Why Social Media is Toxic (And What You Can Do About It)

Social media has become embedded in your everyday life. According to the Pew Research Center, 72% of Americans are using social media. It started as a way to stay connected with family and friends. But over the years, it's evolved tremendously. Your social media consumption now includes entertainment, information, and shopping with your favorite brands. And some of these practices, unfortunately, might lead you to feeling less than stellar. In fact, social media can be downright toxic.

But how, exactly? And importantly, what can you do to avoid the risks of social media use?

How Social Media is Toxic for Your Health

Make no mistake about it: There's a significant downside to your mental health.

1. It Can Contribute to Depression

Have you ever found yourself spiraling down a black hole of Instagram posts, only to emerge two hours later feeling like a puddle of crud? That's not a coincidence. More than once, research has found a concerning connection between social media and depression.

While social media can absolutely be an enjoyable activity, spending too much time on it — especially if you're consuming the wrong kind of content — can feel like a big cloud over your head.

woman feeling toxic using social media

2. Your Self-Esteem Might Take a Hit

You know that many (if not most) of the pictures you see online are edited or enhanced in some way. But it doesn't matter. You still end up feeling like you're not enough, compared to the people you see on TikTok and the 'gram. To make matters worse, people who post heavily edited photos will sometimes act as if they're an accurate representation of what they look like, making you feel even more inadequate.

3. The FOMO is Real.

This manifests in two distinct ways.

Because social media allows you to keep tabs on everyone, you might worry that by not checking it, you're going to miss something important.

Secondly, it can incite FOMO when you see people experiencing things that you feel as though you're lacking.

Either way, you end up feeling like you're simply not enough, not whole, not enough of a human being.

4. Social Media Feeds Instant Gratification

Due to the digital world we live in, we already have a problem with always needing instant gratification. Social media heightens that and puts us in the mindset of, "I want what I want, and I want it immediately." We can't even stand sitting through ads and commercials anymore. Our patience is gone.

5. It's Bad for Impulse Control

Are you ever at your desk trying to work, your phone sitting a foot away from you, face down... and you just can't resist? You have to pick it up just in case someone posted something important?

They didn't. They didn't post anything important. Social media just makes it harder to control those urges.

Now, we don't want to make it sound like social media is all doom and gloom. When used properly, it can be an incredible tool!

woman on smartphone using social media

How to Avoid the Negative Side Effects of Social Media

Let's talk about a few ways you can protect yourself from the risks and downsides.

Assess How You Feel Before Your Log On

Are you in a slump? Feeling blue? This might not be the right time to start scrolling through your feed. Why risk making it worse? Instead, find something that you know for sure will contribute to a better mental state, like reading or taking a walk. Social media will be there when you come back.

Set Time Limits on Your Use

A simple way to avoid falling down the rabbit hole is to give yourself a set amount of time for social media. Maybe you set a timer or alarm for 20 minutes, at which point you move onto something else. There are also apps you can download that will block your social media apps after a certain amount of time. This way, you won't even have the option to use them.

Unfollow Any Accounts That Make You Feel Bad

Who you follow is going to have a big influence on how you feel. For example, if you're a woman, and you follow fitness influencers with "perfect" bodies and expertly airbrushed pics, and that makes you feel lousy because you don't look like that, stop following them.

BTW, nobody looks like that in real life. Repeat after us: Social media is not reality.

Be More Intentional with Your Time on Social Media

Instead of mindlessly scrolling, set goals for how your interact on social media and stick to them. Use the experience to connect with people in your community, or to leave a meaningful comment or send a DM to a loved one. As Celeste Headlee asked in her viral TED Talk, "is there any 21st century skill more important than being able to sustain coherent, confident conversation?" We tend to agree. Use social media as a way to strengthen connections and practice conversations that led to better in-person connections. Also, seriously, check out that TED Talk.

Use Social Media as a Reward When You've Finished Something Important

Has social media has ever distracted you from getting more important things done? Switch the order in which you do things! Only log on after you've done your work, run your errands, etc. That can be your "treat" after taking care of your responsibilities.

Opt for a More Nourishing Activity

There are some things in life that promise to put a smile on your face. Playing with your dog. Cooking a good meal. Watching your favorite sitcom. Why gamble with social media when there's something else that'll make you feel better almost immediately? Find your happy place.

Is social media toxic? It certainly can be. But here's the good news: It doesn't have to be. If you're more mindful of and strategic with how you can use it, it can be something that brings joy to your life, instead of grief.

If you want to get social media off your plate completely, contact LSM today for a free strategy session and let's talk about how we can level up your digital marketing.