Practing Self Care

The Downside of Social Media

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

Social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram were created to strengthen social ties and provide a sense of personal connection. But research increasingly shows extensive use of social media may actually decrease communication with family and friends while increasing feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression.

One of the problems with social media is that it allows people to present an optimal version of themselves and their lives, selecting the most positive aspects and editing out the negative. “Facebook envy” happens when others make comparisons between their own real lives and the digital facades of their friends and acquaintances, concluding that their friends’ lives are happier and more successful.

“Seeing photos of parties they weren’t invited to and events they weren’t included in can make the average person feel left out. For those with low self-esteem issues, such comparisons can be devastating.  This is especially true for adolescents and teens, but adults are also vulnerable,” says Maria Opolka, D.O., a family medicine doctor with Henry Ford Allegiance Health.

Can You Be Addicted to Social Media?

Some researchers say overuse of social media is an actual addiction. While the National Institutes of Health states that such results remain inconclusive, the symptoms of addiction and overuse of social media are similar. These include mental preoccupation, escapism, neglect of personal life and relationships, and concealing the excessive behavior. In addition, when individuals who are overdependent on social media stop using it, they often experience feelings of anxiety. Scientific evidence shows the psychological effects are accompanied by actual physiological signs of withdrawal.

“This doesn’t mean we should all close our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts today,” Dr. Opolka says. “It just means we should enjoy them for what they are, stop making personal comparisons and practice moderation.”

Dr. Opolka adds that “We should also make an effort to strengthen and maintain social connections in person, rather than online.”

If you feel persistent symptoms of depression or anxiety that last longer than a few weeks, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. If you have thoughts of self-harm or ending your life, seek immediate care. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Related Topic: Need a Digital Detox? 5 Tips to Unplug

To schedule an appointment with your primary care provider, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936). 

If you’re in the Jackson area or south central Michigan, visit henryfordallegiance.com or call 1-888-862-DOCS.

Dr. Maria Opolka specializes in family medicine and cares for patients of all ages at Henry Ford Allegiance Family Medicine – Mason.