OPINION: Social media may be affecting our mental health


Ever wonder if the reason you stay up at night on social media is not simply because you are not tired and cannot sleep? That, in fact, your social media is keeping you awake subconsciously? I have wondered about this myself, and after looking into this matter I have discovered that social media in fact is believed to lead to insomnia or traits similar to this disorder, and in some cases even worse symptoms.

The LinkedIn Sept. 4, 2014 article “Insomnia and social media – cure or cause,” said that, “research indicates a potential downside of the time spent ‘socializing’ and its deleterious impact on our ability to relax and sleep.”

The article also said, “Insomnia is a chronic condition and currently more than 20 percent of Americans suffer from some form of sleep deprivation. More than 50 percent regularly have symptoms including inadequate sleep, disturbed sleep or an inability to fall asleep at some point in their lives.”

Insomnia is the struggle to initiate sleep or to remain asleep, even when you have the opportunity to do so. A social media addiction can lead to insomnia because your eyes adjust to the screen light when you stare at it, so even if you want to sleep you cannot, according to a Slice of Health article titled “Is addiction to social media leading to insomnia in our generation?”

When I discovered this I was not entirely surprised, as I am sure many people are guilty of spending too much time on their social media accounts, losing their fair share of sleep scrolling through their news feed or blogging their innermost thoughts on Tumblr, including how they can’t seem to get to sleep.

What did surprise me, however, was what other effects social media was said to have on our mental health. Social media is also believed to be linked to some forms of depression and anxiety, according to BrainBlogger author Isabella Mori’s July 6, 2010 article. You may be connected to people all over the globe through social media, but it’s also possible to isolate yourself from your surroundings and the people around you. At times, secluding oneself and avoiding face-to-face interaction can cause a person to become depressed.

On isolation, Mori said that “Social media is detrimental only insofar as it specifically prevents meaningful and/or face-to-face connections.”

We all have days when the idea of avoiding interaction with people and instead curling up on the couch to watch Netflix with your phone in hand sounds incredibly appealing. That being said, I believe people should avoid using social media as a crutch.

Social media can encourage people to spend more time alone and on electronic devices rather than going out with friends. Many people use social media as a way of interacting and staying connected with the outside world because this requires minimal effort and can be done from the comfort of their own home; in some cases, it can even be done while out with family and friends in order to avoid socializing with people you do not feel like socializing with. We can use social media to avoiding socializing — how incredibly ironic.

To clarify, I do not believe social media to be a bad thing. As with most things, there are positive and negative attributes. While our addiction to social media may be inhibiting our sleep and occasionally causing a sense of depression, this does not apply to everyone. Nor does it mean that refraining from using social media will prevent one from potentially suffering from mental health issues such as insomnia, depression or anxiety. Social media is not the bad guy here, we are for allowing it to consume our day-to-day social lives and not utilizing it in a constructive way in moderation.

People need to be aware that while they think getting on their social media accounts before they go to bed helps them sleep, that may not be the case. In life, balance is key, and we all need to work on balancing our virtual lives as well as our everyday lives. If we can find that balance, maybe we can be better-rested and better-connected individuals.

For your own good, start trying to cut getting on your social media accounts before bed out of your nightly routine. You will thank me later when you have less dark circles under your eyes and more money in your wallet that you would have otherwise spent on coffee to stay awake in your morning classes.