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Effects of Social Media on our Mental Wellness (Part 2): Breaking the Vicious Cycle

Welcome back to part 2 of our social media and mental wellness blog! In part 1, I introduced you to the positive and negative effects of social media. I also shared five easy wellness tips to maintain a healthy relationship with your social media (let us know which one you’ve tried!). Before sharing an interview I conducted with an expert about finding a balance between social media and our mental wellness, it’s helpful to understand the vicious cycle of social media use on our mental health.

“The Vicious Cycle of Social Media Use” is common behavior amongst us, and you may relate to this familiar pattern: For example, during the pandemic, you probably felt bored or lonely at some point (don’t worry you are not alone -- we all felt it). To address our loneliness during the lockdown, most of us like to go on social media to see content or check out what other people are up to.

But being on social media can create FOMO (remember, we talked about it in part 1). The fear of missing out: you see how your friends or other people have fun. Ultimately, this makes you feel more isolated and can cause a build-up of anxiety and depression. But since we want to feel better, we keep browsing more and more. And that’s when we feel even sadder and more isolated than before. This cycle continues on and it can be really hard to break out of it — this is the vicious cycle of unhealthy social media use.

If you relate to this pattern and feel stuck in this cycle, try to catch yourself when you’re mindlessly scrolling through your feed and swipe out of your social media account. Do other things when you are sad or feeling lonely to boost your mental wellness. Go outside, call a friend, work out, or just read a delightful book. You will get your mind off social media and feel better.

Interview with Dr. Amadeo

For this blog, I got to ask my former professor and psychologist Dr. Jo-Ann Amadeo some questions about social media and mental wellness. Dr. Amadeo teaches classes such as general psychology, adolescent psychology, learning and cognition, and human growth and development. One of her research interests is ‘Media Influence and Use among Children and Adolescents. Below is a quick interview with her as she shares her thoughts on striking a healthy balance between social media and your mental wellness

1. In this blog I talk a lot about the benefits and consequences of social media, what is your expert opinion on how it affects people in general?

This is an interesting question, especially now given the circumstances caused by the pandemic. On the one hand, social media have provided adolescents opportunities to stay connected with friends and family. This seems positive and can help alleviate the loneliness some young people might feel while in isolation. In fact, several of my college-aged students have expressed that sentiment. On the other hand, they have also expressed that social media can become a diversion--and take time away from school work, physical activities, and other endeavors. The challenge is to find a balance.

2. How do you think social media changed self-conception in adolescents, especially in young girls?

Researchers have examined popular culture and adolescent identity development for years. And, more recent studies have looked at self-esteem, self-concept, and social media use. I think social media may have a negative relationship to self-concept (especially body image) but that is not a given. It comes down to finding a balance and having family support and guidance. And, also, the adolescents’ reasons for social media consumption.

3. Could you share your own habits of using social media? How has your interaction with social media changed, if it has, after doing more research into this topic?

I am not an avid consumer of social media. I do follow news stories and professional educational groups, but not much more.

4. Do you have any tips we can share with our readers on a healthy relationship with social media?


Concluding thoughts

Social media is most likely to keep us company for the future. And if you would like to stay up-to-date with the latest news and stay connected with your friends/ family, it is one of the fastest and easiest options. But as Dr. Amadeo said, moderation is key. Figure out what works best for you and how social media benefits your mental wellness the best. Remember, there are many tips that help you maintain a healthy relationship with social media and if you need a break, take it. Use social media as a tool to help you grow and encourage your mental wellness. Try to widen your horizon with it and let it positively affect your physical and mental state. After all, social media was made to be fun and it should stay that way.

By: Jil Johannpeter


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