting you an instant boost to your general well-being.
2. Less Sleep
A 2018 British study looked at how social media use might affect sleeping patterns. Researchers found that tapping through stories, reels and posts could not only reduce how much sleep you get, but could also make it harder for you to snooze and even disrupt your shuteye during the night.
3. More Stress
When researchers looked at the effects of Facebook’s staggered rollout across University campuses in the US—this was back during the platform’s early days—they discovered that access to the social media platform seemed to have a significant impact on students’ mental health. Through surveys, they discovered a 7% increase in severe depression and 20% jump in the number of students suffering from anxiety disorders.
The authors noted that the longer students were exposed to the social media platform, the more pronounced these negative effects seemed to be.
4. Zero Self-Esteem
New research in the Health Communication Journal looked into the habits of 230 active social media users. Specifically, they analysed how interacting with online health content impacted those who browsed through it. While many users benefited from interacting with Instagram’s plethora of “fitspo” posts, there were some who suffered a massive hit to their self-esteem becoming overly obsessed with their appearance and weight.
That said, the study also identified that these posts could motivate users to ramp up their fitness levels. Your move: get introspective about how these pictures are affecting you; with the right mindset they can become fuel for a fitness overhaul.
How to Curb Your Social Media Use (and Lower Your Stress)
Cutting down on your doom-scrolling can be a tough ask. For many people, tapping through to social media apps has become a daily—and sometimes hourly—habit. But this pattern of usage isn’t set in stone, with a few smart changes you can drastically slash the amount of time you’re spending glued to your phone’s screen and bring your stress levels back down to a reasonable level.
Stash Away the Distractions for Less Stress
An easy way to prevent mindless scrolling is to keep distracting apps off your home screen. Ideally, you want to stash them away in a folder where they won’t stress you out with FOMO and will be waiting when you want to dedicate five minutes to memes or fitspo.
Fight Fire with Fire
There are plenty of apps that will incentivise you to minimize your screen time. We like Forest, an app that will reward you for keeping your hands off your phone, growing a new tree for every 20-minute window that you’re able to resist temptation. (Be warned: if you start tapping before the timer has expired, one of your digital saplings will die!)
Finally, research has found that keeping your phone out of the bedroom will help you cut down your screen time considerably. It’ll also help you snag more sleep, bagging you a mental health boost and solid shuteye with one simple tweak.