Positive and Negative Effects of Social Media – Are you shrinking your brain? Social media has been a hot topic amongst mental health professionals and those interested in brain development ever since its inception. Many worry that, because social media is a relatively new phenomenon and its effects have not been able to be studied when used across the lifespan, the younger generation is shrinking their brains by spending so much time glued to a screen. Are all these “likes” and “friends” really hurting us so badly? Current research is undecided, but there have been some notable effects both for and against the prolific use of social media.

Benefits of social media

The mental health effects of social media have been well studied, and many people are surprised to find that there are actually notable positive effects to its use. The main benefit to social media stems from its ability to connect and unite users all over the world, from long-distance family and friends to people who you have never met. This can cause increased feelings of connectedness and may lead to a higher self-esteem and sense of belonging, as long as social media use is regulated and time on the screen is only spent in moderation. Responsible use allows people to be supported by others and benefit from a sense of community no matter the location.

Negative effects of social media

Despite the benefits, experts have noted that there are some serious negative consequences in the form of brain changes amongst regular social media users. Mindless scrolling and the mental disengagement associated with spending time on social media has some researchers concerned about the long-term implications, especially for those who began using social media at a young age. Some studies have shown that the dopamine and serotonin rushes caused by likes, tags, and comments can mess with your body’s reward center, causing social media addiction. Additionally, while social media exposure won’t cause your entire brain to shrink, some studies have found that chronic scrolling reduces your ability to focus and tune out distractions, which over time may decrease the size of the brain area dedicated to concentration. Higher rates of mental health conditions such as depression, insomnia, memory loss, and anxiety are also often associated with heavy social media use.

These studies show that, while there can be positive effects to the connectiveness that social media provides, it is also important to remain aware of the brain and mental health effects that might occur as well. If you suspect that you might be spending an unhealthy amount of time on social media, it might be worth monitoring your usage and working to decrease the amount of screen time that you have each day by deleting apps, having an accountability partner, or setting time limits through your phone settings.

Counselling and social media

Because it is incredibly likely that social media use has an impact on mental health, your counsellor might work with you to evaluate what effects your digital usage may be having on your life. If you are already dealing with a mental health condition, excessive time spent on social media might only be exacerbating your symptoms. Depending on your unique situation, decreasing the amount of time you spend on social media or even removing your accounts altogether may have beneficial effects on your mental health and overall well-being. Additionally, a counsellor may be able to help you work through social media addictions, which are becoming more common as social media use continues to increase.

If you are concerned about your mental health and would like to discuss it with a counsellor, the experienced therapists at Horizon Plymouth would love to speak with you. Don’t wait for things to become serious, contact Horizon Plymouth to schedule your initial consultation today.

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