Mental health matters motivational quote on the letter board. Inspirational text with paper cut leaves bordering letter board.

How Social Media Can Impact Mental Health

Social Media Goes Beyond the Screen 

As much as we love to spend hours lurking through our high school classmates’ Instagram or Facebook pages or staying up past midnight to watch “just one more” TikTok, social media isn’t always fun and games for everyone. 

With May being Mental Health Awareness month, you’ve probably noticed a growing number of posts related to mental wellbeing on your feeds. Across the country,  people are sharing their struggles with mental health issues and promoting hashtags like #StigmaFree, #SelfCare, and #Mindfulness to bring attention to the importance of mental health and well-being. 

There is a lot of research to show social media use can impact what’s going on in our heads, but that doesn’t mean we’re doomed to suffer from the negative impacts it can potentially have. In fact, there are practical steps we can take to continue using it in healthy ways!   

Read on to learn more about the impact social media has on mental health, what online harassment is and how to report it, and what SwayDM is doing to reduce negativity. 

Mental Health in the Digital World 

The words "Think before you post in social media" spelled out in letter blocks on a gray background

Whether you’re using social media to connect with friends, pass the time, or manage your DM marketing efforts, social media has its pros and cons and can lead to the following if used too frequently:

FOMO

The “fear of missing out” might sound like a little thing, but its effects on the mind can be detrimental. The downfall to having 24/7 access to the happenings of other people (many you likely know personally) is a slippery slope, as you could feel left out of events or unfairly compare your life to those that appear “better” than yours, ignoring what makes yours great in the process. Trust us, not everyone is hanging out without you and even the ones that are might secretly be wishing they had stayed in for the night.

Lower Self-esteem 

What we see on social media is often a distorted perception of reality. Shiny Instagram filters over someone’s best selfie (that may have taken 30 shots to produce) or a 15-second perfect TikTok (that may have taken someone hours to put together) depict the best parts of someone’s life. It’s tempting to compare ourselves to the flawless images we see in our feed or even start to feel like our life is lacking when we’re constantly flooded with posts from friends celebrating big milestones like job promotions, getting hitched, or taking exotic trips. 

A Coping Mechanism 

When you feel bored, stressed, or even exhausted, what do you usually turn to? For many, the answer is social media. While it might be a good distraction (sometimes, too good), those TikTok or Reddit binges could eventually turn into an unhealthy coping mechanism when resorting to “doomscrolling” instead of actually working the problem/issue out in real life. 

Dealing With Social Media Trolls 

Sometimes, online negativity can be directed at us intentionally. Across the internet, there are trolls who are eager to ruin the fun for everyone.  

Portrait of woman with frustration, mental stress, sadness, head pain and negative emotions. Girl covering head with hands because of intimidation on social media.

Most online harassment is pretty obvious and includes the following: 

  • Name-calling, hate speech, bullying 
  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Posting embarrassing/private information (i.e., “doxxing”)
  • Repeated unwanted communication through texts, DMs, etc. 
  • Violent threats 
  • Cyberstalking 

Unfortunately, over 40 percent of American adults say they’ve experienced online harassment at some point. Being in this position can be scary, frustrating, and also severely impact your mental health — but it does not mean you have to be defenseless. Remember to take these actions if you experience online harassment:

Let the Platform Know 

If you find yourself dealing with a cyberbully, you should immediately file a report to the platform. A team member will usually send them a warning, temporarily suspend their account, or possibly delete it permanently if the user has been reported previously

Use the Block Button 

Trolls thrive off any kind of attention they can get, so as much as you want to reply to their negative comments to defend yourself or correct them, don’t. Instead, block them so they can no longer contact you, as this is usually enough to stop their behavior altogether

Go to the Police 

If your troll doesn’t stop, you can (and should) report them to the police — especially if you feel in danger. Be sure to gather as much evidence and information about your harasser as possible, as this will help them determine the best course of action. 

How SwayDM is Fighting Harassment 

SwayDM wants to stop harassment in its tracks. We’re helping users avoid negativity while experiencing a fun and safe time online by: 

  • Verifying users through email or social media before confirming their account 
  • Keeping personal information like phone numbers & payment info secure 
  • Allowing users to report content to the platform and block other users if necessary. This can be done by going to the conversation with the user you wish to block, then “Preferences” in the top right-hand corner, and then “Block User.”

You can also report content by holding down the message you want to report and selecting a reason for reporting it. This will be anonymous and the user you are reporting will not be notified.

A Screenshot of how to report a message within a conversation of the SwayDM app

Social Media has its Advantages, Too

Even though social media can come with a certain level of risk or dependency for some, there’s a reason why we give it so much of our time: We enjoy it! Social media can help us spread awareness of important issues, connect with friends and family, and provide a positive impact on our mental health. Here’s how:

Creating Connections 

Staying in touch with friends and family from across the world has never been easier. You can share photos and videos in real-time, join support groups or other community-focused groups that are important to you, and even call one another through most social media apps. Thanks to online platforms, you can establish and maintain supportive relationships from practically anywhere, which was a blessing during the peak of Covid when most in-person relationships were restricted. 

Promoting Personality 

Your social media account is a great place to show the world what makes you special (and feel good about it). There are so many awesome creators out there who have made the world a better place because they share their talent, humor, and knowledge with us.

If you have a passion for travel, for example, you can create content about it and share it with others who might feel inspired and decide to go somewhere on their bucket list, too. Maybe you were born with a disability or have been challenged by a recent physical or mental hardship that you decide to document so you can share your journey with others. This humanizes us and makes us feel as though we do not have to go through the struggle alone.

Building Audiences 

Even if it’s just for fun, creating social media content could help you build a loyal audience that loves what you do. Aside from gaining a supportive community and making real connections, your large following can also lead to multiple opportunities for side hustles!

Don’t Forget to Enjoy Real Life 

Young Hippie girl taking a walk on top of a mountain and enjoying the day.

Now you know how to use social media and avoid its negative impacts. But the “real” world still deserves our attention, especially if we want to maintain a positive mindset when using social media. 

So, even when away from your device, here are some ways to protect what’s going on in your head: 

  • Monitor and cut out unnecessary screen time with an app like Freedom, ZenScreen, or iOS’ built-in Screen Time feature
  • Make your bedroom a “phone-free” zone
  • Do screen-free activities like reading, walking, or journaling 
  • Strive to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night
  • Don’t feel guilty about considering seeing a therapist or going to a support group to talk to about your feelings

Final Thoughts

Social media can play a larger role in our mental state than we realize, but by preventing online harassment and spreading love instead of hate, we can focus on reaping the positive benefits.  

And if you need some help ignoring the haters, SwayDM has your back. 

No other social media app lets you gate incoming DM’s behind a paywall, allowing you to reject new messages or block users if you receive something that makes you uncomfortable. You also don’t have to spend too much time in the app, as you can set your notifications to receive emails or texts whenever you get a new message, allowing you to log in, respond, get paid, and get on living your life! 

If you’re a current earner, you can begin sending messages to new payers, sharing your SwayDM link on social media, and connecting with the people who really want to talk to you — no trolls allowed. Request an invite today to get started!   

Katie Bradley

Katie has been published across a variety of digital media sources and tweets in her spare time (@ktbee21).

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