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‘Like’ it or not, social media can cause anxiety, depression, and other health challenges. Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality healthcare, discusses the link between social media and mental health.


People frequently turn to social media to gain positive feedback to increase their self-esteem and experience a feeling of belonging in their social circles. For some people, social networking is a terrific way to improve their mental health. For others, the opposite rings true.


“Because social media can have both benefits and drawbacks, it’s critical to understand how it impacts you and your mental health,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.

Why social media can be detrimental to mental health

It Can Be Addictive

There is evidence that social media addiction exists. Social media addiction is a behavioural addiction defined by an excessive preoccupation with social media. An uncontrolled want to log on to or use social media and invest so much time and effort in social media that it interferes with other vital aspects of life.1


Like substance use disorders, addictive social media use may result in mood and behaviour changes and withdrawal symptoms.

It Can Trigger Depression

The greater our use of social media, the less content we appear to be. Research has discovered a correlation between Facebook use and decreased happiness and life satisfaction. The more participants use Facebook daily, the more these two measures reduce.

Comparisons Can Be Psychologically Harmful

As we scan through our feeds, we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others and passing judgement on how we measure up.


One study examined how we compare ourselves to others in “upward” or “downward” ways, i.e., whether we feel better or worse off than our friends. In the realm of social networks, it appears that most feel they don’t measure up after spending excessive periods on social media.2

It Can Spark Jealousy

It’s no secret that the comparison factor in social media promotes jealousy; most people will admit that seeing other people’s exotic vacations and well-behaved children makes them envious. Research has shown that using social media causes feelings of envy and resentment.3

It Can Cause A Negative Cycle

Part of the unhealthy loop is that we return to social media even though it does not make us feel excellent. This is likely due to what is known as a “forecasting error”. Like a drug, we believe getting a fix will help, but it makes us feel worse due to our inability to predict our responses accurately.


One study compared how individuals feel after using Facebook to anticipate feelings beforehand. The individuals in this study almost invariably felt worse after using Facebook than those who engaged in other activities. However, a subsequent investigation revealed that people generally assumed they would feel better, not worse, after scrolling through social media feeds.

It Can Create Social Withdrawal

Having more social media friends does not necessarily indicate a better social life. Obtaining genuine social support is essential, as loneliness is associated with various physical and mental health issues. Time spent with virtual friends is not as beneficial as time spent with real ones.4


“Of course, this does not imply that social media has no benefits. However, if social media negatively impacts your mental health, you should consider taking a break,” Hewlett adds.


“Everyone is unique, and there is no set amount of time spent on social media, the frequency you check for updates, or the number of posts you make that indicates your use is becoming unhealthy. Instead, it is about the influence of social media on your mood and other elements of your life.”

Warning signs your online habits are unhealthy 

Keep these warning indicators in mind as you consider if you should investigate how social media affects your mental health.5


  • You don’t make time for self-care.
  • You devote more time to social media than to friends and family.
  • After being online, your feelings of despair or anxiety worsen.
  • You frequently compare yourself to others and are envious of their posts.
  • You are preoccupied with social media and neglect your interests or hobbies.
  • You constantly have to check social media.

Here’s how to keep your mental health safe when using social media 

Use these four suggestions from Affinity Health to strike a good balance between social media and mental health.


  1. Reduce your time on social media: If you believe that social media has a detrimental impact on your mental health, limit your time. Set screen time limitations or make a timetable for when you will check social media.


  1. Don’t use social media to start or end your day: Rather than starting or finishing your day on a potentially unpleasant note, replace it with things you enjoy. According to a 2018 study, persons who check Facebook at night are more likely to be dissatisfied or depressed.


  1. Consider why you’re signing on: Knowing your reasons for using social media will assist you in shifting your emphasis away from social media and toward other things, such as exercising or starting a new hobby.


  1. Spend time with friends and family: While social media platforms can be a source of connection, they can also lead to feelings of loneliness if you aren’t getting what you anticipate from the community. Face-to-face contact and quality time are not substitutes for social media. Making time to spend with friends and family can assist in combating this.

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading provider of health insurance, offering you a range of options at affordable rates including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, your budget, and your lifestyle. Our range of healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service at all times. For more information, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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