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What We Know About the Link Between Social Media and Depression For Adults

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Social media — it’s everywhere! It’s even on TV, depicted in shows and even politics.

It’s on your computer, it’s on your phone, you have notifications coming in from multiple platforms, you might be using multiple platforms for different needs, or maybe you’re trying to use your social media to advocate change, awareness or sharing your experience with others who may feel alone.

Regardless of what is driving you to be on social media — there needs to be a serious wake-up call and caution while using it because it can be damaging and lead to serious things ranging from FOMO (fear of missing out), feeling unworthy, body dysmorphia, anxiety or even depression.

There have been numerous studies performed that examine the question of whether social media can influence depression and the numbers and studies are scary, but not surprising to me.

You see, I work in social media by day, and don’t get me wrong, I love social media. I love what it can do in the right way — connect with others, help find solutions, spark change and awareness.

What frustrates me to no end is that social media has drastically shifted its original intent of connection and transformed into a highlight reel of someone else’s life or brands showcasing how you need something to make your life better.

Think about it — how many times do you see someone you follow showcase their new outfit, their new job, new car, new house, they’re pregnancy and so on? I see it all the time on my social feeds.

Sure, I’m happy for them, but then I’ll often find myself in comparison mode:

They look great in that new outfit — when was the last time I got all dressed up like that? Do I still look good? How does my body compare — do I need to lose weight, tighten things up, etc.?

A new job is so exciting — yet I’m struggling at times to maintain the one I have between flare-ups and feel like I have to work so much harder than others. Some days I am just burned out and exhausted, but look at them so full of excitement. I bet it’s going to be a lot easier for them.

Wow, their new car must have cost a ton! They must be doing really well, I wonder if people ever think that about me? I don’t really have flashy things.

I would love to have that beautiful home — maybe someday. Is our home big enough? Should we try to do more so it looks nicer? I don’t really entertain much, but neither do they.

She’s having another baby? Already and so easily? She’s so fortunate, I don’t even know if my body will be able to hold a pregnancy because of my endometriosis and I’m so scared to try and have strong fears of potentially having a miscarriage.

Tell me I’m not alone here, Mighties.

These thoughts of viewing someone else’s highlight reel are the problem. A lot of people don’t like to be vulnerable, honest or even show their face without a filter or makeup. Out of all the channels, I have never liked Instagram. I always considered it very vain and it often triggers me into the self-reflection or comparison mode, and I have found that others have mentioned this as well.

Let’s face it: I have enough to deal with from having endometriosis and I’m sure if you’re familiar with The Mighty there’s a chance you have a chronic illness, and that is probably enough for you to deal with already too.

It leads me to question: Why do we put ourselves through this?

It hurts, makes us feel bad and maybe even brings us to tears at times. I cannot tell you how many times I have lost it from seeing baby announcements on social media when I was not mentally prepared to handle it.

Mind you, I am in my 30s. I understand there is a lot of concern for younger audiences using social media, rightfully so and cyberbullying is a huge problem, but I don’t want us to forget about adults. Adults are just as susceptible to having social media impact their feelings — whether from friends, followers or simply being bombarded with negative news, opposite views being thrown in front of us and arguments sparking, along with other content that doesn’t add a positive value to your social experience.

So how do you combat this? How can you resist the urge to fall into that social media doom that can impact any age group?

Choose your friends/followers/content wisely.

If you find yourself always spinning down a negative rabbit hole when someone specifically posts things, it’s time to snooze them, unfollow them, whatever action you need to take against it — please do it. You are literally forcing yourself into these reflection periods and if they are making you feel bad about yourself, stop putting yourself through it. You do not deserve that, especially on your bad days.

Restrict the time you spend on social media.

Ever fall into that TikTok black hole? You start by watching one video then suddenly it’s three hours later? Sure, it may have been entertaining, but now you’re behind on your sleep schedule, don’t have time for your self-care or are late to eat some dinner. If this continuously happens, you are putting your well-being at risk. It’s not worth it. Set up timers in the apps or on your phone and stay the course that keeps you at your health baseline.

Understand that your health influences more than other people realize and that is OK.

At the Mighty, we all understand how your physical or mental health can truly shape the way you live, your abilities and so much more. When we see others who fall on the other side of our health, it can be challenging to not feel envious or jealous. We see others travel, try all kinds of delicious foods and showcase how they’re living their best life.  When you’re a spoonie, it can be soul-crushing every time you log on social media. I’ll never forget being stuck on my couch in the worst pain from an endo flare, unable to eat, unable to move from my heating pad and seeing friends enjoy summer at the beach, having drinks, swimming and enjoying so much fun. It was the worst thing to see and made me feel so isolated, sad and alone.

Find perspective.

Your life, your journey, your struggles, your health, your situation is unique. No one is the same and never will be, it’s what makes being a human quite beautiful. While you’re scrolling through social media, remember you’re only seeing what that person or brand wants you to see — so before you start re-examining your wardrobe or life, remember to find that perspective and take a step back from it.

Social media leads to a lot of things — not just depression. Understand the risk when using it and always check in with yourself and how you’re feeling after being on social media. If it’s not a good feeling, take the right steps to counter them or even pause from using it to find some space.

There is nothing wrong with that if that’s what you need — and know that I need that too, so don’t ever feel alone!

Getty image by tatianazaets

Originally published: December 8, 2021
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