Social media is great for being informed about other people that we care enough to follow. How else would we know what Aunt Betty had for breakfast? How would we know what crazy thing our friend’s dog did this week? Learning about friends and family is how many people live now, taking the time that they would have called them or visited them before and talked to their actual voices to now scroll through their feed and watch their stories instead.
How We Spend Our Time
First of all, there is the time that people spend on social media. Prior to the internet, people wrote letters to one another, talked on the telephone, and would actually spend time with people that they care about. It’s not that they can’t do those things still, and some do. But most people have replaced face to face time with loved ones with social media instead.
The Human Connection
The result of that change is less connection. On social media, we don’t share all of the aspects of our personalities, such as our deepest hopes and fears and other emotions. They don’t see us when we first wake up in the morning, they don’t see us crying. They only see the “good” parts of us. And vice versa, we do not see the full range of emotions and ups and downs for them, either. When we are friends with someone on social media, we do not have that close of contact with them, so we are less connected than with friends in real life.
Social media creates this sense of false intimacy. We think that we know someone really well online, we think they are true friends. But our brains know otherwise. We do not have a human connection with them like we do when we are with people in person. This means our brains respond differently to all of those interactions than they would in real life. For example, if someone posts a message of support online, we read it and have a positive reaction. However, if someone gives us a hug in real life, our brain reacts more positively and intensely to the actual human contact.
People with bigger social circles in real life, who have a consistent connection with other human beings, are happier and live longer than those who have fewer connections. This has not been proven true of social media. In fact, many studies have shown greater anxiety and depression as well as self-esteem issues for those who use social media a lot, even if they interact with a lot of people online.
Social Media Use Can Be Positive
Using social media can help us to learn social order of things very similarly to real life, such as the social scales for popularity, politics, families, and more. We can actually learn social skills, such as how to communicate with and relate to other human beings. We can also learn a lot about what qualities are important to us in friendships and relationships. If used properly, there are actually many benefits to using social media.
Nothing Replaces Human Contact
Despite the positives of social media, though, there is nothing that replaces human contact. Just like pets are wonderful and very healing for many people, they don’t give us the same experiences, feedback, and chemical interactions that human beings do. We need both positive and negative interactions with human beings for our emotions to develop properly. Learning social cues and how to respond appropriately to them is a complex process in our brains that is not able to be replicated in any other way.
Additionally, the way that other people read our emotions, behaviors, and words and respond to them is something that social media nor anything else can reproduce, either. Even with all of the advances in Artificial Intelligence, this piece is one of the biggest areas that has not yet been able to match the human mind. While social media is now using AI to try to predict the things we will like, nothing comes close to imitating the reason and intelligence of the human mind.
Test the Theory
The next time someone says or does something that really affects us emotionally – like a hug, something painful or heartbreaking, something that makes us really excited – pay close attention to everything going on in the body. How we feel physically, emotionally, and in our minds, and how those emotions can really impact our mood one way or the other. Now try to think about whether anything on social media ever had that same exact effect. While social media can be powerful and can inspire a lot of emotions and feelings, there truly is nothing like actual real-life human contact.
There are many things that social media is good for. There are even ways it can impact our mental health positively. However, too often, social media can also have a negative effect. One thing is for certain, it cannot replace the power of human contact. We can learn to be mentally healthy and enjoy social media while maintaining a balance of human contact. By prioritizing our real-life relationships, we are also prioritizing our mental health and well-being. Find the balance of real-life friends and online friends and balance your mind for more happiness.
Make the choice to treat your mental health today. Call Embark Behavioral Health at 1-855-809-0409 today. Our outpatient programs can help you be healthy in real life and on social media.